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Atlanta: Cibo e Beve's Pies Fail to Impress

[Photographs: Todd Brock]

Cibo e Beve

4969 Roswell Road, Suite 245, Atlanta, GA 30342 (Map); 404-250-8988; www.ciboatlanta.com
Pizza type: Neapolitan-style
Oven type: Gas-fired w/wood
The Skinny: Swanky bar scene with imaginative pizzas that don't always live up
Price: Smoked Duck & Mushrooms, $17; The Brooklyn, $16

On the north side of town, Cibo e Beve gets a good bit of buzz for being a hip, cool, cozy, sleek little hotspot with a killer bar scene and some tasty pizzas that fit the bill after an evening out. As a fortysomething dude with two grade-school daughters and a minivan in the picket fence-lined driveway, the words "hip", "cool", and "killer bar scene" have almost zero relevance to my everyday life. But tasty pizzas? Now you have my attention. After a sampling of Cibo e Beve's (supposedly) most popular and (arguably) most talked about pies, I can say I've found a new restaurant to add to the date night rotation... but probably not a pizza destination worth going out of your way for.

The name on the marquee roughly translates to "eat and drink," and it's pretty clear that Cibo e Beve takes the "beve" part really seriously. The drink menu is just as long as the food menu, with more items and one of city's top mixologists behind the bar. It was by far the more active half of the restaurant during my visit, and sure seemed like the kind of place where you and a few friends could spend a fun night sampling wines and cocktails and playing guess-that-clip from the edited movie montage of food- and drink-inspired scenes playing on the overhead TV.

But I was here for pie, and I went straight for the one that gets mentioned most often, the Smoked Duck and Mushrooms. I'm not a duck connoisseur by any stretch, but it's one of those ingredients that you see on pizzas so rarely that I couldn't not try it here. The meat was thinly shaved, and in the low lighting of the space, hard to discern from the Madeira-roasted mushrooms. Plus, it was all under a gooey blanket of fontina and herbed ricotta, making for an extremely rich pizza.

Yes, duck tends to be a little greasy, and this was no exception. But for me, the predominant taste was that of smoke. It was smoked meat of some sort, to be sure, but if you had just dropped this pie off at my table with no ID, I would never have been able to name that protein in any reasonable number of guesses.

That's not to say it was a bad pie. I polished off three-quarters of my 12-incher and brought the lone soldier home for leftovers, but when I'm ordering a topping as unique as duck and paying 17 bucks for the privilege, I do want to come away with an impression more memorable than "a rich white pie that mainly tastes like smoke."

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Sadly, the other pizza at my table was even more generic. The Brooklyn ($16) features a San Marzano sauce, with Italian sausage and caramelized onions beneath the mozzarella. I am a big fan of tight sausage crumbles, but this was just underseasoned pork with little to no real flavor behind it.

Cibo e Beve's crust, hand-tossed upon ordering and sporting some decent char from its 2-3 minute stay in the gas-fired oven (with oak and hickory providing some smokiness), was nicely chewy, with some sour notes and an almost buttery component to it that I rather enjoyed. I just wish the toppings had lived up to the crust they sat on.

There are some interesting choices on the other pies, too: crispy kale, goat cheese, rapini, ghost pepper salami. And if you and your friends are looking for a hip nosh to work off an evening at the bar, I suppose you could do worse. But when date night next brings me to this part of town, I'll venture into Cibo e Beve's other cibo offerings and leave the pizzas for someplace that packs a little more punch.

About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers for AHT and pizzas for Slice, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for The Gaslight Anthem. Or both.

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