A shout-out to Plantation Italia by Campania Pizzeria Napoletana — that is a whole ‘nother review, hopefully soon — caught our attention.
As Campania has probably the finest Neapolitan pizza in the entire metro area, we knew any Italian place they’re giving props to was definitely worth checking out.
We found it in an L-shaped strip center across from Midway Meal House.
While it’s not very big, owners Bill and Diana Ashworth make good use of every square foot, from the kitchen where Diana whomps up her baked pasta dishes and homemade meatballs to the deli where Bill stocks a comprehensive collection of meats and cheeses representing the best of Italy.
Additionally, packaged and jarred goods, most imported but a few from exotic locales such as New Jersey and even one or two from Alpharetta, line shelves at the front of the store. On our first visit, we went straight for the sandwich menu.
Made with fresh-basked ciabbata, there are delectable paninis and classic deli sandwiches.
The Italian American Hoboken hoagie has so much meat and cheese it’s almost impossible for one person to finish in one sitting.
Ingredients in this wonderful monster of a hoagie are piles of mortadella, hard salami, soppressata, turkey, provolone cheese, fresh house-made mozzarella and tomatoes marinated in aged balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Food afficionado, Roswell resident and Jersey transplant Joe Duffy declared it “the best this side of the Delaware Memorial Bridge.” He and my companion, another Jerseyite, both rave about PI’s Stromboli. There is a Margherita version with just the fresh-made mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil, which is very good, but trust me on this – you want the one with pepperoni, salami, hot coppa ham, provolone and grated mozzarella. It is all ooey gooey melted cheese and hearty, assertively flavored meats and is quite possibly the best we’ve had in the metro area. Diana’s amazingly tender and flavorful Italian meatballs, made with pork, veal and beef and without crumbs so they are gluten free, are staple purchases every time we make the trek to see them. There are always around 10 different items in the case ready to be heated and eaten there or take home. So far I can vouch for the sausage and peppers lasagna and stuffed shells — pasta from Italy, of course.
Give Bill and Diana a day’s notice and the sky is the limit for what they can make for you. On a recent afternoon we had a special lunch there served at their family-style table in front of the deli cases. One of the many dishes Bill put together was an absolutely delectable lobster salad with huge hunks of the crustacean dressed in a dab of mayo with celery and a bit of dill. There’s fried rice balls, and then there’s Sicilian arancini. Diana, whose heritage is Sicilian, made up some special arancini filled with risotto cooked in chicken stock and white wine, fresh mozzarella and some of Bill’s lobster and served them with a spicy aioli. Outrageously good.
Marty and my friend Joe indulged in a lightly crumbed veal Milanese topped with chopped fresh tomato, arugula, basil and extra-virgin olive oil.
Bill brings in untethered, pastured veal from New Jersey that has been humanely slaughtered and the guys were in veal heaven.
“You could cut it with a fork,” Marty marveled.
I think my favorite dish, though, was Diana’s own invention.
It’s fresh asparagus that was blanched and wrapped in phyllo dough with fontina cheese, baked and then drizzled with Parmigiano Reggiano and melted butter.
So simple, yet such an explosion of flavor.
I could go on and on about Plantation Italia, but you need to try it out for yourself.
What you’ll find is a couple of former New Jerseyites who know and love food Italian food and use and sell only the highest quality ingredients.
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5155 Atlanta Highway, Alpharetta