The pizza and pasta scene in Atlanta is a competitive one. There are a lot of choices, and to enter the market, you had better bring your best. First, you need a wood-fired oven.
Second, you have to make your own pasta.
Date Night gets invited to an Atlanta Food Bloggers Society event at Princi Italia, which happens to have both of the above. As we will see, it turns out to be quite the meal.
Princi Italia is the third location of this Dallas-based restaurant. There’s one in “the Big-D” and one in nearby Plano, Texas. Now there’s one in Midtown, in one of those mixed-use high-rises that are causing the population (and traffic) to swell in this area. You can see Ri Ra and Lure from the Princi corner.
You are going to see a lot of food from tonight’s date. Call it “Italian Food Porn” if you wish. Just know that we only had a few bites of each dish. They would have wheeled us out if we had eaten all of this food. We start off with a nice half-carafe of red wine. Italian wine from Italy, of course.
You get a little more than two glasses out of the half-carafe. Nice touch: they pour it at the table into your carafe. Look out–here comes the food. Looks like we’ll be starting from the top of the menu and working our way down. First out is the tomato basil flatbread.
It is hot from the wood-fired oven, with the right amount of char on the bottom. Next up is the tortellini fondue.
This is our first sampling of Princi’s house-made pasta. There will be more. Chewy pillows of pasta are covered with butter and parmesan sauce. These were a little too chewy and needed to be cooked a few seconds longer. Here’s Princi’s playful take on a southern favorite, shrimp and grits.
The shrimp amalfi is polenta covered with shrimp, tomato, and garlic sauce.
What is more Italian than a plate full of meatballs?
Meatballs al forno features two kinds, chicken and beef. The chicken were a little too dense for us, but the beef balls were fluffy and very tasty.
Two similar yet different salads come out next, which feature some beautiful heirloom tomatoes and even better house-made cheeses. We really enjoy the caprese, both for its taste and presentation.
Isn’t that gorgeous? The burrata is no slouch either. We just like the caprese better.
Enough of this rabbit food. One of the stars of tonight’s meal is the Chianti brased short ribs.
This is a big hit among those in attendance. The meat needs no knife. It is slow-cooked until it’s soft and tender. Try this when you go.
Want fish instead of meat? Princi has that taken care of.
Believe it or not, the real hit on this plate is the cauliflower gratin. We all think it is potatoes, and are pleasantly surprised when we find out it’s cauliflower. If cauliflower were this good everywhere, we would eat a lot more of it. Princi should offer it as a side dish.
The next dish arrives right out of the wood-fired oven.
The grilled chicken pizza has caramelized onion, pear and goat cheese on top. It was OK, but you can get their house-made sausage on a pizza and we would probably like that better.
The last three dishes are all pasta. There’s nothing better than fresh pasta, and you can choose from nine different kinds here. Like the fettuccine di mare.
That’s crab, shrimp, asparagus and a basil cream sauce covering the noodles. Molto benne!
We mentioned sausage earlier. Bring it on!
Here’s a spicy treat, the black pepper fettuccine with a whole sausage. They put the pepper into the pasta dough, so every bite has a kick. My favorite pasta of the night is the orecchiette.
Did you know that orecchiette means “little ears” in Italian. You learn the most fascinating things at dinners like this. The dish is full of that house-made ground sausage, making this a palate-pleasing plate.
After all of that spice, it’s time to cool things down. The chocolate cake tiramisu substitutes chocolate cake for the traditional ladyfingers.
It’s good, but is upstaged by the chocolate bars.
This is a big hit at our table. Mousse is covered with chocolate and there’s a praline crunch on the bottom. Think sophisticated Kit-Kat bar. It’s the perfect end to our night at Princi. They validate parking, so you can relax while you eat knowing that your parking is free, a nice perk in this part of town.
Disclaimer time: We paid for our wine, but since this was a media event, we did not pay for our food at Princi Italia. Our opinions, however, are priceless. Thanks to AFBS poohbah Linda Carmical for organizing the event and to Princi event coordinator/jack of all trades Tara Johnston for being such a wonderful host.