If you are fortunate enough, then you know what it is like to report to your place of employment every day and not feel like you are going to work.
Yes, all jobs have stresses, but when you enjoy what you do as much as Jason Restivo does, then it is all good. For the last six months or so, Jason and his wife Jennifer have been knee-deep in building out Savannah's newest hotspot. I can say that because I know the parties involved. You've undoubtedly driven by the construction many times. Atlantic is sitting at the corner of Drayton Street and Victory Drive.
We've had the opportunity to chat with Jason a number of times before. He was formerly general manager at The Olde Pink House as well as Garibaldi downtown. He knows what he wants to see inside of his new restaurant. Having been in this city for almost a decade, he believes he knows what Savannah will support. There's nothing fancy about what Atlantic will be offering to its guests. Two things I know: It is going to be good and now that I have seen the inside, it will be beautiful as well.
"We want everyone to feel comfortable," is the phrase, in some form or fashion, that Jason repeats at least a dozen times during my visit this week. "Outside we will have a very comfortable area to sit with a fire pit, maybe a $6 cocktail or a $5 wine of the day and a limited menu.
"No reservations," he tells me. "We don't want anyone to feel like they can't just come in and enjoy at any time. If there is a wait, we have a great area outside."
I wasn't sure what I would see upon walking into the space that was most recently a dentist's office. I do know, as do all of us who drive by, that the makeover is thorough. It would have to be in order to go from a medical facility to a full-scale restaurant, of course, but the details are beginning to fall into place and the vision is gorgeous.
On one end, the kitchen is in plain view. Anyone who will be working in there will be on full display. Next to that is a bar area that will comfortably fit about 20, when you include the table standing right in the middle of the bar area. A few steps over, the main dining room has seating either facing the bar and kitchen or the huge windows looking out onto the intersection of Drayton and Victory. Those windows take up almost their entire wall. It is as inviting as any space you will find in the city.
Near the kitchen, the restrooms and the wine cellar area, you will find white subway tile. The floors in the bathroom are a deep blue double pinwheel pattern tile. The sign above the bar will be blue as well. The whites and the blues gave me a nautical feel. "No, not at all," Jason says. "Those were just the colors of the old Atlantic Service Station that was here in the 1930s."
The history is there. The history is significant and it would appear that Jason has researched it all. I got a 3-5 minute breakdown of what sat here once upon a moon and almost every detail you will see at Atlantic will be some type of homage to what the building once was. Artwork is, for now, pinned up on walls around the restaurant just to test the sight lines and Feng Shui. There is tape where glass will go. There are boxes outside where Chef Lauren Teague will have her herb garden. Olive trees will be planted around the property as well.
That's the other side of this great equation: 2016's head-turning move of the year for everyone in the food and beverage industry downtown was Chef Lauren leaving her extremely successful gig at 22 Square at the Andaz Hotel to join the Restivos in this new venture. Chef Lauren is a fantastic talent who can make you feel equally at home with a dialed-up seafood dish or a bowl of split pea soup. I've enjoyed a ton of her food before and there is no doubt I will continue to do so.
The menu is a work in progress. "We can't really decide what that will really look like until I know what we can have in the kitchen," Chef Lauren says. "I wrote one menu a while back, but that has changed a lot." Makes sense, I suppose. The kitchen right now is hardly a finished product. One thing I did notice? No deep fryer.
"Nope. We aren't going to have one," Jason says. "But we do have a griddle, which is going to be fantastic. You generally only see griddles in diners."
I always ask about inspiration. While this is not going to be a seafood house by any stretch, I see The Optimist in Atlanta. Jason admits to using some decorative touches he has seen at another Ford Fry spot, 246 in Decatur. If you have visited that spot, you can clearly see where he would like to go with Atlantic. Another location he mentions is Rose's Luxury in Washington, D.C. A quick Google search when I got home showed me all I needed to know. Take a look for yourself.
Savannah is about to get its next great neighborhood spot. Which is exactly what the Restivos wanted in the first place.
"Everyone has been so great helping us however they can," Jason is quick to add. "Kimberly (Whitestone at Cotton & Rye), Kyle (Jacovino at The Florence) and Anthony (Debreceny at The Collins Quarter). I've called on all of them for input on how to go about putting this together. Everyone has been fantastic helping us structure our vision."
That statement jumped out at me. Not that I was surprised. Not at all. But there's a feeling around Savannah that we have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to good food.
"Good, solid, approachable food," as Jason calls it. "There is room for so much more here.
"I plan on being here six days a week in my Converse making sure it's all perfect," he adds, which we know is almost impossible. But if there is anyone in this city I've met who will obsess about it every night? It's Jason.
Atlantic is looking to open its doors the first week of November.
See you on TV,