Chef Pat Pascarella, founder of the Porchetta Group, is on a mission to bring authentic Italian food—from several respective regions—to Atlanta. In addition to the White Bull, which serves Northwest Italian fare in Decatur, and the more casual pizza spot Grana, Pascarella is opening a mozzarella bar called Bastone—dedicated to the region between Emilia-Romagna and Campania—on the Westside mid-January. But that’s not all: today, Pascarella announced his intentions to bring an Italian oyster bar with risottos to the former F.R.O.G.S. Cantina and Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen spaces near Piedmont Park. He has more Grana locations in the works, too.
Slated to in summer 2022, Alici brings the flavors of the Amalfi Coast to Midtown Promenade, serving a variety of oysters and crudos, as well as risotto and pasta. The portions will be intentionally small, allowing diners to sample a range of dishes, including socca, a chickpea pancake topped with tuna tartare, lemon zest, sesame seeds, pistachios, and burrata. Fish will be prepared simply with choice of sauce, such as salsa verde or caviar in cream.
Named after the Italian word for anchovy, Alici will have two patios adorned with lemons hanging from trees. Pascarella says he plans to park an “old school Italian truck” on one.
Taking over the former Bocado space on Howell Mill Road, Bastone will highlight mozzarella, wines, and cocktails, but make no mistake—this is a full-on dinner destination. There will be seven or eight types of mozzarella, served individually in 2-ounce portions, as part of a charcuterie plate, or in a tasting. Some, like the bufala, come from Campania, while others are made in Wisconsin or North Carolina. Those made in-house are pulled to order and served warm.
Prosciutto de Parma comes aged with 18-, 24-, and 32-month varieties. The menu will change multiple times a week. Options may include cured wild boar sausage, duck prosciutto, lamb tartare, bay scallop crudo with oranges and tarragon, and arancini with mozzarella and beef cheek ragu.
“I want to keep the chef refreshed, the staff excited, and [diners] coming back for more,” Pascarella says.
Salads will be rustic, for example raw fennel, celery, and Parmesan Reggiano. Two types of bread will be on the menu: focaccia baked in a cast iron skillet and the English muffin-like tigelle, which is pan-fried to order. Executive chef Alex Bolduc, formerly of Drift, will make 10 pastas, all available in small portions.
“They’ll be priced cheaper so two people can order four and not feel too full,” Pascarella says, noting that Bolduc is adding pasta water butter and whey to some of the sauces, eliciting a “cool mouth feel.” In his quest to avoid waste, he’ll use ground cured meats in his Bolognese.
Entrees will run as nightly specials and feed two guests. Expect bisteca Florentina, spatchcock chicken with Calabrian chili honey (inspired by Peking duck), a whole chicken, or short rib. All menu items will be unique to Bastone.
Beverage director Anthony Panzica is designing a bar program equally focused on wine and cocktails. Expect natural wines from Europe, including select Italian varietals exclusive to Bastone. There may be 150 bottles available at any given time, with more than 25 of those available by the glass. Bastone also has a partnership with an Italian vineyard, producing its own pinot grigio and prosecco. For the beer drinkers, there’s an Italian-style pilsner called Piccola, the result of a collaboration with Orpheus Brewing.
Pascarella describes the cocktails as “apertivo style” with spritzes, a negroni, Campari soda, and a play on a dirty martini using Italian gin and pasta water instead of olive juice, so it looks cloudy. Other cocktails are fat-washed using mozzarella whey or fortified with olive leaves.
“It’s a little sexier of a bar,” Pascarella says.
Expect quartz tabletops, gold studded stools, tiled antique mirrors, wood tabletops, and rustic tile floors. A glass and iron divider will separate the dining room from bar, the way it does at Grana, and cured meats will hang from the ceiling. Bocado’s pizza oven room has been transformed into a pasta-making haven by day and a private dining space in the evening. Pascarella also extended the front patio of the space and added a retractable awning for all-weather dining. Out back, the curtained-in patio seats 50 and will soon feature a mural. Pascarella says he’s thinking of depicting “old Italian men” sitting outside playing cards.
Perhaps he’s thinking of his grandfather, who use to yell “Bastone,” the Neapolitan word for the ace of clubs, as he slammed down card in a game.
“This is me saying ‘I’m here, I’ve got two restaurants, and I’m playing with the big boys,’” Pascarella says.