Freud said there were two essential human instincts — Eros and Thanatos, sex and death. But BoccaLupo chef-owner Bruce Logue proves there is a third: Noodleos, a compulsion deep in our souls that tells us to bury our faces in bowl after bowl of his delicious pasta.
Logue understands the primeval pleasure of pasta like no other cook I know. All pasta. He appreciates the chewy tug of dried macaroni that you chase and spear with your fork, the silk of fresh fettuccine that you twirl and inhale, the crisp edges and steamy pockets of baked cannelloni. His menu — a few antipasti, a few desserts, an entree special or two but pasta, pasta, pasta — is a love song to the endless possibilities that start with flour and water.
In her four-star review of the Inman Park restaurant last September, Jenny Turknett said that BoccaLupo “had the makings of Atlanta’s next great restaurant.” It’s already there if you’re just taking into account the sheer pleasure you get from eating here.
Would you like a rundown of our last meal? Glad to provide. We began with my must-have starter — Roman-style fried cauliflower with mint, capers and Meyer lemon, the bulky but light-on-the-arteries dish you want before you lose yourself deep in pasta love.
Something called “surprisingly good kale” spoke to us from the menu, and it was: spicy, toothsome, salty, licked with fat and set atop squares of fried polenta with pickled shrimp.
My daughter, who could eat nothing but Southern and Japanese food for the rest of her life, couldn’t resist the BoccaLupo ramen. These chewy, squid-ink-black noodles come in a collard green and pork stock with the greens, a poached egg and boiled peanuts. You could see the light touch and soulful layering of flavors before taking a bite.
I got the crispy white lasagna – dozens of thin layers of pasta flecked with béchamel and finely ground meat, served in a mile-high slice that had been seared to a crisp in a hot skillet. It came over a luscious fontina fondutta sauce with a bright scattering of dressed watercress for contrast. My kid and I Iaughed; it looked like we had each other’s order. We were happy to share, unwilling to trade.
Where does Logue get his ideas? He takes some. His black spaghetti with hot sausage and shrimp comes courtesy of the New York restaurant, Babbo, where he used to work, and the lasagna is a version of the 100-layer lasagna served at Babbo’s sister, Del Posto. I wouldn’t be surprised if others came from the various restaurants he trained at in Italy.
But it all comes from the heart. One bite, and you know this. Logue may pay silent tribute to his mentors, but it’s all in service of giving you that moment with a bowl of his pasta. You and your noodles. Eros and Thanatos can take a hike, you’re busy eating.
- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog