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No. 246

I thought I'd stumbled onto a private party for the local food glitterati the first time I visited Decatur's No. 246 in July. It was the restaurant's inaugural Monday, six days after opening for business. The full house generated such a clamor that the noise bouncing off the white brick walls vibrated in my hands and feet as well as my ears. High-profile chefs like Kevin Rathbun and Empire State South’s Ryan Smith shouted happily, twirling pastas and sharing pizzas among wine distributors and off-duty managers and servers from other restaurants. What drew them—and the unremitting crowds that have shown up night after night since then—so immediately?

Davio’s

In the late 1980s, my parents and I visited Boston for the first time to check out colleges. We naively booked the trip in January. A half foot of snow blanketed the city on the day we arrived. The concierge at our hotel encouraged us to trudge the few slushy blocks to a Northern Italian restaurant called Davio’s. It was on Newbury Street, a hub of posh shops and eateries. Davio’s had a relaxed cafe upstairs that served pizza and pasta; we descended to the more formal dining room below street level.

Vingenzo’s

Driving thirty miles north to Woodstock from Downtown Atlanta seemed like a short trek when sensational pizza was the payoff. I was in the midst of a metro-wide pizza hunt in February, and glowing Internet reports had lured me to Vingenzo's, which sits near the railroad tracks in Woodstock’s historic commercial district, where buildings erected in 1879 still stand. It was an early Saturday afternoon following a wintry night of snow and ice, yet the dining room hummed with business. The restaurant has obviously found an audience in this growing town of nearly 25,000 people.

La Pietra Cucina

For the first nine months of its existence, La Pietra Cucina was a literal boîte—a box of a restaurant—squashed into a back room of the deserted space in the Pershing Point office building where MidCity Cuisine played out its few coquettish years. The setup, in one of MidCity’s old dining rooms, was meant to be a short-term starting point for La Pietra Cucina while the entire space underwent renovation. At first, the taped-up signs that announced the Italian newcomer were vague, leading customers to walk through the graveyard of MidCity’s dining room, past once-jolly striped banquettes and an abandoned bar, toward a beckoning light at the far end of the expanse. It felt both disorienting and juicily clandestine.

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