Chef Todd Ginsberg and the Rye Restaurants team (the General Muir, Wood’s Chapel BBQ, Fred’s Meat and Bread, and Yalla) will start slinging spaghetti and meatballs in Buckhead on December 15. Inspired the food of Ginsberg’s childhood, Dirty Rascal is an Italian-American, red-sauce restaurant with a modern atmosphere. Set in new Thompson Buckhead, a Hyatt hotel, in Buckhead Village, Dirty Rascal will serve pasta, meat, and poultry dishes that convey comfort and warmth.
“I didn’t grow up with Northern Italian-style food,” Ginsberg says. “My mom was cooking brisket, steak and potatoes, or matzo ball soup. If she wasn’t making those, it was lasagna, chicken Parmesan, or spaghetti meatballs.”
Born in New Jersey, Ginsberg decided to become a chef after learning to make pasta at an Italian restaurant in Virginia Beach. “If you’re from the tri-state area, you were exposed to American-Italian food. That’s the food I ate,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to open [this kind of restaurant]. I’m obsessed with Italian food.”
Dirty Rascal—which pays tribute to Ginsberg’s nickname as a mischievous child—will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the latter is where the full concept comes into play. Expect rigatoni alla vodka, veal parmigiana, king crab scampi, flounder piccata, fettuccine Alfredo, and tortellini lamb Bolognese. The spaghetti will be served with three meatballs (including an entire pound of beef and pork) and topped with a short rib-infused marinara sauce, Parmesan Reggiano, and basil. The eggplant Parmesan features Parmesan and pecorino cheese between each layer—a tip fellow chef Billy Allen (Cakes & Ale) gave Ginsberg.
The dishes are designed for sharing. Some, like the lasagna, are served on ceramic platters from Italy and feed two to three people. Others, like the Caesar salad, are finished tableside. Though Ginsberg wrote the menu, executive chef Josh Hopkins, formerly of Empire State South, will lead the kitchen, oft using higher-end ingredients—think rack of veal and 2-pound lobsters—than found at Ginsberg’s other restaurants. Desserts from pastry chef Ashley Guzman include cheesecake, tricolored cookies, tiramisu, and panna cotta.
At the marble bar, classic cocktails reign supreme. “We want to do want to do great cocktails that Frank Sinatra would’ve been drinking back in the day, with [beverage manager Joe Alessandroni’s] personal touch,” Ginsberg says.
The cocktail list includes a negroni, amaro sour, spritz, clover club, and Saratoga club. “There’s no new-style, modern mixologist drinks in this restaurant—just classics done extremely well,” Ginsberg says. This includes a dirty martini made with gin, vodka, vermentino, and herbed olive oil. A stationary drink cart in the dining room will be used to pour amaro, cognacs, grappa, and limoncello.
Wine will also be a big focus with about 17 by the glass and many more by the bottle. Expect both Californian and Italian varietals. Beer options will be limited but may include Tropicalia, Moretti, and Peroni.
Inside the Dirty Rascal space invokes swanky, mid-century vibes with warm woods, red leather, checked tile, distressed mirrors, and soft lighting. Six semi-circular booths are each adorned with its own chandelier. A covered patio seats 30, while the interior dining room maxes out at 110.
“For a long time, Alfredo’s and Nino’s on Cheshire Bridge Road were only the two places doing this. I wanted to do it with an updated approach,” Ginsberg says, acknowledging that it’s similar to what Ford Fry has done at the reconcepted No. 246 in Decatur.