Savannah’s newest pearl of edible possibilities also lauds the city’s succulent layers of culture, change and piquant cuisine.
Atlantic, the newest addition to the Starland District’s foodie neighborhood, operates under the general management of Jason Restivo, a California native but no stranger to Savannah’s assorted range of restaurants. Working alongside Head Chef Lauren Teague, Restivo serves up an excellently crafted seasonal menu with an equally impressive list of international wines to compliment each fresh flavor.
Every experiential element down to the playlist exudes energy, fun and engagement. An eclectic mix of “Tainted Love,” Green Day and Elton John filter through the restaurant speakers, catering to each guest’s diverse aesthetic. Olive trees and gas-pump shaped bulbs are Atlantic’s outdoor ornaments, with a fire pit as the star in the center. Guests can congregate around the pit with drinks provided by an exterior, mini “bar.”
When Restivo considered opening his own restaurant in the city that fostered his customer service career, he never approached the idea as a remedy. He knew Savannah was not lacking any fundamentals in its diverse dining scene. There was no hole he set out to fill. Instead, he worked to share his unrestrained enthusiasm for food, wine and play.
Indeed, as Shakespeare wrote, the play’s the thing.
Restivo aims to serve (pun intended) the neighboring restaurants who supported him throughout Atlantic’s development, including Cotton and Rye, The Florence and The Collins Quarter in Downtown Savannnah. He and his team abide by two business laws: 1) Don’t tell guests what to eat; 2) Don’t serve more food than guests can finish. These philosophies yield less trash and happier guests. And he doesn’t sit back and observe. He’s all in with his crew, working the floor, pouring wine, delivering food orders.
Atlantic’s unique menu is divided into four sections: Tastes, Breads, Bowls and Plates. Each entree is small enough to share with the table, but also large enough for an individual evening snack. This is truly the perfect place for treating friends or family to dinner, because the servings offer plenty to sample without leaving too stuffed or guilty. The mini toast, garnished with sweet peas, artichokes and radish salad, is a must-try from the bread section. Delicious dessert highlights include a decadent peanut butter infused chocolate cheesecake, which tastes like the equivalent of a Kit-Kat-flavored heaven. Nothing compares to sharing the asparagus and parmesan-sauteed risotto with a serving of the mushroom pate prepared with madeira and pine nuts and a glass of sauvignon blanc, especially when Restivo personally delivers it to your table. Each menu item, large or small, is worth a taste, and as long as Restivo and his team are cooking fresh food everyday, sampling everything is a feasible feasting possibility.
The building wore multiple hats before becoming a swanky restaurant in the Starland District, including a gas station and a dentist office. The name actually hails from the gas station’s original title, Atlantic Service Station, in the 1930s. White, blue and orange decor reflects that history alongside the shape of the light bulbs used out front. Indoor seating faces the bar and the kitchen or the large, wall-sized steel windows with a view of the intersection of Drayton and Victory streets. The artwork adorning the walls are repurposed and reprinted post-Depression-style posters promoting enjoyment of hearty meals and seraphic spirits.
Every menu item constitutes its own form of expression, from the creamy risotto served with asparagus and sweet peas to the grilled brussel sprouts mixed with sliced grapefruit and braised pork belly and even the sandwiches. Teague’s menu is prepared fresh everyday, and no leftovers are ever served.
Restivo surrounds himself with good people with whom he has built relationships and invested his dream. He is an avid, passionate supporter of local spirits and self-starters, because those are the ones who invested in him when he and his wife first began this journey. With a small closet cellar of 160 wine selections, 18 of those served by the glass, Restivo buys his bottles based on relationships, meaning he supports fellow wine enthusiasts and business partners.
“Great business begets great business,” he said. “Just talk with people. The world gets smaller with the people we know.”
Atlantic performs for its patrons. With no major advertising campaign planned, word of mouth is the restaurant’s sole public relations strategy. It operates like a theater, and every night is a new show made possible through the crew behind the bar and kitchen counter. The guests—the cast—can personally compliment the chef who prepared their meal. It was important for Restivo to have a transparent kitchen counter, because he didn’t want any barriers separating the cast from the crew. He embraces his chefs and servers, and the transparency is his way of celebrating them.
“We built this to play,” Restivo said. All business aside, he really just wants to be accessible for his staff and guests, create amazing food and utilize his new space as a stage for community socialization. “It’s just how we rock ‘n’ roll.”
Located at 102 E. Victory Dr., Atlantic does not take reservations, and dinner is served on a first-come, first-serve basis. Walk-ins are welcome Monday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m. and Friday-Saturday 5-10 p.m. For more information, visit Atlantic’s website or call the restaurant at (912) 417-8887.