Figo Pasta is one of three restaurants in a medical facility on the corner of Hammond and Peachtree Dunwoody. As it was off in a distance, all I could see was “Fig”, so I was determined to find out what that “Fig” restaurant was all about. It was only as I drove closer that I could make out the ‘o’ and then the word ‘Pasta’.

Piedmont Heart Institute

Piedmont Heart Institute

Front of Figo

Front of Figo

Walking up to  the blackboard showed a list of specials, one of which was duck ravioli. I’ve been really partial to duck as the old Mandarin Gardens (now Manchuria Gardens) used to do a mean duck. So I figured I’d have a try at that.

Inside, what you do is decide what you want to eat, pay for it, and then they hand you a pepper grinder. You take the pepper grinder to the table of your choice. At that point people descend on you from all directions, and you suddenly have a table with plates, cutlery, water, salt, olive oil, bread, and very soon after, your drink.

Bread!

Bread!

It’s a decent bread. Even if it is not the kind of wild whole grain goodness you might get at a fancier place, it’s still bread nonetheless. A little bread and olive oil and some cracked pepper can go a long way as you wait for your entree.

At this point I had a chance to take a break and look the restaurant over. It’s very open. Tables are both inside and outside, the walls are largely glass, the space is airy, and the customers are dressed informally. You can watch the food being cooked. The preparation area is open, the staff is young and friendly and the service is good and attentive. Pretty soon after the entree arrived:

Duck ravioli

Duck ravioli

The pasta was decent, but not spectacular. I was expecting maybe some chunks of meat, some resistance, but the filling of the pasta was smooth and homogenous and really had no flavor that reflected “duck”. Or maybe it did, but I wasn’t tuned to it.

I spent a little time talking to my waitress, and was happy to have the time to do so. She told me that the pastas were all made at a main location and shipped to this one. A little web browsing shows that Figo Pasta is a chain of 8 restaurants in the Atlanta area. Making the pasta in a central location makes for a lot of efficiency in production. It also means that Figo, nice as it is, is really a kind of fast food restaurant. It’s just the fast food might be a little more wholesome at Figo than the 1000 calorie triple burger down the street.

Verdict: Nicely done fast food in a very pleasant setting. Good service. Recommended.

Figo Pasta
1140 Hammond Road
Atlanta, GA 30328
(770) 698-0505

Figo Pasta on Urbanspoon

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Sweet Tomatoes (also Souplantation; evidently there has been some kind of merger) is perhaps the most successful chain restaurant in Atlanta focusing on the soups and salads market. These are restaurants where people line up to get a plate full of lettuce, carrots, celery, and other sliced vegetables, plus dressing perhaps, as the focus of the meal. There are a few Sweet Tomatoes in Atlanta, but not too many. Unlike McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken, they seem to expand slowly and selectively. The closest one to Snellville that I know of is the Duluth restaurant, close to Gwinnett Place. This review will largely focus on that location.

Over the years Sweet Tomatoes has expanded their repetoire to include prepared salads.   These will be at the front of the line, before any other vegetable choices can be made. At the end they now have chicken strips you can add, for a small fee. We tend to ignore these, because one of the staple soups of Sweet Tomatoes is their chicken soup, which has much the same meats for free.

I’ve eaten here so often that I’m liable to forget something in my familiarity with this place. If it happens please forgive me. But once you’re through the line you have an abundance of other foods at your disposal. There are usually 5 or 6 soups, of which chicken soup and a chili are staples and the rest rotate. There are muffins, small cornbreads, foccacia, whole grain breads of various kinds, and usually a sourdough bread. There are slices of melons available, usually watermelon, cantelope, and honey dew melon. There is frozen yogurt, with sparkles. There are usually three different pastas served, usually in rich alfredo style sauces.  There was also a bowl of chocolate chip cookies this last time I went.

Some things to note about the Duluth location: the fancy flavored lemonades are available, but you have to ask waitstaff to get some of those. Otherwise it’s mostly soft drinks in the main drink island. Seating: there are a lot of booths, and some tables in the middle. The restaurant can easily handle dozens of patrons.

Verdict: The best and closest of the soup and salad chains, and highly recommended.

Sweet Tomatoes
3505 Mall Boulevard
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 418-1148

Sweet Tomatoes on Urbanspoon

Provino’s Italian Restaurant is a well regarded Italian restaurant located in the strip mall at the corner of highway 78 and 124 (Scenic Highway). Provino’s is in the same general area as Sri Thai and the Snellville Diner. It’s a chain, with at least one other location near the corner of Pleasant Hill Road and Satellite Boulevard, near Haru Ichiban and Cho Wan BBQ.

