By Joe Duffy
“Hidden gem.” We food snobs sling that phrase around, but what exactly does it mean? To paraphrase former SCOTUS Associate Justice Potter Stewart, I may not know precisely how to define it. But I know it when I see and taste it. Emidio’s—”Atlanta’s Taste of Portugal”—covertly situated in the northern part of Sandy Springs (AKA “North Springs”) is definitely a hidden gem.
Do you know that gloomy shopping center on Roswell Road that was the long-time home of the DMV? It’s in there, hidden in the far right-hand corner a few doors down from a salsa dance studio and the Sandy Springs Brazilian Church of God. The complex is eclectic, I suppose.
Stashed away as it is, Emidio’s has a faithful fan base and rightfully so. The interior of the Portuguese chef-d’oeuvre belies the woeful shopping center ensconcing it. Concealed inside is definitely a date-night proportionately posh, though certainly not ostentatious ambiance.
To the most skittish diners among you, don’t be apprehensive about a cuisine you assume you’ve never attempted. One of Emidio’s devotees, Sinde McClung, placated her timid dining partners to “think broader of European influences.” My restive eater wife can vouch for the Italian effect on the menu. Unfortunately, Emidio’s was out of the usual pasta for penne alla panna, so Mrs. Duffy got spaghetti. She was quite happy with what was essentially an Italian dish of spaghetti with meat sauce.
Anyone who is a fan of red sauce Italian will discover something to their delight here. Mind you; this adventurous spirit won’t walk through those doors thinking Brooklyn-Italianesque mealtime. Codfish croquettes were tasty, but I wish they had a little more oomph. An aioli dipping or even tartar sauce would have been a perfect finishing touch.
Vitela ao Porto, which is veal scallopini and Portuguese sausage in port wine sauce was outstanding, and among the best “broader European” dishes I’ve had recently. Get one of their shellfish appetizers. If you’ve read my past reviews (only a hayseed wouldn’t), you are mindful of the fact that sixty percent of the Duffy family loves mussels appetizers. The mussels Portuguese style, in a spicy tomato sauce, is highly recommended. I was delightfully dazzled to taste the clams Italian style, which is embedded in some of the best marinara sauce on Earth. So yes, all red sauce Italian fans have plenty to love.
However, the lunch menu features a definite bell cow, must-try item—a francesinha—originally from the city of Porto. Though the name derives from the fact that the sandwich was initially an adaptation of the classic French croque monsieur, I think it compares to two American regional delights.
There’s a smidgen of Pittsburgh with a fried egg and fries on the sandwich itself. But if anything, it loosely reminded me of a Hot Brown from Louisville. Like the Kentucky staple, this is a knife and fork sandwich. Comparable to the Hot Brown, which is topped with Mornay sauce, the classic Portuguese sandwich is smothered in melted cheese in a creamy tomato and beef sauce. One has the option of proteins—chicken, pork, or steak.
A lady at the table next to me verified I got this delicacy then proceeded to rave about how great it was. She got no dissension from me. Unique and outstanding is the coalition that makes my tummy so very happy, and this pièce de résistance is a masterstroke.
Robbie Copenhaver has been patronizing this Sandy Springs gem for five years. Her favorites are camarones al ajillo (sautéed shrimp in “robust” garlic and white wine sauce) and febras de cebolada (pork medallions and onions in a red wine sauce). But she adds, “I love everything on the menu.” Ms. Copenhaver is also a big fan of the sweets—saying, “I’ve also ordered cakes for parties from them that are scrumptious.”
Chef Jose Sapeta is a native of the tropical island of Madeira. McClung said Sapeta’s cuisine is definitely authentic. “Having recently traveled around Portugal, going to Emidio’s made me feel like I had already experienced the wonderful food of the region before going.”
The almost-secret location decreases the chances of Emidio’s getting foot traffic from people dining on a whim. The word-of-mouth following is well-earned. Stop passing by this spot.
8610 Roswell Road Suite 950
Atlanta, GA 30350
Shout out to Roswell newcomer Souper Jenny, sparing no time in paying it forward to the community. Jenny donates homemade soups weekly to the STAR House Foundation, an outstanding Roswell-based charity that is leveling the academic playing field for at-risk kids. I’ve witnessed from the front lines how much good the afterschool program from the STAR House does. Jenny Levison has bequeathed a great organization…
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When he’s not eating, which is rare, the author is CEO of Sports Handicapping website Offshore Insiders. His bride’s gift site, Duffy Gifts is the place to go for gifts for all occasions from My Thirty One Gifts.