The White Bull, a new restaurant and bar from chef Pat Pascarella, opened in early April next door to Brick Store Pub in Decatur.
The 123 E. Court Square storefront space was most recently occupied by Truman, which closed in September 2017 after barely a year in business. And over the years, the location has been home to several other short-lived concepts, causing many locals to wonder if it’s a “cursed” address.
Pascarella’s resume includes serving as executive chef at Ford Fry’s Westside seafood restaurant, the Optimist, where he previously worked with White Bull partner and general manager Gabriele Besozzi. Sous chef Pat Siciliano is the third partner in the opening team.
The name was inspired by Ernest Hemingway, who in his writing life called the challenge of the blank page “the white bull.” For Pascarella, Besozzi and Siciliano, the challenge was creating a place that could serve as a blank slate for their culinary vision.
The build-out includes sections of white clapboards fitted over the brick exterior, and glossy white subway tiles behind the bar. The long, narrow dining room features butcher block-topped tables with white metal chairs and a long butcher’s table in back.
The menu boasts dishes with ingredients sourced exclusively from Georgia farmers and purveyors, including Finch Creek, Tucker and Riverview farms. Currently, it includes a number of vegetable-forward offerings, and pastas made with whole-wheat flour that’s stoneground in-house.
Last week at White Bull, Pascarella and Besozzi took time out to talk about their backgrounds, and what they hoped to achieve in Decatur.
Besozzi grew up in Italy, where he worked at some top slow food-inspired restaurants, before moving to New York City, and then Atlanta.
“I was born in Milan and I started working quite early,” Besozzi said. “I fell in love with the lifestyle, really. I believe that if you see this as just a job, you will be miserable. It needs to be almost like a calling. You’re touching the lives of people.
“We wanted to create an atmosphere that was elegant without being stuffy or pretentious,” Besozzi said. “The White Bull is a perfect analogy for what we’re trying to do here. We’re not tying ourselves to any particular type of cuisine. We are not an Italian restaurant, but we do have pasta. We are not a tapas restaurant, but our menu is meant to be shared.”
Before coming to Atlanta, Pascarella was the executive chef and owner of Bar Sugo, a well-regarded Italian restaurant in Norwalk, Conn.
“This was a brand-new start for everyone involved,” Pascarella said. “Me, sous chef Pat, who is my cousin and worked with me in Connecticut, and Gabriele, we all left behind so much to start our own restaurant here, and we want to put our mark on the Atlanta food scene.
“So far, we source from about 28 farmers and purveyors, and we’re reaching out to more. Originally, we thought the menu was going to change about twice a week, but it’s continuing to change every day now.”
As it turns out, something as basic as the house-made bread and butter that tops the menu is the result of some fairly complicated techniques.
“It’s a sfincione, which is the same exact recipe as Sicilian pizza dough,” Pascarella said. “But instead of baking it on a pizza tray, we cut the dough into ring-size molds. We’re milling our own flour from red wheat from Day Spring Farm and adding their AP flour, then fermenting the dough for 72 hours.
“As far as the butter, we’re buying heavy cream from Rockhouse Creamery and Sweetgrass Dairy and making a raw butter from that, which is simple but delicious.”
A new salad called “roots” is another seemingly elemental item that’s much more than meets the eye.
“We’re taking turnips, carrots and radishes from various farms, and shaving it all raw, then tossing it with some pickled green strawberries and some ripe strawberries from Little Fox Farm,” Pascarella said. “We’re taking a bunch of herbs and making a Green Goddess dressing and serving it with Gouda from the Woodsman and the Wife in Douglasville.”
Asked why he decided to sell his restaurant in Connecticut, and make the move to Atlanta, Pascarella said that ultimately he needed to try something new.
“We won every award you could win for restaurants in Connecticut,” he said. “But being the best chef in Connecticut didn’t really mean anything to me anymore. I decided to move down here and take a little break and work for someone else. Then I fell in love with Decatur because people here do really care about what you’re putting on the plate, and they understand what we’re doing, and they appreciate it.”
123 E. Court Square, Decatur. 404-600-5649, whitebullatl.com.
More images from a First Look at the White Bull in Decatur