Monday, January 10, 2011

Greatest Italian Restaurant in Atlanta: Pacci

A sales recruiter once told me, “There’s never a traffic jam when you go the extra mile.” To say the least, our most recent event with Chef Keira Moritz orchestrated what I would describe as a spiritual experience at Pacci with the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Alliance. A little background on how we got there: My husband and I attended an outdoor festival this summer called ‘Plates on Peachtree’. ‘Plates on Peachtree’ is a foodie event where you pay an amount of money to taste 20 different restaurants food. In my humble opinion, most restaurants fade into the woodwork at these types of events . . . but one restaurant, and specifically one chef stood out from the crowd – Chef Keira Moritz from Pacci. Just watching
her lead the pack of culinarians behind the Pacci tent was mesmerizing. She’s a young, good looking female executive chef, which is a rare find to begin with – but to boot she had on this sleeveless wife-beater shirt and aviator glasses which did nothing but add to the drama of her onsite creation of her dishes. It seemed that every 10 or 15 minutes she was coming up with a different dish that she wanted to showcase. There was never a dull moment in her booth; her area was the only one that consistently had a line of eager foodies. After tasting her delicious bolognese, polenta, pork belly, mushroom, corn and other variations, my parting thought as the new President/Leader of the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Alliance was that I needed to engage this woman for an event.

Fast forward a few months to Saturday, Chef Keira once again went above and beyond to impress. The Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Alliance event was held
on Saturday afternoon at Pacci. The networking part of the event was held in Pacci and the demo and tasting was upstairs in the garden lounge and demo kitchen at AltoRex. The weather was a little chilly and windy, so after the first course we stayed in the demo kitchen to devour our tastings. What I loved about this tasting is that we truly had a three course meal - - the tasting portions were meal size. Chef Keira demo’d three courses of ‘Classic’ Italian dishes: a Caesar salad, Gnocchi, Crespelle, and Homemade S’mores. Interestingly Chef Keira touts that most of her dishes have 5 or fewer ingredients. Her belief is that when you add too many ingredients, the taste of those ingredients can become lost in the dish. We were also given the recipes for each dish. In my journey to become a self taught chef I will definitely be trying these out in my kitchen (all while utilizing the great tips that Chef Keira shared during the demo).

1st course: Caesar Salad

I’m a little intimidated by anchovies. I’ve never worked with them, but she makes it look so easy! She also grilled the romaine lettuce with a little olive oil to give the caesar salad a delicate charred taste.

2nd Course: Gnocchi with Brown Butter, Sage, Gorgonzola and Walnuts

Secret to brown butter: put the butter in a pan over heat. Cook the butter until it just starts to turn brown, then take it off the heat and the warm pan will finish browning the butter (too much heat and the butter will blacken and burn). Chef Joey (or Yo-eeee as Chef Keira called him) said that there’s nothing worse than burnt black butter – I couldn’t agree more. This gnocchi was AMAZING - - soft and decadent, not even slightly chewy.

3rd Course: Brown Butter Pear Crespelle

I learned that another word for a Crepe is Crespelle. Chef Keira gently cooked the crepe in a small omelet pan, and sprayed the pan with vegetable pan spray (instead of butter) to prevent sticking. I was quite impressed with her crepe flipping skills – sans spatula she flipped the crepe in the pan similar to a handless omelet flip. It’s all in the wrist.

Bonus Dessert: Homemade S’mores

It was a little windy to use the Alto Rex fire pits to roast our marshmallows, but Chef Keira had a back-up plan . . . a blow torch. She literally thought of everything!

Watching Chef Kiera and her team, I realized that I have so much to learn on this culinary adventure. I’m really clueless when it comes to the operation of an actual kitchen, in an actual restaurant. How do the chefs at Pacci ensure all the flavors and dishes have the same consistent flavor? They taste everything before it’s plated and sent to a customer. Even for a large banquet group, they taste the product before it’s sent out. They are able to plate 60 or more dishes in a matter of minutes - it’s like an assembly line, a well oiled machine. Chef Kiera always starts the assembly line and plates one dish, then one or two associate
chefs follow her lead to plate exactly as her first demo plate. This ensures the first and last plate presentation look identical.

I have to say, if I ever needed a top notch restaurant/hotel in Atlanta to host a luncheon, dinner, birthday, company meeting – hands down, without a doubt I would choose Pacci and the culinary team under Chef Keira Moritz. Do I have a girl crush? Yea, maybe. My husband sure thinks so and has already brought that fact to my attention. Am I really that transparent?!?!

It was an honor to host such a wonderful event for the Atlanta Food Bloggers’ Alliance. Chef Kiera went above and beyond, and she made me look good. She seems to be the type of person that no matter what culinary project she’s tackling, whether it’s a foodie event, a tasting, a large banquet or a single guest in her restaurant, she gives 110% effort to ensure perfection in the food and experience that she delivers.



  1. Very good post!! It was a great afternoon.

  2. I think your "girl crush" is okay if it leads to great experiences like the one had at Pacci. I had a great time!

  3. I have to admit, I have a bit of a girl-crush on Chef Keira, too. She has such a passion for food! Thanks so much for introducing us to her, and to her fabulous food. Looking forward to the next event!

  4. Mandy, Thanks again for putting this event together. Chef Keira and her team certainly are an inspiration. It's wonderful to see a team that shares a passion and loves what they do! All the food was delicious and well presented. Looking forward to visiting Pacci again!

  5. Thanks I had a great time! You were a great host and Chef Keira! xoxo

  6. I had a great time at this event, Chef Keira really is one of a kind!

  7. Great seeing you at the event! and thanks for the Meet-up . It is so much fun being able to do this!