I’ve eaten there once, perhaps three years ago, and my strongest memory of that time is my conversation with the waiter, who leaned in close to me and whispered, “They don’t put much spice on the food here.” And that’s been what I recall of it. I have tried to get my family to come several times, as it’s conveniently located, but without much luck.

Recently, however, we were in the “what to eat for dinner” mode, and I suggested we order food to go from Provino’s. This review will be based on that food, and really won’t say much about the experience of eating inside Provino’s. While I was waiting for our order, however, what I saw looked good. They have a well stocked bar, a collection of antique food gear up front (an ancient coffee maker, a now obsolete meat grinder, etc), and what looks like a lot of booth seating that is well separated and semi-private. I should also note they had a steady stream of customers and seemingly happy ones.

We ordered two seafood dishes and an angel hair pasta. The food came with salads and small tasty bread rolls. But the first thing to note is the servings sizes are large and the food is rich. I’m becoming aware of this kind of thing because I’m having to control my portion sizes these days.

The salads were large, with a large portion of the salad devoted to iceberg lettuce and grated cheese. There was a slice of beet, a bit of tomato and red cabbage, mushrooms, chick peas, and a couple tiny slices of cucumber. The rolls were small, maybe the size of a plum, and they were heavy with butter.

My dish was the angel hair dalvina, a mix of fine noodles, artichokes, tomatoes, and spinach, in an alfredo sauce. Great stuff, tasty, mild, and too much for dinner for me at this time. I saved about a quarter of it for later. My wife had the seafood trio with a marinara sauce, with shrimp, scallops, and clams. She liked it quite a bit. She also had leftovers. My daughter ordered a dish called the cioppino, a very rich mix of seafood, in a ‘spicy sauce’.  The cioppino had mussels, crab, shrimp, clams, scallops and snapper and the dish was by far the largest, best tasting, and most spectacular of the three. My daughter was still eating parts of it three days later.

Verdict: Good rich food served in generous portions. If you love rich foods, Provino’s is highly recommended.

Provino’s Italian Restaurant
2252 Main Street East
Snellville, GA 30078
(770) 972-8411

Provino's Italian Restaurant (Snellville) on Urbanspoon

This restaurant is at the corner of 124 and Springdale, in a shopping mall that has a really big Kroger. You’ll see the Kroger long before you see the Johnny’s, while heading south down 124 in the direction of Lithonia. The mall itself is ‘V’ shaped, with a point, and the Johnny’s is located right at the point. The store itself is modest, with about 8 booths along the far side, 2 booths on the near side, and 6 tables scattered in the middle.  There are bar chairs alongside a gaming machine, a Johnny’s clock on the wall, and 3 televisions scattered through the store. Wall decor is largely beer advertisements and neon.  This Johnny’s tends to have one cook and one active waitstaff.

The taste of Johnny’s Pizza is worth some trouble. At one job location, Johnny’s was our favorite eatery. 5 or 6 of us would pile in a car and head to the restaurant. Since no one had money at lunch, it was a lot of pizza slices, meat ball subs, the occasional pepperoni calzone. One of their large slices and a soft drink is often more than enough to keep going for another 4 hours.

Slices at Johnny’s start at $1.85, and go up by the ingredients added. Johnny’s has 19 specialty pies, from a simple pesto pie to their Johnny’s Deluxe. Medium pizzas start at about $10.95 and large pizzas start at $12.95. Their oven baked subs run about $5 to $6 and the parmigiana subs are close to $6. They have lunch specials Monday through Thursday and they will deliver, for a $10.00 minimum.

Service is pretty good, considering. Because staff is limited, you won’t be waited on hand and foot every minute of your stay. But in my experience this is a very honest little restaurant and they’ll give you the best they can. The last time I went, a discussion of “Twilight” broke out among customers and staff. There is very little pretense here.

Verdict: Recommended. Crisp tasty pizzas, good sandwiches, and calzones.

Johnny’s New York Style Pizza and Subs
3035 Centerville Hwy
Snellville, GA 30078
(770) 978-8180

Johnny's New York Pizza & Subs on Urbanspoon

My wife loves a good movie and when she goes to the movies, she gets a heaping tub of popcorn, a big drink, and that’s it. During the course of a day I need a bit more food than that at dinner, and the place we have been going for that before movie pick-me-up or an after-the-movie snack is Fazoli’s.

Fazoli’s serves Italian food at a very affordable price. It doesn’t hurt at all that it is close to the Carmike Cinema, and while convenience is a large part of the reason for eating there, price and taste are good reasons as well. There is little on this menu I don’t like, and it’s easy to put together a meal for much less than 10 dollars. If I don’t want much to eat, I’ll get one of the pastas, and if I’m at all curious I’ll try one of Fazoli’s samplers. You get bread sticks with the meal as well.

