Thursday, October 30, 2008

Highlight #107: Birthday feasting (Part I) - Restaurant: La Grotta

Birthday is no time for experimentation. The last thing I want is a major let down. With that said, this year, at the start of my week long birthday feasting, I wanted to go somewhere unexplored, but with a low chance of messing up. That place turned out to be La Grotta.

I have heard much about this thirty year old place from both native Atlantans and new arrivals. One thing almost everyone mentions is good service. And for a celebratory dinner, service is almost as important as food quality.

We were seated quickly once we found our way down to the dimly lit restaurant in the basement of an old condo building. The subterranean location is odd but not unpleasant as there were gracious hostess and valet at the front of the building to greet us. The room is decked out in old school mahogany to match the old school clientele. A quick look around confirmed that this birthday probably put me within twenty years of the other diners.

Our waiter was also the old school type I love. He obviously knew the menu and the wine list and delivered useful information with humor. My friends weren't of the exotic eating type, so we skipped the snails and settled on some seared calamari and grilled portobello as appetizers. The calamaries were delightfully presented in their chubby wholeness and tasted tender fresh in the bright tomato based fra diavolo sauce. No one fought me for the tentacles, which truly made me happy.

The portobello appetizer fared less well. First of all, the mushroom pieces were rather small and seemed slightly watery under the layer of goat cheese. They were also not the focus of the dish, which was mainly a baby spinach salad. Had I not expected a large dose of portobello, I would have been content with the well-dressed salad. But the dish did start out with "portobello" in the name, so... All in all though, it was a solid salad.

One friend went with even more calamari and ordered the black & white linguine with calamari. I really liked the visual of the black and white contrast. The one bite I sampled was nicely toothsome and pungent with roasted garlic in a very pleasurable way.

My special of veal ravioli was simply amazing and I don't use that word lightly. Creamy yet light, the filling coated the mouth like eating savory whipped cream. Combine that with perfectly al dente shells hot from nutty brown butter, this was heaven on a plate.

We ended things with the house dessert - the tiramisu. Not quite cakey yet not quite mousse like, the texture was akin to that of a cool soaked sponge cake. The espresso flavor could have been played up a little bit more, but the overall combination was very balanced and enjoyable. In the way of an attentive old world establishment, flutes of champagne were sent out for us to toast. For my one friend who was not drinking that night, a glass of gingerale was provided as a considerate touch.

There you have it. A solid night of dining that started off my birthday week on the good foot.

La Grotta
2637 Peachtree Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30305

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