Baraonda delights with classic Italian cuisine

Just a few blocks away from the Fox Theatre on Peachtree Street, the homey pizzeria Baraonda is still cooking up delicious Italian-inspired cuisine a decade after first opening.

The décor is simple and rustic, evoking the pizzeria’s Italian roots. The wooden tables are bare, a brick pizza oven fires at the back for patrons to view while dining and two clocks hang over the bar showing the times in Atlanta and Rome, cities half a world apart. Nevertheless, the food at Baraonda manages to transcend these borders and bring a true sense of Italy to midtown Atlanta.

The menu is divided into antipasti and insalate, paste, pizze and secondi entrees. At lunch, there are also panini on the menu. Many of the items, particularly the antipasti and pizzas, are ideal for sharing.

A crab cake special was light and satisfying. Unlike many crab cakes that are loaded with fillers, the medallions consisted of all crab. A mild red pepper remoulade accompanied the portion and offered a creamy counterpart to the moist crabmeat. Although the crust was a bit too thick, for five dollars, these were a true deal.

Deciding to stay on the safer side of dishes, my dining companion and I next ordered a Caesar salad. The romaine lettuce, crisp and crunchy, was the perfect canvas for the delicious Caesar dressing, which was aromatic of garlic, lemon and anchovies. The true stars of the dish, though, were the buttery and crunchy croutons that dotted the salad. I could eat a whole bowl of those.

Antipasti options range from the ubiquitous fried calamari and bruschetta to Italian salad offerings like caprese (tomato, basil, mozzarella and olive oil) and casareccia (arugula, red-leaf lettuce, sundried tomatoes, grilled onions, parmesan cheese and vinaigrette).

As good as these two starters were, I was most anticipating the pizza.

Baraonda’s brick oven lends the pizzas a deliciously crisp crust able to stand up to a myriad of toppings. In addition to several suggested topping combinations (the Romana includes pancetta, sundried tomatoes, sautéed onions and mozzarella), Baraonda also offers diners the chance to create their very own pizza. It’s like a gourmet delivery service.

Prosciutto, olives, artichokes and fontina cheese are just a few of the dozens of additions available. On this day, we opted to supplement a Margherita pizza (the classic combination of tomato, mozzarella and basil) with zucchini, mushrooms and eggplant.

When the pizza arrived, its crust was crisp and burnished in a few spots, evoking its stay in the oven. The vegetables were sautéed perfectly and seasoned with herbs.

The perfect size for two (or for one hungry diner), it left us satisfied and pleasantly full. I can only imagine that any pizza made here would be just as delectable.

For those who feel as if an Italian meal is not complete without a plate of pasta, Baraonda features classic preparations like cheese ravioli, penne salsiccia (Italian sausage with onions, mushrooms and cream) and rigatoni alla Norma (fried eggplant, tomato sauce, basil and ricotta salata).

Main dishes also reflect the timelessness of the previous courses: chicken picatta and lamb chops with orange and mint are among the offerings.

The service at Baraonda is laid-back but attentive. Our server was accommodating to our preference to share items and made sure we were satisfied with all of our food.

Baraonda offers the tastes of a true Italian dining experience at a great value.

The dishes are nicely prepared and mirror the rustic simplicity of the restaurant’s interior.

There is no cutting-edge innovation taking place here, but the kitchen’s devotion and attention to detail when it comes to classic Italian dishes is undeniable. As an option for a pre- or post-Fox visit, or just for a casual lunch on a student’s budget, Baraonda cannot be beat.