Fazoli’s is located at:

1895 Scenic Hwy N
Snellville, GA 30078

Fazoli's on Urbanspoon

Il Forno is on the corner of Five Forks and Oak Road, just a block from the Five Forks – Ronald Reagan intersection. It used to be part of a chain, but was bought out by local ownership. I had eaten there a lot when it was part of the chain, but almost never since. When it was a chain, it delivered a surprisingly good pizza pie for a Southern corner shop. And I had been growing increasingly curious if the new ownership had found out how to consistently make a good crust.

The inside of the restaurant is attractive. The countertop is a steel surface and the chairs and tables are nice. There aren’t very many of them. I counted 7 tables inside. They do have outside seating, however, and when the weather is mild they can handle more people. The waitress and the cooks (visible as you sit) were all wearing I Love New York shirts and/or hats. A black T shirt was the uniform of choice.

I looked for something with pepperoni and some Italian sausage, and the only thing on the menu that fit was the Cardiology special. I ordered a 12″ pie and a beer. The on-tap beer selection is quite good if you’re into the heavier ales: Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada,  Pilsner Urquell, Brooklyn Ale, etc. The pie took a little time, and I was on my second beer when it arrived.

It’s a thin crust pizza, and given the lightness of the crust, it had a respectable set of toppings on it. I could see that the crust was browned on the edges, but the take home lesson would be in the center of the pie. I’ve spent a couple years in the Northeast, and the one thing you can count on in a Pennsylvania or New York pie is a crispy crust. And in a joint claiming a New York heritage, don’t even bother if the crust isn’t good.

I pulled out a slice, took a bite. It was crisp from tip to tail. In all honesty I was a bit relieved. You always hope a place this nice looking will put up food to match its looks and it did. Now I will warn people that the thin crust doesn’t stay crispy terribly long. In my estimation this is a pie to be eaten on the premises, and not taken home. Before I was finished the toppings were steaming the crust in the middle and the interior inch or two had lost its crispiness. Of course, there was just one of me and a 12″ pie to navigate. Served to 2 or 3 people, this pie would be just fine.

I didn’t order salads or calzones as I was there, but I saw them made and pass by. The calzones are simply enormous. The salads looked good, but they also looked a lot like they were assembled from precut pizza toppings.

The base (sauce and cheese) 12″ pizza runs about $11.00. The 16″ runs about $12.50. Toppings run from a dollar each to $3.00 for chicken. Named pizzas range from $13-$17 in the 12″ size and $14-$20 in the 16″ size. Pasta dishes run from $8.00 to $14.00, but most under $11.00. Calzones and Strombolis range from $6-$9.

Il Forno NY Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon

What people want  is as individual as a fingerprint.  For now, however, these sites and links have caught my eye, and I’ll let others have a go at them, if they wish.

This is a good looking soup.

More notes on the super grain quinoa, and how to use it. Quinoa is so easy to make, I suspect it goes mainstream in a few years.

Some brief links on food blogs I’ve enjoyed reading. This is a good looking tabouleh salad.  This is a quick article on cooking pearled barley (yum!). And Modern Domestic has a pound cake series that leaves my mouth watering (her comments about food shows are also very amusing).

I have an interest in lamb, since it’s generally available in more reasonable portions than steak and tends to be cheaper. I also like the taste. Three lamb links that caught my eye are these. Steve Raichlen has a nice post on a lamb rub (looks like a curry to me *^^*), The Real Epicurean gets down and simple with lamb steaks, and this post on lamb curry looks worth picking up and trying sometime. Well, that time when I buy a six pack of spice mills and toast my own seeds (gotta be a cheaper way)..

Hackerette has some nice quick ways to cook pasta. More on pasta: if it’s made right, it’s made from hard wheat. I spent a summer in a grain elevator, and the rule of thumb is, the harder the wheat, the higher the protein content (up to 15% in the case of some hard wheats). I don’t know why pasta, made from hard wheats, tags in at a mere 10% protein content, but I suspect it’s because the US of A sets up grades and 10% is the minimum to get to the best grade, with regard to pasta.

I like this blogger’s style. Can’t tell you why. Maybe it’s because I come from a family of Texans, and he’s in Texas. But I enjoyed this post.

When I buy some guava paste (I’ve seen sticks and tins so far, not sure which is best) I have to try this guava pie.

Finally, my wife has a life long affection for Cracker Jack. So, sometime, I’ll have to show her this caramel corn recipe.