Mediterranea Atlanta

Mediterranea in Atlanta draws customers with great meals and rich sweets – the fact that every bite is gluten-free is the cherry on top

New York City transplants Gary McElroy and Gerard Nudo left behind several iterations of working relationships at the storied 57th Street Rizzoli Bookstore and Rizzoli Publications to open Meditteranea. This restaurant can be summed up in one of their favorite literary quotes from author Michael Pollan, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

McElroy has had celiac disease – an immune reaction to eating gluten – for 12 years. “When Gary was first diagnosed, it was almost impossible to eat out,” says Nudo, who is McElroy’s life and business partner and “is gluten-free by default.”

Customers – gluten-free or not – who follow their noses to the new eatery and bakery in Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood will want to dig into the creamy polenta with manchego cheese melted in, or savor pan-seared scallops. The fact that all their gluten-free friends can also enjoy their meals makes the experience all the better! McElroy adds, “We’re not trying to be preachy, but we want to be there for people who are gluten-free.”

The magic happens because chef Rob Haan designed most entrees using foods that are gluten-free to begin with, so they don’t end up tasting like substitutes. The Grain Bowl contains rainbow quinoa and Carolina gold rice, and the polenta is stirred from cornmeal, naturally gluten-free. Additionally, using rice, coconut, almond and other flours, the team has perfected alternatives for quiche crusts and French toast bread. Mediterranea also offers vegan and vegetarian options.

Even the decor is in a natural state. Tables were crafted from trees that fell locally and on their own. The Jack Ellis Company made the bar from the wood of a pecan tree that tipped nearby and used cherry wood to piece the structure together. Nudo, Mediterranea’s pastry chef, then created cherry pecan scones.

Mediterranea honors the healthy Mediterranean way of eating (Nudo was Italian born) and embraces Southern staples. A Greek version of pimento cheese, handcrafted from feta, yogurt and more, made it onto the menu as a bar snack and sandwich filling. What’s next, gluten-free flaky biscuits?

Gerard (left) and Gary (right)
How do you spend your quiet time when you take a break from one another?
Gerard Nudo: The piano is my meditation. Whenever I need to unwind or escape, I play the piano. I’m a rank amateur, but I just close the door and play for hours.
Gary McElroy: I will spend hours outside our house near downtown Atlanta, beneath its verdant canopy, gardening, nurturing our own little bit of the North Georgia woods with native plants of the southeast.

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