Todd Ginsberg’s Tasty Take on Italian-American Fare
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Todd Ginsberg’s Tasty Take on Italian-American Fare

The award-winning chef, known for BBQ and brisket, has opened a new concept at 415 East Paces Ferry Rd. NE.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

  • James Beard Foundation semifinalist and chef Todd Ginsberg hovers over Italian-American creations at his new restaurant, Dirty Rascal.
    James Beard Foundation semifinalist and chef Todd Ginsberg hovers over Italian-American creations at his new restaurant, Dirty Rascal.
  • Dirty Rascal’s interior was designed by Studio 11 and looks out onto East Paces Ferry Road.
    Dirty Rascal’s interior was designed by Studio 11 and looks out onto East Paces Ferry Road.
  • The salad course starred the Caesar and gorgonzola salads with candied walnuts and pears.
    The salad course starred the Caesar and gorgonzola salads with candied walnuts and pears.
  • Flounder Francese with lemon zest and eggplant Parmigiana enhance the entrée course.
    Flounder Francese with lemon zest and eggplant Parmigiana enhance the entrée course.
  • The tiramisu is served scooped from a large trifle bowl.
    The tiramisu is served scooped from a large trifle bowl.

There is nothing remotely “dirty” or “rascally” about the menu at the Dirty Rascal, a new red-sauce, Italian-American restaurant launching in Buckhead. James Beard Foundation semifinalist and Atlanta cuisine scene darling chef Todd Ginsberg added the new concept to his portfolio of eateries, which already includes the General Muir, Yalla, Fred’s Meat & Bread and Wood’s Chapel BBQ. It’s just that “rascal” is what the New Jersey-raised chef was often called as a child for his pranks and shenanigans. The restaurant officially opened in January, after an extended few weeks for friends and family, with dinner five nights a week.

Inside the stylish, new Thompson Buckhead Hotel, Dirty Rascal has its own entrance, with outdoor seating for 30 and interior seating space for 120. The ceiling and wood paneling, designed by Studio 11, swirl in a walnut-like grain. “To me, the space should remind you of a modern look into the ‘old school’ world of an American Italian restaurant,” Ginsberg said. “It should also compliment the feel of the Thompson Buckhead and vice-versa.”

Dirty Rascal’s interior was designed by Studio 11 and looks out onto East Paces Ferry Road.

The bar is glamour reminiscent of the Sinatra/Jerry Vale era featured on the playlist. One can visualize a heavy-lidded Dean Martin sipping something at the bar. The extensive wine list leans toward Italy and California. A stationary drink cart offers cognac, grappa and limoncello. Creative martinis abound.

Citywide, restaurants are experiencing some glitches with staffing and the COVID conundrum. At Dirty Rascal, Ginsberg employs around 30, including management. “There has been a severe shortage of finding restaurant staff over the past two years,” he explained. “Being under the Hyatt umbrella has made it a bit easier to hire people, with their HR program and all the benefits an industry leader can offer.”

Although the hotel charges a $39 valet fee, Dirty Rascal charges $10, and there is plenty of street parking nearby. We parked on Maple, carefully avoiding fire hydrants, and hoofed it easily.

Inside, we fawned over the salad course, especially the gorgonzola salad with pears, candied pecans and grapes with a rich, buttery, salty Italian cheese made from unskimmed cow’s milk ($15.95). The Caesar was super crunchy and fresh, with loads of finely shredded cheese ($16.75). The fennel & citrus salad sounds like a good choice for next time.

Entrée-wise, we split the flounder Francese, which came as thick double filets ($32.50), as well as sides of broccolini and garlic ($10) and eggplant Parmigiana ($14.75). We were intrigued by the “Fettucine Con Fungi” ($34), a morel pasta with hand cut tagliatelle, maitake mushrooms and a heavy hand of Parmesan Reggiano, and resolved to try it next time.

For dessert we went with the tiramisu, which was prominently displayed in a large trifle bowl in the center of the dining room. Other dessert choices included panna cotta and cheesecake.

The tiramisu is served scooped from a large trifle bowl.

Every dinner guest receives the antipasti, which can vary from warm mozzarella and pickled vegetables to rosettes of cured meats.

When asked why he took the Italian route, Ginsberg mused, “I went to Italy for my honeymoon and to eat great Italian foods. There were some steps of service over there that I really loved and brought back with me. Hopefully, we can implement some of it at Dirty Rascal. As far as the food goes, that was all in New York City.”

Flounder Francese with lemon zest and eggplant Parmigiana enhance the entrée course.

Ginsberg noted that his mother was a traditional matzo ball/brisket cook who alternated meatballs and spaghetti with lasagna. He also credits his first job at a Virginia Beach restaurant with his obsession with Italian cuisine and pasta.

Wonder if mom realizes her influence on Ginsberg, who looks back at the food of his youth for inspiration? Well, that and extremely high-end ingredients, soft lighting, warm wood, semicircular booths, red leather, distressed mirrors and oh, those chandeliers!

Dirty Rascal is located at 415 East Paces Ferry Rd. NE, (470-600-3500).

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