Ever wanted to dine in a European castle, sit at the head of a long table in a special chair and have your every whim catered to? That’s the modis operandi at Pacci Ristorante, a new Piedmonte-style pasta-ria and steakhouse adjacent to the Hotel Palomar Atlanta in Midtown.
Featuring the flavors of Northern Italy, Pacci is short for carpaccio, one of executive Chef and owner Keira Moritz’s specialties, but the true Pacci experience is more about the atmosphere than the food.
Atmosphere: The San Francisco-based Puccini Group designed Pacci to embody the traditional, ornate look of Italian steakhouses of the past, but updated the look with contemporary touches, creating a more refined and less gaudy feel. It’s a cross between a European castle and a trendy take on your grandmother’s dining room.
Pacci is one large, open, rectangular room, but the furnishings are arranged in such a way that makes the restaurant feel intimate. A plush lounge with almost floor-to-ceiling windows includes a glassed-in spiraling staircase that leads to the rooftop bar, AltoRex, which is an experience of its own. Back in the restaurant, the bar is highlighted by an enormous wooden shelving system that covers the entire wall and displays the alcohol bottles. This, combined with the gigantic glassed-in wine cabinet, provides a rich look.
Semicircular maroon booths with their own wall niches and long tables are complete with high-backed chairs make diners feel like royalty. The chair at the head of each table is larger and more antiquated in design than the others, illustrating who is in charge. Oversized globe lighting fixtures and long tassels hang from the ceiling, adding a modern touch to the space.
The menu: Pacci’s fairly simple menu consists of a selection of antipasti, pastas, chicken, fish and meats. Only the steaks are served a la carte. Salads include the usual Caprese and Caesar, as well as an avocado citrus salad with grapefruit, blood oranges, arugula, rucola and pink peppercorns. Its sweet fruit stands in pleasant contrast to the bitter arugula. Vidalia onion soup, calamari with spicy aioli, and duck confit round out the starters, with Kobe beef and tuna carpaccio shining as the appetizer of choice.
Pastas are available in half portions so you can sample more items. Papardelle Bolognese is served with a classic, slow-braised meat sauce, while speck, fava beans and lemon butter accent ricotta ravioli. Sea scallops are seared to the point of caramelization and offered atop a wild mushroom risotto and sweet pea nage. The steaks come in a variety of sizes from six ounces to 12 ounces with choice of sauces that includes mushroom demri, rosemary garlic butter, parmesan butter or basil pesto. Sides include Anson Mills gorgonzola polenta, sautéed spinach with garlic and lemon and fava beans with grilled corn, heirloom cherry tomatoes and olives.
For dessert, the chocolate strata cake—a decadent, layered chocoholic’s dream with toasted pecans, cocoa nib and vanilla gelato—is matched only by the tiramisu trio—a delicate combination of espresso, limoncello and banana cream treats.
The drinks: The sheer size of Pacci’s beverage menu indicates that the restauranteurs here want you to enjoy yourself—and stay a while. Highlights include a vanilla bellini (white peach puree, Spanish vanilla liquer and Prosecco), St. Rosemary (Partida Silver tequila, St. Germain elderflower, apple juice and rosemary), Laurent Perrier Brut, Moretti La Rossa beer, and a seemingly endless number of wines, scotches, bourbons and whiskeys.