Italian Food in Appalachia?

Published on February 08, 2015
Written by Ray Access

Dahlonega, Georgia, borders the Chattahoochee National Forest in the northern part of the state, near the borders of South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee. It’s a small town in the mountains that has survived an early gold rush and a flood of tourists. It’s the kind of place with an historic downtown, nearby vineyards and international bicycling events.

So of course Dahlonega is home to a first-class Italian restaurant. Italian food might be a relatively recent addition to mountain cuisine, but it’s become a staple. While pizza, pasta and pepperoni invaded the larger US cities in the 1950s and ’60s, Appalachia remained isolated, its tastes a simple mixture of meat, grains and local vegetables.

That all changed in the past decade, as fine dining found willing consumers in the cities and towns of Appalachia. Italian food now has a strong foothold in small mountain towns like Dahlonega.

Piazza Italian Restaurant

Piazza has been serving Italian food to locals and visitors since 2003. They are known for their ravioli dishes, pizzas, calzones and steamed mussels, but they serve a full range of traditional Italian favorites too: spaghetti, lasagna, manicotti, scallopini, ziti and fettuccini Alfredo that can include Italian peppers, parmesan cheese, marinara and pesto sauce.

The restaurant’s casual rustic décor and friendly service delight its customers and add to the good time people have eating there, as their customer reviews reflect. But don’t let the cozy atmosphere fool you; this is high quality Italian food. Salads and appetizers start at $6.00. Entrees range from $11.99 for Bacon and Gorgonzola Manicotti to $16.99 for Frutti Di Mare. This is authentic Italian food.

Located at 24 East Main Street in downtown Dahlonega, the restaurant is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Chef/owner David Meyer takes pride in sourcing his ingredients locally whenever possible from nearby farms and vineyards. Italian food in the mountains: a winning combination.

Corkscrew Café

If you are in the mood for something beyond basic Italian fare, the Corkscrew Café offers a fine dining experience with Italian overtures. While it bills itself as a “new American restaurant,” don’t be surprised to find Stuffed Portobello with pesto, mascarpone, roasted garlic and asiago cheese on the menu. Also, as its name implies, the restaurant offers an extensive selection of local, regional, national and international wines.

With the motto “Dining with a Twist,” you just know the menu will play with conventions, and it does not disappoint. Its Roasted Chicken Breast is topped with Thai peanut sauce. Its Grilled Rainbow Trout is prepared with shiitake mushrooms. But the Corkscrew Café does serve some Italian delicacies, including an Eggplant Mascarpone that is sure to please.

You can find the Corkscrew Café at 51 West Main Street, just down the street from Piazza, but it’s a step up the scale. Entrees range from $17.00 for the Roasted Chicken to $36.00 for the Filet. The meals are meant to be paired with an appropriate wine, and the restaurant has a wine for every meal and every occasion. Italian and so much more.