European-Style Dining at Cuoco Italian Table
By Carl Danbury
When I relocated to the Cumming area from Buckhead and then Marietta in the mid-1990s, the options for Italian restaurants or Italian food of any kind were few and far between. In the nearly 20 years since, our buona fortuna has increased slowly but steadily. Some have made an indelible mark on the restaurant community here, while others have faded from view.
Partner Anthony LoRusso, a native of Manhattan, and chef Aaron Avers took over a twice-failed Italian restaurant location about two months ago on Peachtree Pkwy. in Cumming. Located at the corner of Sharon Rd. near the popular sports-pub eatery Black Diamond Grill, which is a gem in its own right, unlike some others in the area, Cuoco Italian Table has created a very European-style dining experience, where inclusive rather than add-ons are the order of the day.
Cuoco has made the ordering process quite easy, although some diners are still a bit confused. You order your entree and choose the antipasti items you would like to share with your other guests at the table. Homemade foccacia and salad begin your meal, followed by the antipasti samples. Then, you will sample three of Chef Aaron’s pasta dishes. Three different pastas, served al dente, are served with unique homemade sauces. And, you may always request ‘seconds’ if you wish. After a nice pace to the meal, without the table-turning rush served up by the nearby chains, your entree is served. This is a relaxing, convivial way of dining with friends or associates, and also provides a nice lesson for children and young adults to enjoy dining rather than just eating.
Avers interpretation of LoRusso’s old family recipes is inspiring. Our dinner companions for the evening are seasoned travelers to Italy, and were very complimentary of Avers’ sauces, particularly the Bolognese, which is typically served with rigatoni. Avers really shines with his entrees. Our favorite of the evening was the Cotolette di Maiale in Padella, which is a scrumptious pork chop marinated in his house seasoning that is pan seared and then deglazed with white wine and rosemary, and then finished in the oven with maître d’ butter. While many restaurants serve pork dried out or overcooked, our server suggested medium rare, and it simply melted-in-your-mouth.
“The ingredients that we use help the flavors of our dishes speak for themselves. The key is preparation, which then enables us to have a consistency with all of our dishes,” LoRusso said. “You have spoken with Chef Avers and can tell the passion he has for what he does. For those who don’t have that verbal insight, it is evident from what arrives on your table. We strive for our ordinary to be extraordinary.”
While Chicken Saltimbocca and Vitello Marsala e Funghi can be ordinary, not so at Cuoco. Avers’ version of the chicken includes Pecorino-Romano cheeses, spinach, lemon butter and prosciutto, while his hand-pounded veal is flavored with herbs de Provence, basil, a Marsala reduction sauce and portobello mushrooms. Avers gregarious nature is evident in the dishes he prepares and his zeal of wanting to please his guests.
“I gauge success from the expressions on our customers’ faces and from the unsolicited comments we receive from them,” Avers said. “At the end of the day, I want to know where we stand and what we need to do to improve their experience. So far, I am pleased with the feedback we have received.”
His Wild Mushroom Ravioli con Crema, Pollo al Mattone and Tilapia in Cartoccio also come highly recommended. The restaurant has an expanding wine list and has begun adding selections from small, family-owned wineries from many areas throughout Italy. Cuoco has been added to our list of favorite Italian restaurants in the area, which includes among others, RosaMia Ristorante Italiano in Johns Creek, Mia Ristorante Italiano on the west side of Cumming and Trattoria one 41 in Johns Creek. All have their own specialities and style, which means our ability to enjoy fine Italian food can now be more frequent than just one night per week.
Cuoco is open for dinner six days a week (except Monday), and also serves a wonderful Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cuoco Italian Table
475 Peachtree Parkway, Suite C-5
Cumming, Georgia 30041