Go, Try, Become a Regular
By Malika Harricharan
When West Cobb Magazine asked me to review La Strada restaurant in East Cobb, my first thought was “Wow – I haven’t eaten in there in forever. I wonder if it is still good?” So, I did what I usually do before visiting a restaurant. I went online and checked out their website and get a general idea of what their menu is like and a sense of what I’d like to order.
Upon entering, I was greeted by John Lefkaditis, the current owner, who bought it from the original owners 7 years ago. His warm and friendly demeanor immediately let me know this was a family restaurant that wants to turn every guest into a regular. I learned that in it’s 21 years the restaurant has gone through several iterations from originally being a house, to a pool hall, an Ernie’s Steakhouse, to the restaurant we now see as Trattoria La Strada.
Being seated in a cozy table at the back of the restaurant, I felt free to take pictures without the flash being a nuisance to other diners nearby. The decor, hasn’t been updated in quite a while. John said the regulars seem to like it and he doesn’t want to mess with what works. He recently updated the booths which was a major change for them, but a necessary one.
Before looking at the menu, we were brought some garlic bread with an minced olive spread, which I quite enjoyed, surprising, as I don’t usually care for olives, but this was quite tasty when spread on top of the garlic bread.
Our server, Dee, who’s been at La Strata just under 2 years, recited to us the 4 appetizer specials and 4 entree specials that evening without having to consult a cheat sheet once. As she touted the stuffed shrimp, we gave that a try. And I knew I wanted to try the calamari, of which they have 2 offerings – 1 is the traditional ring calamari with red sauce, but I found myself leaning to the more unusual calamari steak, which, in it’s appearance is like a thin fried chicken cutlet.
The shrimp stuffed with crab, scallions, onions and garlic and topped with melted mozzarella cheese was fantastic. If you like shellfish and are a fan of crab cakes, this is a great choice if available, as you not only get crab but shrimp too. I had mixed feelings about the calamari steak myself. It comes with a lemon sauce that is VERY strong. It grew on me slightly, but I think because it is was not what I was expecting, I was a little disappointed. I would recommend the more traditional calamari to anyone.
At this point, John, popped over once again to see how our dinner was. I kept my eye on him most of the evening, and watched as he chatted up patrons, which seemed to be almost entirely made up of regulars. After speaking to John for a while, I learned that he worked for the revered Buckhead Life Restaurant Group as a manger at several of their restaurants (most recently Kyma) for years before buying La Strada. So, obviously he knows what he is doing.
That being said, we took his recommendations on dinner and each tried one of the specials. Originally, I intended on ordering the Steak Pizzaiola – a NY Strip topped with marinara sauce. But when I heard about the lamb shank Osso Bucco special, I just couldn’t resist. And, my dining companion went for the veal chop special.
My lamb shank didn’t disappoint. The huge shank had tender, juicy meat, nearly falling off the bone – no knife necessary. I chose the risotto as a side, but you have a choice of potatoes if you prefer. Speaking of huge, my companion’s veal chop was gigantic. Although he arrived at the restaurant with an appetite, he barely made a dent in this chop, amazing as it was. I highly recommend ordering anything veal here. If there isn’t a veal special, the stuffed veal parmigiana, sounds like a great choice – topped with prosciutto, eggplant, marinara sauce, and mozzarella.
After having our remainders boxed up, we truly had no business looking at a dessert menu, but we did anyway. Believe or not, this was the hardest decision of the evening – and usually it is the easiest. As to be expected the true Italian classics are on the menu – Tiramisu and Cannolis. I’m sure the Tiramisu is good, but I just couldn’t handle a rich dessert like that at this point. So, I asked for a lighter suggestion and was told about the Zuppa Inglese – the Italian version of the English Trifle. As promised, this was light and small enough to be the perfect finish to my meal. I did also have a taste of the Cioccolato at Forno – a flourless chocolate cake. It was superb – the decadent chocolate filling pairing well with what was left of our red wine.
In my chat with John, I found out he offers gluten-free past and rice, a concern of many customers nowadays. I also found out that he does monthly wine dinners and wine tastings. “How do you spread the word?”, I asked, as it obviously wasn’t noted on their website. He said it is almost like an underground event – not something they promote. Only regulars are in the know. As one of the customers was leaving he shouted at John “See you next Thursday!”
Ah! I finally began to understand, La Strada isn’t about hype or mega advertising. They are just about being a family-oriented restaurant who has built a loyal following by providing friendly, thoughtful service and consistently good food. Go. Try. Become a regularTrattoria La Strada 2930 Johnson Ferry Rd Marietta, GA . 770-640-7008 www.lastradainc.com Dinner Only Sunday – Thursday: 5- 10pm Friday – Saturday: 5-11pm La Strada now honors the MaxSave Card. To see what the MaxSave special offers are at La Strada and other East Cobb restaurants Click Here For a complete list of all East Cobb honoring the MaxSave care. Click Here New businesses are being added every week.