When Grana opens next to the Sprouts on Piedmont Road in January, it will serve as an ode to owner/chef Pat Pascarella’s childhood in Connecticut and his Southern Italian heritage. With wood-fired pizzas, meats, and vegetables, plus house-made pasta, a meatball tasting, and build-your-own cannoli, Grana is designed to feel like a party “no matter what time of day it is,” Pascarella says.
“This is the restaurant I was born to run and own. It’s my mom in restaurant form. It’s got sass, spunk, and really good food.”
As opposed to Pascarella’s Decatur restaurant, the White Bull, Grana will be more “old-school peasant” than fancy, he says, with nightly specials for those who crave something more sophisticated, such as crudo.
Executive chef de cuisine Elliot Cusher (formerly of No. 246 and Donetto) will work closely with Pascarella to create this vision.
Serving lunch and dinner daily, Grana will offer six to eight pastas—think spaghetti, rigatoni, cavatelli, and gnocchi. Items like minestra—an escarole and bean soup cooked for six hours with cuts of pork—will be served tableside.
Every meal begins with complimentary pickled vegetables and Grana Padano cheese. Starters include a caramelized onion tart with burrata and pizza frita or focaccia. Diners can order a tasting plate of six 2-ounce meatballs, each reminding Pascarella of a different element of his childhood. There’s a pork and ricotta meatball like his grandmother used to make, and a 100-percent beef “Mommy’s meatball.” Large entrees include long-braised items such as porchetta and whole octopus.
Grana will also host polenta parties similar to those at the White Bull, except instead of using cornmeal for the base, Grana chefs will use semola (used in Cream of Wheat), which Pascarella grew up eating.
The only dessert Grana will offer is cannoli. There will be two versions: One is authentic Italian made with sheep’s milk ricotta and a shaving of lemon or peppermint. The other is filled with cow’s milk ricotta and is sweeter, the way it’s made in the Bronx, Pascarella said. Diners will be able to choose their own topping(s) and pick a plain or chocolate shell.
The White Bull’s Matt Scott will be Grana’s beverage director. The menu includes “Italian-strength, very bitter drinks,” Pascarella says, with plays on traditional Italian cocktails like a negroni. There will be a whole list of takes on the aperol spritz. Expect 20-30 varieties of amaro, plus Peroni beer on tap, 10-15 local beers by the bottle or can, and an all-Italian wine list.
Upstairs on the mezzanine, buckets of Lambrusco will be available to those enjoying cornhole or dining at the community tables. That area will play host to pop-ups intended to make diners feel like they’re walking down the street in Naples—think sausage and pepper or pizza frites stands.