The verdict on 3 newcomers to Atlanta’s dining scene: Adalina, Gato Nights, Tuza

Traditional Italian food and two new Mexican concepts to try


Photograph by Jeff Moore

Chef Joshua Hopkins, formerly of Empire State South, has shifted gears from untraditional Southern fare to more traditional Italian. The move suits him. At Adalina, somewhat strangely located within the Post Riverside luxury apartment complex near Vinings, his cooking shows more restraint than at Empire State South. Pork cheek ragu atop egg yolk pasta, punctuated with ricotta, Parmesan, and basil, brings to mind an elegantly deconstructed lasagna, one that allows decadent ingredients typically smooshed together to stand out on their own. That dish belongs to the “beginnings” category of the menu; there are also snacks, pastas, pizzas, and mains. Restaurants that attempt pizza in addition to so many other things seldom get it right. But the pizza here is legit. At lunch, order the one with fennel sausage, broccoli rabe, ricotta, little tomatoes, and Calabrian chili; on the dinner menu, go for mortadella, brussels sprouts, black olives, and butternut squash. Risotto can be another tricky dish to master, but Adalina’s lobster risotto (with shrimp and mussels, too) nails the toothsome texture and delicate creaminess that good risotto demands—and offers a pleasant surprise in little bits of fennel that taste almost sweetly pickled. 4403 Northside Parkway, 470-851-1031

Gato Nights
Nicholas Stinson, chef and owner of the tiny breakfast and lunch cafe Gato in Candler Park, has hosted much-hyped pop-up dinner concepts from Jarrett Stieber (Eat Me Speak Me) and Parnass Savang (Talat Market). Now, Stinson is hosting a dinner concept of his own. Gato Nights, dubbed “a weekly investigation into deep regional Mexican cuisine,” focuses on mole and on masa made from local corn, crafted into tortillas and tamales. The menu is concise, typically a half dozen small plates and a dessert, and it’s always changing. A recent one included beautifully balanced sikil p’ak, a Yucatecan salsa (well, more like a dip) made from toasted pumpkin seeds (if only they sold small tubs to go!), and an appropriately earthy mole coloradito, served not with chicken (as is traditionally the case) but with purple yam, sunchoke, charred baby collards, black garlic crema, and a cilantro tortilla. I did not miss the poultry, but if that’s what you’re after, the menu might also offer adobo chicken and seca soup rice with burnt jalapeño powder, salsa macha, and key lime. It’s best to bring a friend or two, and your own beer or wine, and order everything on the menu. 1660 McLendon Avenue, 404-371-0889

Occupying a standalone brick building on Howell Mill Road, Tuza is a cheerful addition to Berkeley Park. The taco shop is an ode to the Mexico City street food that owner Jason Sherman fell in love with. Sherman is a doting owner, visiting each table individually, and while the tacos might not rise to the level of the ones that inspired them, diners seem more than happy. Of the seven recently on offer, the fish and steak tacos were the winners. The former is anchored by a single, hefty hunk of freshly fried, Modelo-tempura fish, topped with pickled slaw and chipotle batter. The latter is built with tender and juicy skirt steak, chimichurri garlic aioli, and cotija cheese. Other proteins, including carnitas, shrimp, and chicken, can run a little dry, which is easily remedied with a squeeze of lime, a few dashes of thick hot sauce, and a spoonful of the house salsa, a finely made pico de gallo. As of early January, Tuza was open only for lunch, with plans to add dinner and brunch hours—and a full bar—in the near future. The patio would be an ideal place to post up with a tray of tacos and a margarita or two. 1523 Howell Mill Road, 404-343-4088

This article appears in our February 2019 issue.