Valentine’s Day or Any Day

A colorful plate from Spring restaurantA plate from Spring restaurant (Photo by Brian Benefield)

By Brian Benefield

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Some people have the belief that guys and gals all over the world should be rushing around to buy flowers and candy and a cute little stuffed animal and ensure they have a table reserved at the local hot spot for Valentine’s dinner. I am not one of those people. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s a nice gesture for your loved one, but we should be doing the nice things any day of the year and not just because it’s February 14th. I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen, but as we all know, the last two years have been trying on everyone, and when I want to treat my wife to a date night out on any given evening, here are a few places I would suggest.  

“Food is Love,” according to Piastra owner/Chef Greg Lipman, and the lasagna Quatro formaggi with scratch-made pasta, four kinds of cheese, and a rustic, delectable Pomodoro sauce are one of many examples of that love he creates for the menu. Greg found his passion for food at an early age while baking chocolate chip cookies with his Grandmother, Rose, and told me he’s still perfecting the recipe to this day. The chef grew up in Boston and went to Vermont’s New England Culinary Institute. He moved to the South many years ago for a better job climate and just plain better climate; he joked as I mentioned snow in Boston.  

Piastra opened in 2015, and the chef takes great pride in sourcing all the proteins and produce from local farms in Georgia that he serves in the eatery. He’s following in the footsteps of how Italians have been getting their food for hundreds of years by utilizing what is closest to them and therefore tasting the best. Their wine list is carefully curated and has the only Wine Spectator Magazine Award Winning Wine List In Marietta since 2018. They also make their sausages, bread, and pastries in house as well. Try the arancini, which are smoked mozzarella stuffed risotto balls, breaded, and they’re deep-fried little bites of heaven. To finish your meal, you can never go wrong with a hand-rolled cannoli or another seasonal freshly prepared dessert.

Spring restaurant takes diners on an artistic culinary journey that excites all of your senses before you take that first bite. Owner/chef Brian So grew up in Kennesaw, Georgia, and attended the Culinary Insitute of America in New York. He’s worked at many well-known places around the country but always wanted a place to call his own. The name Spring refers to Brian’s favorite season to gather ingredients from as many things are coming into bloom, and it’s an awakening of sorts for many types of produce. Since opening in 2016, So has received numerous James Beard award nominations, including rising star and best Southeast chef, which are tremendous accolades and well deserved.  

The small, very refined space was once a freight depot building over a decade ago and feels cozy and intimate with very well-trained servers taking care of your every need. Brian’s affable partner Daniel Crawford is a sommelier and will guide you in the right direction of some carefully curated wine that compliments each dish perfectly. The menu is kept small and seasonal on purpose, thereby using only the best possible ingredients. Each menu item is a feast for the eyes and the palette, as they take great care about the presentation of each dish. The homemade sourdough bread is utter perfection, crusty on the outside, soft and warm once you slice it open. The chicken liver pate has been a staple snack as the menu calls it and simply melts in your mouth. Brian says he will always offer a fresh pasta dish along with a fish and beef or chicken option as an entree. Maine Lobster Garganelli is currently the pasta offering, and a Roasted Venison Loin with braised red cabbage is another delectable choice. Please don’t leave without trying their picture-worthy desserts, and although there are only a few to choose from, you cannot go wrong here.

Valentine’s day means something different to everyone. We like to venture out on a random Tuesday or Wednesday night when places aren’t too busy, really get to know the bartender or server waiting on us, and leave a nice gratuity for their efforts. Most restaurants will be packed for the Hallmark Holiday, but consider frequenting your favorite local spot when they are slow and really need your business, trust me, they’ll remember that.