Newly open on Brady Avenue, across from Miller Union on Atlanta’s happening Westside, Donetto is a contemporary Italian restaurant with nods to both Tuscan and Southern cooking using local and seasonal ingredients.
It’s the first solo concept from executive chef Michael Perez, a partner with Charleston, S.C.-based the Indigo Road, who most recently helmed the kitchens at the restaurant group’s Oak Steakhouse and Colletta in Alpharetta.
Perez got into pasta-making at the Indigo Road’s Indaco in Charleston. And not surprisingly, the menu at Donetto features an enticing array of shapes and fillings, available in half or whole portions.
Among the more inventive offerings, fusilli with smoked fish, zucchini and shishito peppers, mezzaluna with smoked beef and San Simon da Costa cheese, and ripiena with quail and smoked mushrooms.
The smoke comes from the wood-fired grill, blazing away behind the counter of the open kitchen, where it’s employed to fire a selection of “heavy meats” like Steak Florentine for two with salsa verde, and a 45-day dry-aged bone-in rib-eye with onion ash aioli.
In addition to a book of some 100 mostly Italian wines, the beverage program includes wines by the glass, local and Italian craft beers on draft, house cocktails, and an expansive Amaro list.
The design by architect David Thompson is both airy, with natural light from a grouping of tall windows, and substantial, with oak paneling, wood-block flooring and steel-gray accents in the dining room.
The sprawling L-shaped bar makes an inviting spot for having drinks and sampling Perez’s long list of antipasti, such as octopus with white beans, tomatoes, fingerling potatoes and aioli. And the casual front patio is home to a cowboy cauldron fire pit.
Last week, Perez, who is originally from Portland, Ore., talked a bit about Donetto and his recent history as a chef.
“I’ve been with Indigo Road for a little over four years,” Perez said. “I started as a sous chef at Indaco when we first opened, and then became the executive chef. I came to Atlanta when we opened Colletta, which was exciting, because Italian food is very romantic and personal to me.
“I love Atlanta. I lived in Los Angeles for a little bit, and I think it has a very similar feel. You can get your cultural fixes with Korean barbecue and really good Mexican. Plus, you can get up to the mountains in an hour-and-a-half, which reminds me of Oregon.”
Asked about the big idea for Donetto, Perez said it grew from the experiences at several of the Indigo Road restaurants.
“We have a pizza oven at Indaco and Colletta,” he said. “Oak is kind of our flagship venture, and it’s very meat-driven, so we wanted to embrace some of that. And we thought about what region in Italy has that.
“It was Tuscany, of course, because of things like Steak Florentine. So between that and my pasta-making, we said why don’t we get rid of the pizza oven and kind of do a little bit more of a grown-up version of an Italian restaurant?”
Perez noted that the restaurant was named for the largest Chianina bull ever recorded, which weighed 3,840 pounds. But it also pays tribute to the history of the building Donetto occupies.
“The Miller Union Stockyards was right here, and this was where they would bring in all the livestock from the trains,” he said. “So we have a lot of meat and heavy cuts. But we have a lot of vegetables and other things on the menu, too.
“We have a couple of salads to kind of lighten things up. And we have a lot of antipasti. But what’s great about Tuscany is that it’s so big you’re able to go from the coast with whole fish and octopus, then you go in with the heavier pastas and more meat and sausages. That’s a lot of fun for us here. Basically, we’re taking Italian technique and trying to do something a little different with it.”
976 Brady Ave., Suite 110, Atlanta. 404-445-6867, donettoatlanta.com.
More images from a First Look at Donetto