Mezza Luna: Tribute to Puglia and Entrepreneurial Spirit

MezzaLunaorechiette

Orecchiette with broccoli

Written by Carl Danbury

It’s no secret that Points North Atlanta gravitates to those restaurants that are founded by entrepreneurs who own their own businesses. In recent months, you’ve read about scads of restaurateurs who hang out their sign and believe their food and service can make Northside residents forget about the ordinary, yet seemingly endless alternatives offered by national chains. We make no apologies rooting for our neighbors to succeed and have a particular affinity for those that prepare Italian cuisine for us. Judging from the number of Italian restaurants in our extended Northside community we’re not alone.

Joining Mia Ristorante Italiano, Fusco’s via Roma, Trattoria One 41, RosaMia Ristorante Italiano, Altobeli’s Restaurant and Piano Bar, Domenick’s Little Italy, Pasta Vino, Lucia’s, Vingenzo’s, di Paolo and recent newcomers such as Toscana Trattoria and Campania, is a unique gem that’s a bit more west than it is north, but certainly worth the drive particularly if you find yourself on I-285 heading west.

Alex Magnani, a native of Puglia, Italy, who came to the Atlanta area last year, recently opened Mezza Luna Trattoria in Smyrna, which is a tribute to his Pugliese roots. Magnani partnered with Executive Chef Paolo Tondo, (whose father also grew up in Puglia) and sommelier Jasmin Reyes Scott, who have already created their own legendary Tuscan menu and wine list at Taverna Fiorentina in Vinings.

Lightly fried calamari

Lightly fried calamari

Puglia may not be a well-known culinary destination like some areas of Italy, but according to Wine Enthusiast‘s Monica Larner it should be. “To say that Puglia has Italy’s best food is no exaggeration. It offers fresh ingredients, whether pulled from the sea or picked from the nearest tree.” Mezza Luna succeeds in providing a glimpse of what Larner found during her recent visit to the heel of the boot.

Mezza Luna opened within the last few weeks with muted fanfare in cozy and familial environs on Spring Rd., just off Atlanta Rd. It has yet to attract a thriving lunch trade, but the quality of cuisine and service we found during an early afternoon visit has us clamoring for our next opportunity. While there are no serene blue waters of the Adriatic or Ionian seas to mesmerize you at Mezza Luna, the relaxing pace, intriguing conversation with Magnani, and the dishes that are brought to your table are enough to make you exclaim with fervor, “Mille grazie.”

While you may see a few similar dishes on the menu at other restaurants in town, the food at Mezza Luna seems lighter with a pleasant blending of flavors and textures. The calamari fritti here isn’t pre-breaded rings drowned in hot oil and typical marinara, but rather dusted in flour and flash fried. It has a welcome ethereal quality, which seems a pre-cursor for what’s to come. The Orecchiete with brocolli rabe and clams, mussels alla Tarantina with spicy marinara, black ink ravioli stuffed with crabmeat and beef braciole with roasted potatoes and sauteed spinach are just a few of the items we enjoyed thoroughly.

A wonderful cannoli

Tempting cannolis

As we have come to expect from Reyes Scott, she has dotted the Mezza Luna wine list with some standard varietals to accompany the many unheralded gems she sourced from Sicily, Puglia, Tuscany, Veneto and Piemonte. The list screams with authenticity and her keen eye for varietals complements the presence of treasures from the sea on the menu. As the clientele here grows, so will Reyes Scott’s wine list.

Mezza Luna is a welcome addition to the restaurant scene in their area of town. It’s a place to unwind and unhook. Turn off your phone, relax and enjoy the conversation. And while you’re there, raise a glass of Prosecco to the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well in the Northside, and revel in the unique abilities offered at Mezza Luna and other fine Italian restaurants in our area. Cent’anni!

Mezza Luna Trattoria • 1669 Spring Road SE Smyrna 30080

770-319-0333 • mezzalunatrattoria.com

  1. Rob Preiditsche05-24-2013

    We thoroughly enjoyed lunch. Host Alex was so welcoming and we enjoyed learning about the origins of some of the dishes. His wine recommendations hit our affordable side and overdelivered. Our favorites were the black ink ravioli and the gnocchi! Congratulations! We’ll be back!