After making my third visit to St. Cecilia this past Friday, I came to the conclusion that Ford Fry will eventually take over the city, and then maybe the world. I’m pretty sure that I already came to the exact same conclusion after multiple visits to The Optimist and King + Duke, so this was certainly not an earth-shattering revelation by any means. St. Cecilia opened in Buckhead in the old Bluepointe space back in January. The restaurant focuses on Mediterranean-inspired coastal cuisine, with an emphasis on (delicious) seafood and pasta dishes.
The space is absolutely stunning, and a drastic 180-degree improvement from the drab and outdatedness that was Bluepointe. The restaurant has ridiculously high ceilings, surrounded by an entire wall of floor to ceiling windows. The gorgeous, white marble bar, however, is the clear centerpiece of the restaurant.
Speaking of the bar, the cocktails and bartenders at St. Cecilia are fabulous. I haven’t yet tried a drink that I didn’t like, and I’ve tried quite a few, to be honest. The Green River (gin, muddled arugula, and black pepper) was savory and refreshing and the Barber of Seville (vodka, prosecco, and muddled strawberries) made for the perfect summertime concoction.
When it comes to muddled-anything cocktails, I’m generally easy to please. I think my favorite, though, was the classic dirty martini, complete with freshly stuffed blue cheese olives, of course.
Our meal at St. Cecilia began with a loaf of warm, fresh-baked focaccia with whipped ricotta. The bread arrived perfectly salted and olive-oiled, and the ricotta, light and fluffy. It took a lot of willpower to save room for the rest of the meal.
The menu is broken down into several sections (crudo, antipasti, salumi, pasta, and “after-pasta”), with portions on the smaller side. Side note: small portions sizes means that it is perfectly acceptable to order anything and everything on the menu that strikes your fancy. Our server provided a wonderful overview of the menu, and we opted to start with the strawberry salad and the charred octopus.
The strawberry salad was simple and light. The arugula and watercress were just barely drizzled with a hint of lemon and olive oil, and were topped with fresh strawberries, goat cheese, and pistachios. I would highly recommend it if you’re looking for a lighter option to ease your way into the meal.
The charred octopus dish was perfect (so perfect that I’ve ordered it on all three visits to St. Cecilia). Even Chad, who is not an octo-lover, deemed it his favorite dish of the entire meal. The octopus was lightly grilled, which resulted in a wonderful char and a perfect texture throughout. It was served over an Italian bean salad, with oregano, and a nice olive oil-based broth. The dish was light, bursting with flavor, and satisfying. I think next time we may have to order two of them.
From the pasta section, we tried the spring mushroom risotto. Although the antipastis set the bar extremely high, the risotto did not disappoint. The dish was rich, creamy, and everything you look for in a risotto. The earthiness of the porcini mushrooms balanced so nicely with the fresh parmesan and buttery flavor of the pasta. The texture was actually slightly on the al dente side, so you didn’t get even a hint of mushiness that so often comes as the result of an overcooked risotto.
As we delved into the “After Pasta” section of the menu, the meal only got better and better. It took us about .2 seconds to decide on the black bass and the arctic char, which turned out to be my favorite dishes of the evening. The black bass might have been the most perfectly cooked piece of fish I’ve ever eaten. The skin was out-of-this-world crispy, while the fish itself was succulent and super flaky. The simple salt, pepper, and olive oil preparation of the fish really highlighted its fresh and delicate flavor. It was served with a nice duo of sweet, Vidalia onions and porcini mushrooms. The charred octopus was a fierce competitor, but the bass ultimately prevailed as my favorite of the evening.
The arctic char was a close second. Similar to the bass, the fish could not have been cooked more perfectly. The outer skin was deliciously crispy, while the fish itself was impeccably mid-rare. The fish was topped with grilled artichokes, caper berries, and drizzled with a lemon butter reduction, which provided the perfect combination of salty-buttery to accompany the char.
Even after a delicious and satisfying meal, I always have room for dessert when chocolate is involved. Per our server’s recommendation, we ordered the Valrhona dulcey tart to share. The rich and chocolaty mini-pie was topped with homemade pine nut ice cream and apricot slices. It was the perfect end to a perfect meal, especially considering that Chad was willing to split the dessert on a 90-10 basis.
From start to finish, our experience at St. Cecilia was absolutely flawless. Despite the fact that the restaurant was jam packed on a Friday night, our server was attentive and didn’t seem to mind the fact that our dinner turned out to be a four-hour long event. Although I’ve recently migrated south from Buckhead to Midtown, there is no doubt in my mind that I’ll be willing to endure the five-mile long traffic jam we call Peachtree Street in order to return to St. Cecielia.