Kevin Maxey’s new Italian restaurant, Pendolino, opens near Chastain Park

Ford Fry's former right-hand man branches out

Pendolino entrance

Photo by Cassie Wright

Chef Kevin Maxey boasts an impressive resume. The former vice president of culinary for Ford Fry’s Rocket Farms Restaurants honed his skills at Tom Colicchio’s Craft and Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern in New York. The past four years, he’s been helping other restaurateurs fine-tune their businesses; now it’s time for him to focus on his own. On March 18, Pendolino opens in the Chastain Market development (4600 Roswell Road), taking over the space previously home to Santorini Tavern. It’ll serve straightforward Italian cuisine with a Southern spin, focusing its fare on a wood-burning oven.

“We’re Italian by way of Georgia,” Maxey says. “We’re taking you on a journey through Atlanta, Chastain Park, and my history of cooking, from an Italian lens.”

Named for a type of olive planted for its blooming flowers and cross-pollination abilities, Pendolino offers shareable antipasti such as barbecued octopus with charred pepperoni, panini di pancetta (an Italian take on a BLT), and eggplant marinara with buffalo milk ricotta and mint pesto. Small plates include snapper crudo, beef carpaccio, and a chicory salad carbonara inspired by Maxey’s childhood.

Fennel pizzetta

Photo by Cassie Wright

Three 10-inch pizzette are what he called “Neo-Neopolitan style” with a crispy bottom and light bubbly dough. They’re designed in a way Maxey refers to as “chef-y”—think fennel sausage, spring onion, and green olive, or garlic crema, spinach, and roasted mushrooms—but if a guest wants a pepperoni pizzetta, no one will complain. “We want to be an amenity for the neighborhood. We’re super flexible—we’re here for the people,” Maxey says.

Entrees range from roasted halibut with butter beans, braised escarole, and crispy artichokes or spaghetti and meatballs made with mafaldine (ribbon-shaped pasta) and veal and ricotta meatballs. There’s a burger with gorgonzola and balsamic-glazed onions, and a New York strip marsala. Inspired by Roberta’s pizzeria in Brooklyn, Pendolino is “upscale compared to the genre but not over the top,” Maxey says.

He collaborated with general manager Gabriele Besozzi on the beverage list. There’s a house negroni on draft, a Mamma Mia spritz (citrus vodka, grapefruit soda, and prosecco), and a Sonny Boy (blanco tequila, Vecchio del Capo Amaro, and blood orange juice). The wine program leans Italian with select varieties from California and Washington. Espresso drinks—including a martini with reposado tequila and amaretto—are also available.

Inside Pendolino

Photo by Cassie Wright

Listen for ‘70s alternative rock with late-night jazz on the weekends. “We want it to be loud and bright earlier on, and as it gets later, it gets dimmer and slower—a place you want to linger,” Maxey says. The look and feel nods to the ‘60s and ‘70s Italian Riviera with pale blues and green, dark walnut wooden millwork, and purple-veined marble, with leather and corduroy accents. There are 110 seats inside and 45 on the patio.

If you like Ford Fry restaurants, Maxey hopes you will like Pendolino, too. “I take a lot of inspiration from the way he did stuff. We see eye to eye on food, design, decor, and the way to run a restaurant,” he says. “I would love for people to say this is on par with a Ford Fry restaurant.”