Italian cuisine served ‘from the heart’

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Johns Creek restaurant is paired with a local food and wine market

STORY & PHOTOS BY

KATIE VANBRACKLE

katie@northsidewoman.com

Dal Cuore in Italian means “from the heart,” and for owner Jon Agri, enjoying high-quality food and wine has always been near and dear to his own heart.

Agri has owned many restaurants through the years, and his latest concept brings the best of what he terms “humble Italian cooking” to Johns Creek, Ga.

“At Dal Cuore, we prepare our dishes the way they would be cooked in an Italian family kitchen,” said Agri. “The freshest ingredients, long cooking times, no shortcuts.”

The restaurant’s décor is simple and charming, designed to make you feel as though you are a guest in an Italian country home. China plates on the walls belonged to Agri’s Italian grandmother. Dried gourds dangle from the ceiling. Rough wooden beams from an old Alpharetta barn form a long, family style table in the center of the dining room. Photographs on the walls were taken by Agri’s friends during annual trips to the Napa Valley in California.

The attention to detail continues in the kitchen where Chef Greg Lipman creates flavorful, healthy entrees using fresh, all-natural ingredients. Breads are baked daily, and pastas, pastries, sauces and dressings are also made in-house.

The restaurant has been open for six months, and local residents are certainly taking notice. Dal Cuore and Chef Lipman brought home the award for Best Appetizer at the 2011 Taste of Johns Creek.

Customer favorites include the traditional four-cheese lasagna baked in Sunday gravy and the chicken sorrentina, sautéed in olive oil and topped with prosciutto, fontina and mushrooms in a Marsala demi glace. Veggie lovers will enjoy the Griglia pizza, baked in a stone oven with grilled seasonal vegetables, Gorgonzola and fresh mozzarella cheeses. Gluten-free options are available as well.

An extensive wine list offers something for all tastes, and Agri occasionally hosts wine tastings paired with a four-course dinner.

While the restaurant is open only in the evenings (Wednesday – Saturday), lunchtime diners can find healthy, tasty sandwiches next door in the Dal Cuore Market along with a large selection of wines and locally made, organic food items. The market offers meals to go, catering and an assortment of the homemade ingredients used in the Dal Cuore kitchen.

Customers are encouraged to try samples of the various homemade items, including Tuscan herb and blood orange-infused olive oils and 18-year-old balsamic vinegar. Market employee Nicole Miller raves about the Tuscan herb-infused olive oil.

“My kids love it,” she said. “You can pour a bit on some warm pasta, add some freshly-grated cheese and you are done. Nothing else is needed and the flavor is amazing.”

Pure maple syrup, stored in barrels coated with vanilla, is another popular seller along with local wildflower honey.

Agri is passionate about wine and organizes a wine club that offers special events and discounts to members throughout the year.

Dal Cuore’s own wine, a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, is named Joshua after Agri’s son. Not to be left out, his daughter Lexie lends her name to a unique wine jelly also sold in the market. The fragrant jelly is created by Miller using the Joshua wine.

Miller also tends a small herb garden located in front of the market, which is used as a teaching garden for customers and their children.

Agri is proud of the fact that the prices in both the restaurant and the market are very reasonable.

“We serve some of the best Italian food in town and you’ll recognize the quality after your first bite,” said Agri. “But we are also very affordable. It’s all about community and family here. We want people to be comfortable.”

Dal Cuore Restaurant & Market

2100 Ray Moss Connector, Johns Creek, Ga. 30022

Hours: Wednesday and Thursday, 4:30 – 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4:30 – 10:30 p.m.

678-867-0854 | dalcuorerestaurant.com

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