The restaurateurs behind the Iberian Pig in Decatur, Double Zero Napoletana in Sandy Springs, and Sugo Kitchen in Johns Creek are crossing into Westside with the opening of Cooks & Soldiers this summer. The family-run Castellucci Hospitality Group will open a Basque-inspired restaurant serving traditional cuisine in the new Elan Westside building at 691 14th Street. They recently started construction on the space and hope for an August or early September opening.
“Basque is a food that is underrepresented here,” says Landon Thompson, Cooks & Soldiers executive chef. “In many ways, that region is the culinary epicenter of the world—many of the top restaurants and chefs are there.”
Thompson, who is currently chef de cuisine at the Iberian Pig, says Basque cuisine varies across the region. In France, it might be homey and rustic with a focus on braising, rice, seafood, and tripe. Drive two hours to Spain, and it’s all about tapas bars with molecular gastronomy, fusions, and modern plating. At Cooks & Soldiers, Thompson will strive to have elements of both, with a meat and cheese pintxo station, sharable dishes, upbeat music, and a focus on seafood.
“I grew up classically trained in French techniques, but for the past three years I’ve been doing Spanish food at the Pig,” he says. “It’s nice to bridge the two.”
Below, eight things you need to know about Cooks & Soldiers.
Basque region sits at the northeast corner of Spain and shares a border with France. Cooks & Soldiers will be particularly inspired by Pintxo bars from San Sebastion.
Pintxos, or small snacks, will comprise a good part of the menu. The rest will be raciones, or entrée-style dishes, such as whole grilled fish and a large grilled ribsteak called Chuleton, cooked on an asador, or wood-fire grill.
The signature burger, called the Iberico Burger, will be ground in house and served with manchego cheese, garlic allioli (aioli), and piquillo-quince relish. Other offerings will include vieras (scallops with beet, asparagus tips, cous cous, chili, celery leaves, and Satsuma orange), and “aerated” Idiazabal soup made with dehydrated corn, Benton’s bacon, and black pepper.
The bar will serve Spanish and French wines and Basque ciders, in addition to craft beer and classic cocktails.
A pintxo bar will have ready-made two-to-three-bite bruschetta-like or skewered snacks, available for consumption immediately upon entering the restaurant.
Thompson will be assisted in the kitchen by sous chef John Castellucci, who recently returned from a five-month stint of cooking in San Sebastian.
The name Cooks & Soldiers stems from Tamborrada—an annual festival in San Sebastian during which adults dress as cooks and soldiers and march across the city to the sound of drums and a raised flag.
The underlying cultural significance, explains Castellucci Hospitality Group president Federico Castellucci, is men in Basque culture usually end up as either a cook or a solider.