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Atlanta revisit: di Paolo restaurant review, Alpharetta

The tagliatelle con sugo di carne at di Paolo is one of the most satisfying options. BECKY STEIN / SPECIAL

The tagliatelle con sugo di carne at di Paolo is one of the most satisfying options. BECKY STEIN / SPECIAL

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of di Paolo, an Italian restaurant that opened in Alpharetta in 1995. I gave it a grade of 2 stars.

Di Paolo’s core group of regulars appreciate its higher standard of service, a more interesting wine list and Italian fare with a little more pizzazz than the red-sauce standards they would get at a stuccoed, corner Italian outlet.

Chef Darin Hiebel, who took over di Paolo six years ago, runs a from-scratch kitchen that makes its own breads, pastas, sauces and gelato. Regulars have learned just what to order to get a meal worth repeating next week. They’ll go for dishes like wood-fired pizzas, select entrees like gorgonzola-spinach-stuffed chicken ($21) and they have rooted out the pastas worth devouring. Those in the know have learned how to make di Paolo their weekly haunt.

I can help you out with that if you aren’t a bona fide member of the regulars club. Nibble on the thin crust pizza, which is just weighty enough to support the cheese fest on the pizza con quattro formaggio ($13).

Also try the caul-fat-wrapped branzino ($30) that the regulars order for good reason. You’ll be thankful for that beautifully browned and crispy casing for the whole butterflied fish. It adds such richness and protects the lemony moisture of the fennel-stuffed branzino.

At such well-established spots like di Paolo, where neighborhood followers keep the tables full, it’s helpful to take cues from those who know and love it best.

Subscribers can read the full review on myajc.com.

–Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog

3 comments Add your comment

Huh?

January 25th, 2014
7:12 pm

2 stars? Really? You have no idea. This place is amazing!

PJ

January 28th, 2014
12:59 pm

I went there recently and I was not impressed with the larger entrees, but would go back for appetizers & desserts. The pizzas are fantastic. The quattro formaggi with prosciutto is amazing – perfectly crispy, cheesy,yummy. I loved the frozen creme brulee. It is very different, but had me at frozen & chocolate. The peanut butter stuff underneath is unnecessary. Maybe something marshmallow would be more in line with the flavor profile of the dish since the burnt sugar seems to lead there. I also tried the short rib ravioli & found it very thick on the outside, which was unfortunate for the luscious filling. The veal was terribly under-seasoned. I squirt of lemon would have brightened it up. Unfortunately, it took on the flavor of the rapini that covered half the plate. Mom always says to eat your veggies & I know the food guide shows it that way, but wow that is a lot of that stuff. I could easily see going there for a light night out.

CE

January 30th, 2014
3:23 pm

When I see reviews like this I wonder if the reviewer has traveled much; they don’t really seem to have a sense of wonderful authentic regional cuisine from around the world. I’ve been to Italy multiple times, including Tuscany. I find di Paolo to be as good as the home made food I had in Tuscany and definitely as good as the multiple restaurants I visited while there. This restaurant isn’t intended to be a red sauce establishment and people don’t go for a slightly jazzed up version of such. We go because this restaurant prides itself on wonderful service; fantastic Tuscan cuisine and a wine list that has earned them honors from Wine Spectator. I really think that the reviewer needs to travel more, experience real Tuscan food in Italy and then revisit so they can comprehend why this restaurant consistently takes top honors for food and service from Zagat and why it has such a loyal following.