By Megan Volpert
In the past two years, the Castellucci Hospitality Group has opened Cooks & Soldiers in West Midtown, shuttered Double Zero Napolitana in Sandy Springs, opened a revised Double Zero concept in Emory Village, and announced plans to fill the Cockentrice vacancy in Krog Street Market.
The original Double Zero location was meant for families, business lunches, and lovers of authentic Neapolitan pizza. They ran bocce ball tournaments on the patio out back, and while the place may have been salvation for suburbanites seeking great wine and lovely plates while stuck with kids in tow, there was something about the cavernous gray space that never felt quite like home for a family as warm and colorful as the Castelluccis. So they decamped for the more boisterous and crowded environs of campus life at Emory Village, occupying the old Ink & Elm space. After knocking down a bunch of walls to properly let in the sun, CHG also knocked down some of its own sense of refined traditionalism and chose instead to offer a more eclectic menu of small plates.
You can still get really excellent pizza at Double Zero, and with Slice & Pint next door, the kitchen has been ramping up its creativity to offer pies that go beyond the usual. We ordered a sausage and pear pizza where the pork sausage was local, the pears were lightly pickled, and the basil was super bright. If you want a plate all to yourself, DZ continues to do fresh pastas that suit the seasons. We tried the mafalde pasta, with mushrooms, peas and fennel, and well as the tortelli with butternut squash, apple butter, walnuts and pickled apples. Pickling is really having a moment in Atlanta, and the kitchen here is on top of it.
The small plates are reasonably priced for the neighborhood, ranging from $6 to $17 and including a variety of vegetarian options. Standout plates are the burrata and the oxtail. Every Italian place requires some version of the burrata, and DZ’s goes all-in on the wintry delights of plum slices and scallion pesto. It’s a sweet but sassy interpretation with a nice sourdough bread and a fluffy cheese, a classic dish with unfussy modern updating.
For the more adventurous, there’s the oxtail. Finely cut and not at all tough, the protein luxuriates in a bed of celery root puree, layered under frisee greenery and shredded Greek kataifi dough, then garnished with grapefruit. A finely textured and thoroughly playful vision of a shepherd’s pie, this dish that truly shows the forward thinking going on in the kitchen.
As for dessert, look beyond the flourless chocolate cake to the butterscotch budino and the pine nut tart, each $7. Budino is basically pudding in a jar, but it’s so thick and richly creamy that two people can share it and be full before reaching the bottom of the jar. The pine nut tart is an utterly more palatable adaptation of pecan pie, all the texture with a mercifully reduced sweetness. Did I mention the cocktails? Bless the bar manager, Nicholas Dolby, for hilarious names like the Stregasaurus, delicious riffs like the Architect’s old fashioned, and surreal new seasonals like El Pistolero.
The Castellucci Hospitality Group has already proven that its brand of high quality service translates from the family crowd at Sugo in John’s Creek to the close-knit community of Decatur at Iberian Pig. Double Zero, like Emory Village, boasts a firm sense of self alongside a laudable desire to innovate. How nice to see a restaurant group moving between all of Atlanta’s neighborhoods with ease – without ever losing its core.
Double Zero is located at 1577 N. Decatur Road. For more information, visit doublezeroatl.com.
Megan Volpert lives in Decatur, teaches in Roswell and writes books about popular culture.