One of the founders of FIGO pasta is bringing a new eatery to Buckhead. Chef Mirko Di Giacomantonio opened his first Mirko Pasta in Watkinsville, GA, three years ago and now has seven across the state. The new Buckhead location will be the first ITP as Mirko started with Watkinsville and then opened in cities such as Monroe and Athens and is only now making the strategic decision to open a location in the metro area. Perhaps he and Sandro Romagnoli, FIGO's other founder, had an agreement regarding Mirko's departure from FIGO that required him to wait to directly compete.
The concept at Mirko is very similar to that of FIGO, with fresh made sauces and pastas sold individually and at a fairly moderate average price (combined) of around $10. The concept, with the food brought to patrons' tables would fall into the Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR), or fast casual segment of the restaurant industry. This segment includes the likes of Moe's Southwest Grill, Which Wich? and Panera Bread,which as an industry, has fared especially well in the current economic environment. One thing that separates Mirko from others in the industry is that they make all their sauces and pastas from scratch on a daily basis. This allegiance to freshness does make their average check a little higher than others, but judging from the success FIGO has seen in south Buckhead, I think that the north Buckhead / Chastain Park community will welcome the new addition.
The area as a whole has seen a number of new eateries recently with the openings of 3 on the Tree next to Fellini's at Roswell & Wieuca, FLIP Buckhead, Zoe's Kitchen, Gigi's Cupcakes and the soon to open Menchie's frozen yogurt at Piedmont & Roswell in Tuxedo Festival. Additionally, a little north on Roswell, Zaxby's will open just its second location ITP. Though construction has been delayed by issues with planning and permitting, a Zaxby's representative informed me they hope to begin construction by year end and be open around March.
In Buckhead, Mirko will take over the shuttered Ribs Etc. at 4233 Roswell Road, a rather large structure just north of Piedmont Road adjacent to Chastain Square shopping center. Ribs Etc. closed in early August after 24 years in business. In addition to the Buckhead Mirko, another location is planned for Cobb County early next year and a franchise agreement was reached for 12 locations in middle Tennessee, the first of which will open in Nashville. At one point, there was talk that Mirko would open within TOWN Brookhaven but that seems to be off the table at this time.
Mirko and his business partner, Archie Crenshaw, reportedly have plans for 100 locations across the southeast within seven years. With such grand expansion plans, I fear they may lose their local appeal and may see franchisees cut corners and "water down" the brand. As any avid reader of the site can recall, Artuzzi's is a prime example of how a seemingly good (Italian) concept can go awry when overzealous owners engage in explosive expansion and franchising growth. Di Giacomantonio and Crenshaw are not new franchisees as they were prior franchisees of a number of fast food eateries such as Zaxby's and Burger King, but I worry for them nonetheless.
Over at FIGO, where all locations are company owned, I'm told that there are no plans to expand either corporate locations, or by franchising, in the near future. FIGO currently has seven locations after closing its short lived Virgina Highland location earlier this year. The first FIGO opened in 2002 on Collier Road in south Buckhead and grew slowly at first, but has added a net of 4 locations in the past couple years.
No official word on the website about the Buckhead opening, so its hard to speculate on an opening timetable. Judging from the size and location, I would not be surprised to see the Buckhead restaurant become a flagship of sorts. Not knowing the extent to which they plan to renovate the space, I'd guess they could be open as soon as February. ToNeTo Atlanta