Pano Karatassos talks Pano’s and other projects

ATL Food Chatter: October 25, 2011
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Last week, Buckhead Life Restaurant Group revealed news of both the closing of its flashy Bluepointe (due to lease issues) and the decision to relocate the long-awaited Pano’s in BLRG’s 103 West, which became an events space last decade. The successor to the legendary Pano’s and Paul’s, which closed in 2009 after a thirty-year run, is slated to open in fall 2012, with president/founder I. Pano Karatassos’s son, Pano—who worked under Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin and Thomas Keller at the French Laundry after graduating from the C.I.A.—at the helm. According to the senior Karatassos, Pano’s menu will be Mediterranean, with special attention to the fish selections, as opposed to the American-Continental cuisine of Pano’s and Paul’s.

Pano’s project could be a sign that the Atlanta market is ready for another fine dining experience after the closing of establishments such as Seeger’s and the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton, Buckhead. Karatassos said that, in his opinion, fine dining in Atlanta is not dead but has evolved into a less formal, more moderately priced experience that still demands a high quality product. He believes that fine dining restaurants now must attract a broader range of customers. He tells us below about upcoming Pano’s and other BLRG projects.

Q: Will the new Pano’s seek to regain its former position as Buckhead’s premier restaurant (the first Mobile four-star restaurant in Atlanta), or are you primarily looking to retain your traditional customers?
PK: Atlanta continues to emerge as a cosmopolitan city that certainly has room for an additional upscale restaurant. The premier location at 103 West Paces Ferry Road is perfect to retain our loyal neighborhood following while cultivating and expanding that base.

Q: Your collaborations with Bill Johnson have produced some of your most nationally lauded projects. How will the design process with the new Pano’s unfold and what is your vision for its look?
PK: I am honored to, once again, have Bill Johnson of the Johnson Studio design the new Pano’s. As an owner, I am particularly involved from the operational side. I then share my vision and collaborate with Bill throughout the project with 100 percent confidence in his entire design team. The lounge will have warm colors reminiscent of the lounge at Pano’s & Paul’s. The dining room will have soft colors with contemporary furnishings.

Q: What about the Lobster Bar Grille that you are planning to open in South Florida? Is part of a move to broaden BLRG’s market appeal and do you envision a Lobster Bar Grille here in Atlanta in the next couple of years?
PK: The Lobster Bar Grille will be a scaled down version of the original Lobster Bar with broader menu appeal, more moderately priced options, and a larger bar area. We are not yet looking in Atlanta but that would certainly be a possibility.

Q: Looking into the future, over the next five years, what do you see as some of the significant trends in the Atlanta market. And are you optimistic about Atlanta’s dining scene?
PK: I really appreciate all of the neighborhood restaurants, particularly the high quality that these new chefs are providing. I certainly envision more of these restaurants with some of the chefs having multiple units. Of course, there will always be outsiders coming into Atlanta with large, boisterous restaurants, as Atlanta recoups from the ecomic downturn and as construction resumes among developers.

AJC’s Buzz noted that Highland Bakery’s lead cake decorator, Karen Portaleo and her team won the Food Network’s “Halloween Wars” competition.

Richard Blais shared five of his recipes for homemade condiments with Eatocracy last week.

Buckhead. Thrillist is reporting that Dantannas Buckhead is featuring Atlanta’s first 3-D ESPN viewing system that has six televisions hooked into ESPN 3D.

Candler Park: The Baton Supper Series, a pop-up series at Gato Bizco, started this month by recruiting the team from New York’s recently closed but still buzz-worthy M. Wells for its first event at 1660 McClendon Avenue. Tonight is the last of two nights!

Decatur. Decatur Metro reported that Isabella’s Cafe has closed.

Downtown. Look for the Boxcar Grocer, a community-oriented, organic grocery store that will feature produce and products from local sources, to open at 249 Peters Street in Castleberry Hill in November.

East Atlanta. CL’s Besha Rodell gives a first-hand report on So Ba’s new late night patio outgrowth, called Octopus.

East Point. American Burger has opened at 1603 White Way, next to Thumbs Up.

Kirkwood. The AJC notes that The Spotted Trotter, the boutique charcuterie house that supplies local hotspots such as HD1 with humanely raised and organic meats, will open its retail location on November 4 at 1610 Hosea L Williams Drive.

Question of the Week: What West Coast–bound Buckhead resto celebrates its thirteenth anniversary this month?

PS . The answer to last week’s QOTW— What ATL Top Chef will be running for a great cause on November 6 in New York?—is Richard Blais, joining a marathon for Alliance For a Healthier Generation.

Do you have restaurant openings, closings, or other news to share? Email James Oxendine at