Lucky us, we were invited to attend the soft opening of Davio ‘s in Phipps Plaza last week, complete with bite-size samples of their fabulous food and an assortment of adult beverages. “Why?” Larry asked when I told him. After all, Davio’s bills itself as a Northern Italian Steakhouse, not normally the kind of place that screams green to folks like us that eat with the environment in mind. I didn’t know why. Maybe it was because they get their beef from Brandt, the Brawley, California ranchers who feed their cattle vegetarian diets of corn and locally-grown alfalfa, who compost waste and send it back to the alfalfa farm in order to reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, who have sworn off hormone and antibiotic injections for their well animals, and who advocate the use of the whole cow as one way to reduce waste. We don’t eat cows but we think people who do should have the choice of purchasing meat that comes from sustainable operations like Brandt, a ranch whose owners care about the humane treatment of their animals. The increasing availability of meat from ranches like this that are both sustainable and humane are likely the driving force behind the increase in the number of flexitarians, those often-former vegetarians that eat limited amounts of meat now that you can get it somewhere besides those nasty factory farms. Or maybe we were invited because there was a social ecology slant to the event. All attendees were encouraged to make a donation to the Schenck School, whose mission is to educate students with dyslexia and related learning disorders. As we’ve mentioned before, we think humans are a fabulous species, every bit as worthy of love and care as the spotted owl, the snail darter, or any of those other creatures our type is more well-known for throwing ourselves in front of bulldozers and chainsaws to protect. Telling ourselves that we were going just to support the children, we hopped in the car and took off for Buckhead. Whatever it was that got us through the door, when we arrived we were happy to be there. Davio’s is a beautiful spot with an inviting bar that Larry immediately bellied up to while I scored us a comfy booth. Server Molly Belvioso came by and offered me an appetizer but I shook my head and tried to convey regret. “Vegetarian,” I told her, the way some people might say “Alcoholic” if they were being offered a drink. Humanitarian that I am, I was okay with just drinking for a couple of hours and then grabbing some plant-based grub from Cakes & Ale on the way home (after all, it was for the education of young children), but Molly offered to bring me a sample of Davio’s truffle oil mac and cheese.  She returned with it at about the same time Larry had managed to elbow his way through the crowd and slide in across from me. He waved an Italian beer in my face and told me it was one he had never heard of before, which is really saying something about its relative rarity, at least here in the States. “Take a picture of it,” I suggested since we had actually remembered to bring the camera to this event. Our faces still burn from all the times we’ve been invited somewhere special and left home without a camera or even a pen to take notes with. It’s like we’re out to prove we’re not real journalists, just a couple of working stiffs who love good food and the good earth that produces it. Larry fiddled with the camera for a few minutes and finally decided that the memory card was full. “I guess I could use my IPhone,” he suggested. “But I’d look like an idiot.” “You are an idiot,” I shrugged. “We’re both idiots.” He jumped to his feet and snapped some quick shots, then slunk back down in the booth and hid behind his beer when the guy with the flash box as big as our bedroom turned toward us. We sopped up the rest of our truffle oil and looked over the pics. They were pretty sorry as you can see, but we weren’t too bothered by that because Molly had just reappeared with some veggie pizza. “Take two,” she encouraged when we each had scooped a slice onto our plates. “They’re small.” As it turns out, Davio’s has a fair number of vegetarian choices on its menu , including a paella and a number of sides that could be combined into an outstanding platter. We asked Molly if there were any shades of green to the restaurant’s operation and she said something about bottled water that we couldn’t hear over the din of the crowd and disappeared. I cocked an eyebrow Larry’s way. “I hope she doesn’t think bottled water is green.” Well, maybe. She returned with two glasses and a bottle of Aqua Health. “People want sparkling water,” Molly told us. “But we filtrate this on location and eliminate the transportation costs associated with buying it elsewhere and trucking it in. And we sterilize the bottles and reuse them so there’s no packaging waste.” She opened the bottle and poured us each a glass. Delicious! Davio’s has made plans to recycle their grease and they are considering a more comprehensive recycling plan for their glass, paper and cardboard. As you might expect there is no composting, an activity that Phipps would be unlikely to approve given the need for a big old pile of dirt outside the door but the Northern Italian Steakhouse isn’t doing too badly, all things considered. So now we know why we were invited. And given the quality of the pizza and the various appetizers that Molly brought us or directed our way, we’ll definitely return.

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