Sunbeams streaming in through shop windows onto shelves of tomato sauce, Arborio rice, and pesto. The wafting smell of garlicky Porchetta stacked high on freshly baked bread. Leisurely lunches of fresh fruit and cheese at distressed wood communal tables. This scene sounds as though I’m describing a recent travel adventure through Italy. Instead, I’m waxing poetic about the new Bella Cucina Porta Via store in the heart of Virginia-Highland right here in Atlanta.
Moving just a few doors down from their most recent retail space, the mood inside the store is a continent away from its previously smaller incarnation. While the company’s founder Alisa Barry has always had a very distinct vision about the lifestyle that Bella Cucina should portray, the Porta Via (which means “take away” or “carry away” in Italian) store seems to live and breathe this rustic Italian-inspired aesthetic. Every element of the store – from the seating to the display pieces – is carefully thought out and beautifully finished.
Gearing up for a particularly hectic week, it was just so nice being in the Porta Via store. The soft diffused light, the quiet carryings on. It was one of the most soothing retail experiences I’ve ever had. The addition of prepared foods, hand-packed pickles & preserved vegetables and a made-to-order sandwich counter catapults the store into the realm of Atlanta cult favorites Alon’s and Star Provisions – just with a thicker Italian accent.
The menu at Porta Via is seasonally influenced but, even in the short time that the store has been opened, some clear “classics” have emerged that will be constantly available – the house made Pimento cheese sandwich topped with bacon and bacon jam, as well as the insanely delicious egg salad sandwich heaped on ample bread – all of the bread and baked goods sold in the store are made fresh daily in Atlanta at the company’s kitchen facility and delivered to the shop. Seasonal additions like juicy heirloom tomato sandwiches and fresh figs paired with Italian cheeses compliment the set menu. Lemony and lightly dressed fingerling potatoes dotted with pepper cress is a wonderful change from the usual side of mucky potato salad. There’s also dessert – and they’re brilliant. You can go the lighter route with a tangy and flavorful blood orange panna cotta…or you can have a few bites of the most insanely rich “Death by Chocolate” cookie I’ve ever tasted.
This is certainly one-stop shopping at it’s most luxurious – prepared foods, lunch, vinegars, pastas, beautiful plates and serving ware, imported Italian treats and the full line of Atlanta-born Bella Cucina products. The store will also (with at least 24 hours notice) put together stunningly prepared baskets and meals for outdoor picnics and events. Porta Via has already become a destination spot for Atlanta travelers – several folks with cameras stopped in during my quiet Sunday lunch…but it should surely be on the regular rotation for intown nosh spots.
Bella Cucina Porta Via is located at 1044 North Highland Avenue near the heart of Virginia Highland. They are open every day of the week from 11 am to 7 pm. You can keep up with all of the Bella Cucina goings-on by following along on their Facebook page or their Twitter feed. For more information about the Bella Cucina line of products, as well as recipes to help you use Bella Cucina products, visit their website.