Welcome to One Year In, a feature in which Eater sits down for a chat with the chefs and owners of restaurants celebrating their one year anniversary.
A year ago, Cibo e Beve opened in a little shopping center in Sandy Springs. The restaurant wanted to become a neighborhood place, somewhere locals could come a couple times a week for a meal and a glass of wine as well as a destination for celebratory events. Together, owner Steve Buero and chef and managing partner Linda Harrell, both of whom have worked in the restaurant industry since their early teens, have created just that, a cozy and elegant restaurant that's just as dedicated to sustaining the local community as it is to Italian food. Eater Atlanta sat down with the two to find out what they recommend on the menu, what the first year was like, and what's next for the Cibo e Beve.
Okay, how did the first year go? Does it feel like it’s been twelve months? Have there been any major hiccups?
SB: It went by really quickly— it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long at all. Linda and I are lucky to have found each other, and we’ve been working together for a long time.
LH: We’re like peas and carrots.
SB: Yeah, we know each other really well, we each know how the other works, so things go smoothly— for the most part. There was a four-month period where we stayed away from things like Yelp, social media in general and focused on doing what we do best. We had to step back and just follow our instincts. We’ve done this before, and we know what works. We have to trust that.
Some people online have said that Cibo e Beve isn’t a true Italian restaurant.
LH: It’s Italian. The food in Italy is so varied, and people get upset when we don’t serve dishes like lasagna on our regular menu. We also use seasonal ingredients, so sometimes there are local turnip greens in our orecchiette and things like that.
You thank local purveyors on your website, so obviously that’s something that’s important to you.
LH: It’s really important. We use a lot of fresh, local ingredients, and it’s great to see farmers come in with baskets of produce to show off what they have in season right now. We also have mint outside, and I use rosemary from my garden at home. I’d love to have a rooftop garden here, it’s been something we’ve been thinking about since the beginning, and I can’t get it out of my head. It’s going to happen!
So what’s the must-order dish? And the drink?
SB: The lobster spaghetti. The tiramisu is great too. And, you know cibo means “grub” but beve means drink— our beverage program is as important as the food. I’d say about 90% of our wines come from Italy, and Justin [Hadaway], the mixologist, is awesome. The Biddy is a great cocktail, and we use bison grass to infuse vodka in the Warsawgrass.
LH: Chatham County Line, Chatham County Line!
SB: Yeah, that’s definitely one of the best.
LH: It has pecan-infused whiskey, Savannah honey, a slice of Georgia peach, and a smoke-infused ice cube. It’s very Southern. We infuse everything ourselves, and our syrups and sodas are made in house. The breads and pastas are made in house, too. As for must-order food, the goat cheese panna cotta, the meatballs, the tiramisu...
SB: And we haven’t even talked about the pizzas.
Let’s talk about the pizza!
SB: Pizza is so different depending on where you are. We’re both from New York, so we know a lot about New York-style pizza, but for the restaurant, we went with the traditional Italian pies.
LH: It’s huge, you order a large one for four or five people after a night out and you’re full after one slice. Our pizza isn’t like that. It’s light, you can finish it and not feel bad afterward. I’m not saying I don’t love a New York slice after a night out, but I prefer ours.
SB: You can sit at the bar and watch them come out of the oven. They only cook for two or three minutes, it’s great. Authentic.
Why Sandy Springs?
SB: Sandy Springs is a real community. We love it here. We looked downtown, but we’d opened restaurants here before and inevitably ended up back in this area. It’s a great neighborhood, there’s an awesome demographic. We love being here and try to give back to the community a lot.
LH: We donated the profits from our soft opening to Georgia Organics, we’ve participated in a lot of charitable events and are in the Camp Twin Lakes Food Fight right now. We love to help out whenever we can.
Any new concepts in the works?
SB: We’re thinking about marketing our marinara sauce. It’s a big hit, people love it.
LH: Expanding into retail is definitely something we’ve talked about. The rooftop garden, too, and we’re about to start brunch on August 5.
What's on the brunch menu?
SB: The adult pop tart with mascarpone homemade fruit preserves that will change seasonally is one of my favorites. There's a play on French toast that we're calling Italian toast that comes sweet, stuffed with hazelnut mascarpone and topped with amarena cherries, black pepper maple syrup, and honey butter, or sweet and savory with proscuitto and taleggio and a mustard-rosemary maple syrup.
LH: There are also a few traditional Italian Sunday dishes for people who don't want breakfast. Things they'd eat after church back in Italy, like manicotti and Sunday gravy. The gravy dish is rigatoni with a classic Sunday stew of sausage, meatballs, beef, pork, and San Marzano tomatoes.
[Photo courtesy of The Rosen Group]