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Cibo e Beve restaurant review, Sandy Springs

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Cibo means “food” and beve means “drinks” — as in “he drinks.” These two words together, a noun and a verb bridged by a conjunctive, don’t make for a perfectly grammatical Italian phrase. But they do form a mellifluous mouthful that gets the point across.

Review by John Kessler

Review by John Kessler

In much the same way, Sandy Springs’ new Cibo e Beve isn’t exactly an Italian restaurant (at least not in my book), but it nonetheless serves as a decent neighborhood spot for assorted comestibles that reference Italy with good cheer, if sometimes too much razzamatazz.

Managing partner and chef Linda Harrell has devised a menu that makes room for everything from fried calamari to scallops in a white chocolate/fennel sauce to red velvet doughnut holes. Creative small plates appeal to a drinky set, yet red sauce flows through the menu with just enough force to wash in a three-generation family intent on meatballs and veal parmigiana. Now factor in a variety of Neapolitan-style pizzas from an exhibition wood/gas hybrid oven as well as an ambitious cocktail bar with one of those menus where each drink gets its own flowery paragraph of description. Harrell puts together all these disparate pieces with energy and flashes of real talent, but you will need to find precisely what at this eager-to-please restaurant actually pleases you.

Tartufo dessert (photos by Becky Stein)

Tartufo dessert (photos by Becky Stein)

In the same strip shopping center as its sister establishment, Food 101, Cibo e Beve looks like a modern tavern — long and narrow — and bristles with rock ’n’ roll-fueled energy. The cocktail bar hugs one side of the room, a compact dining room beyond a divider offers table and booth seating while, deep in the restaurant’s recesses, a communal table and eating bar front the open kitchen.

The latter seating is all that’s available when we walk in one weekday night. Pizzaiolo Stefano Rea keeps us entertained between orders for the occasional pie. Speaking of which …

Caesar salad topped with a deep-fried egg and white anchovies

Caesar salad topped with a deep-fried egg and white anchovies

A sausage and broccoli rabe pie ($14) does this kitchen proud — its crust pliant and charred in all the right ways, the vegetable’s bitterness tamed to a keen balance with the sausage’s sweetness and spice. This pizza reminds me why this combination can work so well.

Also spot on: the house meatballs ($9 for three), made the traditional way with veal, pork and beef and anointed with a bright tomato sauce. Add in a basket of the house bread — soft, crusty, cut into fat slices — and you’ve got a swell, little eat-at-the-bar meal when you don’t feel like cooking or spending a lot of money.

I do have the impression this restaurant (much like the now-defunct Mangia 101, this group’s previous spin at Italian) gets its bearings when the menu references an Italian-American dinner house. The Caesar salad ($9) comes tricked out with white anchovies and one of those now-trendy deep-fried poached eggs. But the sharp, tangy dressing applied with the right spirit of excess makes it. The tartufo dessert ($7) unites nougat ice cream (made for the restaurant by local star High Road Creamery) with amarena cherries in syrup — one of those old-school immigrant flavors guaranteed to make you smile.

But the menu goes in so many directions. A paper-thin veal Milanese ($21) doesn’t cotton to its drippy platemates of arugula/tomato salad and sweet dribbles of saba (a syrup made from concentrated grape must). This kind of dish needs a lighter touch.

Lotsa lobster in this pasta

Lotsa lobster in this pasta

Rigatoni in a soft, rich, indistinct Gorgonzola dolce cream sauce with a whole lot of salted pistachios tossed here and there is a mouthful of “Hmmmm … what exactly is this?” Pappardelle with wild boar bolognese ($16) has many chunks of pork and diced veggies in a winy sauce, but the ingredients combine into a thin surface note of flavor. We snoozed out after a couple bites of each pasta.

I wouldn’t hesitate, however, to steer you toward a bowl of spaghetti outfitted with many juicy chunks of lobster ($18), diced leeks and bits of fresh heirloom tomato. The unannounced butter in the sauce does catch up with you (your lips start to slide with the lubrication), but there’s a lot of pleasure to be had.

Nor would I have you miss the exuberant creations of mixologist Justin Hadaway, who gives the neighborhood the kind of intimate cocktail bar it needed. His grand opus menu features all kinds of “classic cocktails” and “inspired elixirs” and even makes room for a seasonal menu. His Georgia julep, goosed with peach and pineapple, has been getting good buzz. I opted for something called Le François ($10), a vodka martini with rosemary tincture, yellow chartreuse liqueur and cherry syrup. Truthfully, it did start tasting a bit like an Aveda hair product after a few sips, but it remained interesting.

