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A wraparound bar is the focal point of Bellina’s dining room, where a bevy of cocktails, wines and brews beckon.
Beauty and the Feastby Kelly Skinner | Photography by Sara Hanna | Jezebel magazine | December 23, 2015
Like many girls who study abroad in Italy, Tal Postelnik Baum fell head over heels for the boot-shaped country while she was there. After seven years studying and working in Florence, Baum returned to the United States ready to switch careers from architect to restaurateur. “I wanted to bring some of the Italian charm and respect Italians have for their food to Atlanta,” says Baum.
She’s done just that with her newly opened Ponce City Market resto, Bellina Alimentari. As its name implies (Italian for “charming” or “delightful market”), the grocery and restaurant is a cheerful place oozing with artisanal ingredients (olive oils, vinegars and dried pastas line the shelves) and mouthwatering Tuscan plates. At 4,000 square feet, the Smith Hanes-designed digs are the largest in the Food Hall.
At the back near the bar, diners can see breads and pastas being created in the Dough Room, which transforms into an event space at night, where Culinary Club dinners, pasta-making classes and speaker series take place. It’s a concept that’s been driving in the crowds since its October opening, and even attracted the likes of Owen Wilson and Usher.
Visitors passing through Ponce City Market can grab cold salads or hot-pressed paninis to-go, or can opt for a sit-down meal of pasta or larger plates. For the stay-awhile crowd, you can order and dine at the bar. Dave Berry, former top toque at Horseradish Grill, is running the kitchen and is putting a career’s worth of cooking knowledge into the menu’s shortlist of affordable comfort cuisine. “Comfort food, no matter where you are in the world, can be traced back to someone’s grandma,” says Berry, noting the similarities among Southern and Italian foods.
This sentiment shows in Berry’s cozy menu of seasonal plates. Order a glass of orange wine from the restaurant’s organic wine program, a local beer, a craft cocktail, or a draft libation and let your appetite lead the way.
Start with a plate of garlicky artichokes and an artisanal ham and cheese board filled with various local delicacies (Spotted Trotter makes a finocchiona special for the restaurant).
Next, have your pick from the menu’s curated selection of pastas and entrees. It’s a small menu that changes quarterly (though dishes vary daily based on what ingredients are available). Plates are homey and embrace the slow-cooked, made-from-scratch, technique-driven ways honored both in the American South and in Tuscany alike.
If instincts tell you to order from the Primi pasta dishes, you’d be right. All are affordably priced between $12 and $15, and are well-portioned (note that if you split a dish, you’re charged an extra fee not listed on the menu). The Pappardelle al Ragu with Brasstown beef is the epitome of winter decadence with thick ribbons of fresh pasta folded with slow-cooked Brasstown beef sauce; and the Quattro Formaggi is a savory take on macaroni and cheese (made with four cheeses and a lightly crispy crust). But the Secondi menu items shouldn’t be overlooked: Berry stuffs his Italian-style meatloaf with Spotted Trotter ham and whips up a Brasstown beef stew over Anson Mills polenta you won’t want to miss (it’s rich, creamy and stupendous in flavor).
Finish with a gorgeous custard and pine-nut tart paired with an espresso; then sigh. Re-enter the shopping scene with a renewed appreciation for la dolce vita.
Ponce City Market
675 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE