What do you get when you combine a former racecar driver and real estate professional with an architect mourning the loss of his best friend? The story of Yeppa & Co., a new Italian restaurant from the co-owners of Storico Fresco, Forza Storico, and Storico Vino. The former racecar driver, Pietro Gianni, wanted to help Atlantans reconnect and find the humanity they lost during the Covid-19 pandemic. The architect, Stephen Peterson, was searching for a way to commemorate his mentor, a man known as “Yeppa” for the phrase he’d say when he was excited. Together, Gianni and Peterson would find a village—both physical and metaphorical—to bring their vision to life.
Opening February 27 in Buckhead Village, cattycornered from Fetch dog park, Yeppa & Co. is an amalgamation of the passions and experiences of the Storico team, minus Michael Patrick, who is focusing on his cookbook. The result is part-restaurant, part-coffee shop, and part-Formula One cocktail bar. It’s also an advertisement for trips and tours to Villa Yeppa, a vineyard chalet in the coastal city of Rimini, Italy, that Gianni and Peterson invest in.
What in the world?
If this seems out there, it’s because it is. But Gianni and Peterson have the chops to do it. They’ve assembled a team of all stars both here and abroad. There’s Massimo Lorenzi, a wine producer at Enio Ottaviani winery, home to Villa Yeppa. Peterson describes Lorenzi as another “Yeppa,” bringing life to everything he touches. He helped Gianni develop his own rosé for the restaurant and came to Atlanta to help the team prepare for the opening.
Next came Omar Casali, chef coordinator from Maré Cesenatico restaurant in Italy. Gianni, Peterson, and Yeppa/Storico beverage manager Jose Pereiro met Casali during a research trip. They view his menus as inspiration for Yeppa, and his photo hangs on the wall in Atlanta as a thank you. See, the team refers to Yeppa as a “chefless” restaurant. It’s spearheaded by a kitchen manager, rather than a single star personality. Its menu was created by Gianni and Peterson working with Omar Santamaria, Yeppa and Storico group head chef, as well as Casali. Gianni and Peterson each selected their favorite dishes from visits to the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, where Rimini is, and asked Santamaria to recreate them. Then they tasted, tweaked, adapted, and eliminated dishes. The result is a modern take on traditional Italian, a bit more colorful than the other Storico offerings.
The menu includes grilled skewers with a focus on seafood, cured meats and cheeses, a variety of focaccia in quarter, half, and full sizes, and nine pastas. There are fried lasagna bites that resemble arancini, minestrone served year-round, and snackable polenta fries. The same menu is offered for both lunch and dinner, with coffee, juices, and focaccia available for takeout. Honey, olive oil, and white wine vinegar all come from the Rimini vineyard.
Of course, the beverage menu features wines from the region as well, plus 30 to 40 others intentionally selected to be different from the offerings at the Storico restaurants. The beer selection will be light, featuring Polar from Venezuela as a nod to Peterson’s heritage, Birra Viola from Italy, and a few additional bottles. The focus is cocktails with six on draft, a few gin and tonic options, and a variety of craft selections representing places Italians visit in the winter—think Cuba libre, michelada, and Yeppa’s favorite, caipirinha.
A unique cocktail menu will be available along with small bites in the adjacent Dryver Bar. “Dryver bar is more about the modern mixology, elevating presentation of the cocktail with a sophisticate and chic aesthetic,” Pereiro says. “[It’s about] always keeping the classic touch but using modern technics like infusions, clarifying juices, forced carbonation, and sous vide, that also help us to be more sustainable and reduce waste.”
That’s right. There’s more. Formerly Biltong Bar, the Yeppa space is 7,000 square feet. That includes a kitchen (double the size of what they need, Peterson says), a massive U-shaped bar that fills most of the dining room, and a takeout counter corner dubbed “the Square.” (Be sure to watch the auto-changing letterboard, displaying eccentric messages like “The next flight to Rimini leaves exactly when you can’t travel,” and “Happy f**king birthday Karen.” Now add to that a small patio, glass wall doors that open to the outside, and a secret bar entrance with garage doors that can extend or enclose the space. Where Yeppa is all light wood, aqua accents, and framed friendly photos, Dryver is dark and lounge-y with a red Formula One car mounted to the ceiling. Although Yeppa does feature TVs above the bar, they’ll only play with the sound off unless a major sporting event is happening. In Dryver Bar, however, racing fans can get down and dirty with their favorite events.
Are you feeling Yeppa yet?