Why follow a compass that's lost? The Lost Compass is for people who can't stop travelling, who always seek out the next destination. It's for those who'd rather take a backroad than the Interstate; who wonder what happens when you get off the beaten path and look up an odd nook or cranny. It's about finding the little gems, wherever they may be hidden. It is for those who embrace travel as an experience - not stopping just at a tourist trap, but finding a local cafe, bookstore, or dive bar to stop and talk to the people who make up the town. What happens when the compass' needle spins off you the beaten path? Keep reading to find out.

29 January 2012

Sidetracked - Figo Pasta / Osteria del Figo, Atlanta, GA

If you haven't checked out this bastion of pasta love, my friend you simply have not experienced all that is wonderful in Atlanta.  I found the Figo in Vinings on the northwest side of town when I lived there back in 2009... and went to Figo at least once every two weeks.  (That should tell you something... in a city to make any foodie's heart quiver with all the temptations and delights, that I should go there at least a dozen times in four months tells you just how delicious this place is.)  I'd visited again in 2010 and was disappointed, because the pasta was not well cooked - all glued together and a bit chewier than al dente.  However, I had to give it another shot because this is seriously the best pasta I've eaten outside of Italy.  And I'm so glad I did.  The chain is an Atlanta staple, with locations scattered everywhere from downtown to Alpharetta.

They make their own pasta fresh in house, with fresh and wonderful sauces, in a foodie's version of paper dolls (check out the menu here).  You choose which pasta you want, how you'd like it topped, and what you want to drink.  Figo is fast casual, which means you order at the door, pay upfront, the cashier gives you a whimsically painted pepper grinder, and your food is brought out as soon as it's ready.  They have a varied and interesting selection of wine and beer; I especially love their Bellinis, which are amazing when the peaches are in season.  The salads are crisp and hearty, with big flakes of parmesan.  The pasta... oh the pasta... has been my downfall ever since I first found Figo.  They have over 30 different kinds of pasta - of all lengths and cuts, in various flavors (whole wheat, spinach, gluten-free) - and 18 different sauces that you can mix and match to your heart's content.  My absolute favorite pasta combination is the spinach tagliatelle (a long noodle about as wide across as a finger or thumb made with spinach to color it green) with salmone con piselli, a pink vodka sauce with fresh salmon and peas.  I haven't had it in over a year and was craving it badly.

Since I was driving through Atlanta on the tail end of dinner, and there's a location (called Osteria del Figo) right where 85 and 75 merge on the north end of downtown, I caved in to temptation and stopped for a bit of refueling.  Let me tell you, I'm glad I did.  I waited maybe 5 minutes to order, my bread and tea arrived within a minute of me picking a table, and the pasta was in front of me before I finished a full slice of bread.  Oh, their bread... they bring slices of homemade ciabatta to the table, along with a small jug of olive oil, as an appetizer while you wait for the pasta to cook.  They totally redeemed themselves from my last visit - the pasta was cooked perfectly, the sauce was wonderful, and the portion size was proper.  Although it is a main course, this is enough to finish in one seating, not crazily over-portioned like some other Italian places I have been.  Between the pasta and one slice of the bread, I was pleasantly full but nowhere near coma-like.

The restaurant itself was okay, but LOUD (one of these days I'll understand the appeal of a cement floor and 15-20 foot raised ceilings, but that night the noise was a bit overwhelming for someone who wanted to enjoy a great bowl of pasta and a good book at the same time).  I would definitely come back, but I'd probably sit closer to the open kitchen next time.  At least that way I can watch a good show while I eat.

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