Sean and I are slowly searching out haunts in our new Atlanta-area home. Tonight we discovered our first Italian place, a lovely restaurant that combines a hole-in-the-wall feel with casual elegance.

Scalini’s is located on Cobb Parkway in the same shopping center as the Best Buy, just above I-285. A huge green light-up sign stretches across the restaurant’s section of strip mall, proclaiming “Scalini’s Italian Restaurant” to the deep parking lot and the roadway beyond. A purely decorative awning runs above the front window, which looks into the dimly-lit bar, and a windowed front entryway provides a glimpse into a cheerful foyer.

Upon entering, we saw a high-ceilinged room dominated to the left by a long refrigerated glass case, displaying its meats and vegetables before a wall filled with dried goods and spices. To the right, past a towering Lady Liberty statue, was a passage through to the bar, and the hostess was straight ahead, guarding the way to the rest of the restaurant.

At this point I was wondering if we were underdressed…but we were greeted warmly and escorted back beyond the bar to a very casual seating area with private booths. There, most surfaces–the walls, the backs of booths, even some light fixtures–were covered with graffiti, messages from past guests, just like at Rhinehart’s back in Augusta. The area was cozy and private, too, with a narrow walkway running between rows of booths so small they could almost be called cramped, their seat backs going almost to the ceiling. The table was plenty big enough, and the booth seats just, so we settled in comfortably.

The menu was expansive, with appetizers, pastas, meats, seafood, and several desserts. Each meal was served with a large salad that included lettuce, tomato, and beets. I was pleased to discover that I found the beets delicious. Meals also came with a bowl of delicious freshly-baked rolls, served with oil and garlic.

We started with a stuffed mushroom appetizer that was the only disappointing part of the meal. Maybe the kitchen was rushed, as it was a bit late in the evening. Maybe their recipe wasn’t great. Whatever the reason, the mushrooms were passable, but not wonderful like the rest of the meal.

Sean’s main dish was a seafood alfredo that looked absolutely divine…scallops and shrimp with fettuccine dredged in that amazing creamy sauce. I had Cannelloni del Mar: lobster, scallops, and shrimp with cheese, baked in a pasta tube with rosatella sauce. It was an extraordinary medley of flavors.

We managed to eat about half of the shared salad, all the mushrooms, a couple of rolls, and about a third each of our entrees. I did find room for some fantastic spumoni, which I think was pistachio and chocolate, served with a cookie of lower sweetness to temper the taste. Finally, full and happy, we strolled back to the car with three to-go boxes.

Tonight’s dinner was a fantastic experience. I was captivated, both by the food and by the ambiance. It looks like Scalini’s is going to be a favorite!