First Look: Poco Pomodoro
Handmade pastas and more for low prices in East AtlantaMonday September 28, 2015 04:00 am EDT
Poco Pomodoro is all about family. On most nights, chef and co-owner Phillip Carney can be found inside Poco's East Atlanta restaurant ringing up customers, answering calls, making deliveries, and assisting with cooking. Behind the counter, his son or daughter prepares a small menu of modest, Italian-American comfort food based on family recipes that go back generations.
Both Carney and his partner and co-founder, Mark Manganello, have Italian roots, and the menu is a melting pot of their families' recipes. Carney's side of the family is known for its sauces, while Manganello's has mastered the art of pasta. Poco offers hot sandwiches, soups, and salads, but the pasta is the star. Up and running since January, Poco Pomodoro initially operated out of Quynh Trinh's banh mi shop We Suki Suki at dinnertime. The delivery and take-out business began as a nightly pop-up of sorts, offering its Italian menu from just 5-9 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. The concept was small and unpublicized, but it soon gained a loyal following through social media and word-of-mouth. Most nights, Carney sold out of all the food he could squeeze into the shop's mini refrigerator.
With so much demand and so little square footage, Poco Pomodoro expanded into the former Urban Cannibals space next door earlier this month, into Trinh's recently launched Global Grub Collective food hall. The expansion has added six more tables for dining and lunch service. A recent midday visit revealed that Poco Pomodoro's friendly staff is still working out some service kinks. The concept is quick-serve take-out, but if you plan on visiting for lunch any time soon, make sure you allot at least 40 minutes.
Inside, the former Urban Cannibals space has been transformed. A line of fire-engine-red picnic tables replaces what used to be shelves filled with locally-made goods for sale. A peaceful-looking blossom tree mural covers one wall. Poco Pomodoro occupies the counter and kitchen space furthest from the entrance. Cake Hag has set up adjacent to that. Near the entrance, a new bakery, Flora and Flour, has carved out its own little nook.
A heaping plate of delightfully twirlable house-made fettuccine ($8) is enough food for two people. Choose between the bright and flavorful roasted basil marinara or fresh pesto. An order of pasta comes with a slice of garlic bread and a side salad of mixed field greens drizzled in house-made balsamic vinaigrette. Other mainstays such as lasagna ($10) made with mozzarella, provolone, and ricotta cheeses, and a filling that changes daily, anchor Poco Pomodoro's menu. Last week, there was a sausage and pepper lasagna and another made with spinach and mushrooms. Fresh ravioli ($9.50), also made with an array of fillings that change frequently, is on the core menu. Last week featured two varieties: a three cheese and a mushroom and chicken ravioli.
The heart and soul of this restaurant, however, are improvisation and adaptability.
Carney shares the daily specials on the restaurant's Facebook page each afternoon and the phone calls begin almost immediately. A recent spicy Italian panini — basically, according to the counterperson, a melty, crunchy grilled cheese stuffed with prosciutto and capicola — was on point. Regular customers keep an eye out and call in deliveries for their favorites or intriguing new additions such as the tuna nicoise salad ($6) or the quinoa tabouli with parsley, mint, tomato, and cucumber ($7, add chicken for $3). Carney is not afraid to borrow inspiration from disciplines outside of Italian cuisine. One day, a thin curried butternut squash was sweetened with coconut milk. Earlier this month there was a Cuban sandwich with ham, roast chicken, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on the specials board.
Additional reporting by Stephanie Dazey.