In fact, starting with a plate of those tasty meatballs and a cocktail may just be the way to get a handle on this appealing, busy place named “food and he drinks.”

CIBO E BEVE
4969 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs; 404-250-8988
2stars5Food: Italian-ish, with good pizza and cocktails
Service: Very friendly and a bit harried when the place gets busy.
Best dishes: Pizza with broccoli rabe and sausage; spaghetti with lobster; meatballs; nougat ice cream
Vegetarian selections: quite a few small plates, salads, pastas and pizzas
Credit cards: all major
Hours: lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; dinner 5:30-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 5:30-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; open noon-9:30 p.m. Sundays-Mondays.
Children: I’d go early; the crowd here gets loud and drinky, and they’re not bringing kids.
Parking: self-parking in attached lot and valet
Reservations: yes
Wheelchair access: yes
Smoking: on the patio
Noise level: very high
Patio: small
Takeout: yes

ratings_key_febUSE

13 comments Add your comment

Realist

October 6th, 2011
10:14 am

Cibo is a fantastic addition to the dining scene here in town. The pizzas are great, the menu has fun and delicious interpretations of Italian classics, and the cocktails are creative and wonderful. The service is great, and the room usually has a nice buzz… there is a crowd, but it never seems to get so noisy you can’t have a conversation with your friends. If you haven’t gotten by, you need to try it out.

Whitney

October 6th, 2011
10:49 am

I think they deserve more stars!

Katiana

October 6th, 2011
12:38 pm

And how about that beautiful zinc bar ~
:)

Joe

October 6th, 2011
5:29 pm

Hey Whitney. Could you expand on your statement as to why you think it deserves more stars? I live in Decatur and have some good Italian options in Decatur, Inman Park, etc. If I were in the area, Cibo e Beve sounds good, but as 3 starts indicate, is it worth me driving all the way over there? I am curious as to your thoughts. Thanks!

Sophia

October 6th, 2011
5:57 pm

I agree, the lobster pasta is killer – a great choice. I’ve also had the salmon … wow – Joe in Decatur, this entree alone is worth the drive. Overall I think Cibo definitely deserves more than 2 stars and is an Atlanta dining destination. Cheers.

Disregard the employees posting

October 7th, 2011
4:36 am

I’ve been here twice and I wouldn’t both making the trip unless you were out of other options. There’s much better food at plenty of places within 5 miles in either direction on Roswell and it’s a poor mimicry of Food 101, which is overrated and a snore anyway.

Another Realist/Chef

October 7th, 2011
10:37 am

Actually, yes, we do and will continue to drive here for a good meal and choice of amazing cocktails. Three stars is the correct rating in my opinion. And let’s remember, we all got ‘em. The gorgonzola cream sauce is delectable. I try to recreate at home ;) The food overall is outstanding. Believe me, we know good food. So I question the ‘opinion’ of some food writer or critic or whoever you are. We made our own decisions on the worthiness of a restaurant. Thanks!

Disregard the competition's posting

October 7th, 2011
10:49 am

If “disregard” has only been to Cibo twice, how is it known that an employee has posted? On the other hand, given the negative comments about CIBO and Food 101, the motivation for the post is obvious.
why would anyone who has eaten at both of these restaurants claim that CIBO mimics Food 101 and get in the extra “dig? Hello!?

ATL-Paul

October 7th, 2011
10:59 am

The review does not address any of the entrees and stresses the bar type food and the pizza. Does John plan a return trip to review the dinner part of the menu?

ATL-Paul

October 7th, 2011
11:04 am

Sorry – I hit submit before I finished – the review did not hit on hardly any of the appetizers, the salumi/cheese boards or any of the main entrees – only the Pasta & Pizza – Will the restaurant be reviewed or only the bar?

Linda Harrell

October 7th, 2011
4:26 pm

For those who enjoy our “rigatoni gorgonzola” here is a link for the recipe from when we made it at our restaurant “mangia 101″ in case you would like to try it at home…thank you for all the kind comments :) http://projects.eveningedge.com/recipes/rigatoni-gorgonzola/

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Kirk L

October 10th, 2011
10:51 pm

I’ve been to Cibo 3 times now, and I’m a big fan – in my opinion, there are only 3 or 4 places in Atlanta that have better pizza (I’ve been to pretty much all the “highly rated” places). The other things I’ve had don’t stand out as much as the pizzas, but are still very good. And the drink menu is fantastic.