Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sugo - Atlanta

Friday night and I was back in Atlanta, this time I was in town for the 10th anniversary Good Eats show, but I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. Sitting in the backseat of Aaron’s car, Aaron, Jennifer and I were on the way to one of Aaron’s local favorites, Sugo.

You can’t help but be a little skeptical when you see Sugo at the end of a strip mall, but once the hostess and waiters greeted Aaron by name, I felt a little more at ease. Once the first drink arrived, I was feeling completely at home. Aaron insisted that he order my first drink and a minute or so later, the belly up arrived.

This drink has an impressive list of ingredients: bacon infused rye, lemon bitters, blood orange bitters, an orange peel, and maple syrup. While this was a very tasty drink with lots of lemon and orange upfront, maple syrup after, I was disappointed that there wasn’t any real bacon flavor. Also, with the two bitters, a peel, and rye whiskey, I expected the bite of a Sazerac, instead the belly up was a little too sweet for my taste.

Once interesting thing about Sugo is the detail they have on their menu. There’s an entire page devoted to the partners, the meats and their sources, and their “going green initiative”. While that’s all well and good, I was more interested in the tapas selection on their menu. In no time at all, our first tapas order was at the table.

Here a calamari is stuffed with sautéed onions, spinach, and cheese and then baked. Served swimming in a bowl of tomato basil sauce, this seemed like a good way to start the tapas part of the meal.

Thankfully the squid was tender and overflowing with cheese. The tomato sauce was a little on the sweet side, but I’m a fan of the chunky texture.

Next up was the involtini, or the “Grecian Beef Tenderloin Involtini”, essentially a stuffed tenderloin.

I don’t mean to downplay the involtini, as the tart goat cheese stuffing struck a real chord with me. Even though Aaron said the involtini is usually better, I didn’t see anything wrong with this example.

Since Sugo is a cross between Italian and Greek cuisine, it would be a little odd if there wasn’t a meatball on the menu. Luckily, Sugo had that covered in spades.

The first think you notice about the Meatball al Sugo is they are huge. Sugo claims their meatballs are stuffed with roasted tomatoes and dates, I couldn’t really distinguish those flavors. Instead, I was enjoying a slightly spicy and delicious piece of meat with a great crust and truly flavorful interior. Served with your typical, yet tasty marinara sauce, this is what every Italian meatball should be.

Skipping to the antipasto and fresh salad part of the menu, we also ordered the prosciutto plate.

It’s no secret that I love prosciutto, but this dish was simply too busy. While the cheese and pesto were a great combination, the balsamic and olive oil on the prosciutto was just too much. Prosciutto is one of those meats that can stand on its own, but in this instance the balsamic would have been enough.

In addition to the prosciutto, we tried another antipasto & salad dish, a Caprese salad.

I love the colors of a Caprese salad and the yellow and red beefsteak tomatoes were stunning. This was a very tasty version of the dish, but I’m just not a fan of Caprese salad.

You would think that we had ordered enough at this point, but I goaded Aaron and Jennifer into a few more dishes. The first was a special, black truffle pasta.

Fresh sheet pasta and cheese is served on top of braised veal and tomatoes. Our waiter told us to stir it together to melt the cheese. It ended up something like this

The pasta was absolutely delicious, but the veal was the weak link of the dish. While the veal was tender, it had been overcooked. Veal is an inherently tender meat, I’m not really sure why it needed braising in the first place.

Our final dish was one of my favorites, the hunters grilled specialty sausage.

A well grilled sausage is always a treat, but I was delighted to hear these were wild boar sausages. Of course it didn’t hurt that these were perfectly grilled sausages with a great snap to the casing. As if the sausages were enough, Sugo had decided to serve them with expertly caramelized onions. I really couldn’t find a thing wrong with this dish, which is why every restaurant should have wild boar and/or wild boar on the menu.

Like almost every restaurant, Sugo had a few misses on their menu. However, these minor faults are conveniently forgotten in the face of their successes. Everyone should have a restaurant where you walk in to everyone knowing your name. It’s Aaron’s good fortune that he has that rapport at a quality Italian restaurant. Maybe next time we’ll have the time and appetite to try a pizza or an entrée.

Sugo on Urbanspoon

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