Dunwoodians looking for gourmet Italian dining need no longer drive to Buckhead, for at the heart of Dunwoody Village Shopping Center, Carbonara Trattoria offers elegant, yet unpretentious Italian fare at an affordable price.
Both the décor and the food are a subtle, yet interesting combination of contemporary and traditional. Upon entering, diners find themselves in a lounge furnished with contemporary Italian furniture, decorated with traditional Tuscan walls, sconces and artwork and hardwood floors.
In contrast to the heavy smell of garlic often associated with Italian dining, the aromas wafting from the kitchen are comfortingly fragrant – a sign that an artful restraint is partly what sets this cuisine apart from the ordinary.
Owned and operated by former international Coca Cola executive Rafik Cressaty, with interior design by Patty Cressaty, Carbonara Trattoria opened on Sept. 16.
“Owning a restaurant has been a lifelong passion of mine,” he said.
Having spent much of his career in other parts of the world, Cressaty, upon retiring from corporate life, moved to Dunwoody to be close to his family.
“I wanted to be able to eat great Italian food without driving to Buckhead,” he said, “and I wanted to offer food that is affordable but delicious.”
From his worldwide travels, he “had some pretty definite things” he wanted to see on the menu. He and his chef, Cesareo, whose experience includes some of metro Atlanta’s finest restaurants – including Veni Vidi Vici, AZIO Downtown and Milton’s – developed the menu together.
With no entrees over $23 and some as low as $11, Carbonara’s lunch and dinner menus both offer plenty to satisfy both palettes and pocketbooks.
Starting with the antipasti, menu items are made with an artful, light touch. Fans of bruschetta will fall in love with the bruschetta at Carbonara. Unlike the hard dry toast often associated with the dish, Carbonara’s grilled bread is moistened with seasoned olive oil. When a piece of the bread is lifted to the mouth, the ingredients conveniently stay in place.
The fried calamari is also a pleasant departure from the expected. The delicate little pieces are very lightly fried, with absolutely no greasy residue, and come with two dips – a marinara sauce and a kind-to-the-palette Jalapenos dip.
For a second course, a tomato and basil soup is a velvety bisque with slightly tangy overtones. It feels light as air in the spoon but fills the mouth with flavor.
In addition, a prosciutto and pear salad is both a visual and a gustatory delight. Crisp grilled pear slices and prosciutto on a bed of arugula are dressed with a delicate champagne vinaigrette with no obvious vinegar taste. Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano tops the salad as if topping a little work of art.
Of course, a visit to Carbonara Trattoria would be incomplete without the dish for which Cressaty named his restaurant – spaghetti carbonara. Cooked truly al dente, the pasta is held together by a substantial white sauce made from whole eggs, sautéed pancetta, fresh black pepper and Parmigiano-Reggiano. This dish is a good choice for pasta lovers looking for an alternative to red or Alfredo sauce.
Perhaps nothing on the menu can compete with the sheer beauty of the fresh halibut sautéed in olive oil and butter. Light and delicate, the filet sits upon a lemon-and-pecorino risotto with a red wine honey sauce. Artfully arranged on top, as if to resemble the petals of a flower, are homemade potato chips.
The beer and wine list complements the food with 16 mostly American beers, eight Italian wines by the glass, 18 mostly Italian bottled reds and 11 bottled whites.
Business has been good since the restaurant opened.
“Word of mouth has been amazing,” said Cressaty. “We have lots of customers who come every week.”
One such customer is Anne Hall.
“I just love this place,” she said, “and keep telling everyone to come here. It’s so warm, and the food is fantastic.”
As the mother of Erin Smith, one of the famous Dunwoody Queens of Cuisine, Hall should know.
Located at 5499 Chamblee Dunwoody Road in Dunwoody Village Shopping Center, Carbonara Trattoria is open six days a week, closed Sundays. Weekends are by reservation only. Call 678-587-9100.