Taft recently took some time to share some of the thought and planning that went into his first entrepreneurial venture.
Q: How long have you been in the restaurant business and what were some of your most rewarding professional experiences?
A: I have been in the business for twenty-six years. I’ve had many rewarding experiences. One was working for one of my mentors, Karim Lakhani. He was formerly the executive chef for the Watergate Hotel and worked with Michel Richard. He taught me a lot about attention to detail and being prepared for anything. I also consider my three years with Kimpton Restaurants [which owned Palomar and Pacci] to be the best years of my career so far. The things I learned as an operator and leader at Kimpton about the business and myself were invaluable in helping me take this step to open Chicken and the Egg. It was certainly an honor to have John Mariani name Pacci as one of Esquire’s “Top Twenty Best New Restaurants in the US” for 2009. It’s also pretty exciting to be opening my own place.
Q: What made you stay in Atlanta to open up your first restaurant?
A: My wife, Elizabeth [who will be Chicken and the Egg’s general manager] and I live in Marietta. I think it really has to do with how much we love our community and neighborhood, along with the friends we have met both in the business and in our personal lives. We believe that Marietta is a perfect place to open the restaurant. Marietta is very supportive of local business.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your executive chef Joseph Ramaglia’s background.
A: Joe grew up in Woodstock. He attended Johnson and Wales in Charleston, SC. He then came back to Georgia and worked at Villa Christina. He then moved on to Ritter’s in East Cobb, where he advanced to executive chef. We were lucky to have him join us at Pacci Ristorante where he became executive sous chef. For the last three months, Joe has been working with chef John Critchley at Urbana in Washington, DC. I think I have the perfect chef in Joe and I am so excited to be working with him in the kitchen.
Q: What do you miss most about your time at Pacci?
A: I miss my family that I had at Pacci. I believe that we had the best staff in Atlanta and I believe our ratings and loyal following proved it. I am lucky to have Tom Foust, Joe Ramaglia, and Michael Anderson from Pacci working with me now. Creating that same environment at Chicken and the Egg is important and is one of our top priorities. I also really miss our guests. We had a lot of regulars and I was very proud to have such loyal patrons. I miss seeing them. I truly hope they will come up to see us in Marietta and experience some of the hospitality that we delivered at Pacci. I assure them it will be worth the trip.
Downtown. Alma Cocina, Spanish for “soul kitchen”, is the name of the Fifth Group’s Mexican restaurant slated to open November 1 in the former IL Mulino space in the One Ninety One building on Peachtree Street. According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Alma will feature a modern Mexican menu with some Latin influences and “a large and unique tequila collection.” The chef, Chad Clevenger, hails from Denver and was a former top toque at Santa Fe’s renowned Coyote Cafe.
Yumdiggity, a gourmet hotdog concept from the owners of Korean-Mexican fusion food truck Yumbii, is slated to open soon in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, according to a Creative Loafing report.
Cafe Circa has added more dates and a new dining option to its Dinner and The Blues series. Local blues legend Francine Reed is scheduled on Monday evenings from 7-10 pm, among other events.
Midtown. Crave Restaurant and Lounge—featuring small plates that include ricotta gnudi with brodo, heirloom tomatoes and mint—is scheduled to open in August at 239 Ponce de Leon Avenue.
Virginia Highland. The Highlander was selected as one of Playboy magazine’s Greatest Late Night Bars.
Westside. Westside Pie—with specialties pizzas such as with apricot puree, smoked turkey and cream cheese—has opened at 1133 Huff Road.
Question of the Week: What ATL pizza chain is taking its pies to DC this fall?
PS . The answer to last week’s QOTW—What two Morelli’s Ice Cream flavors were named among the most inventive in the country by Newsweek?—is Rosemary Olive Oil and Ricky Ricotta ice creams, which made Newsweek’s list focusing on wild savory flavors. Some other notables included Salt and Pepper Ice Cream from San Francisco and Rice and Beans from Puerto Rico.