Aria | This is Atlanta Cooking | PBA30


American Cuisine

490 E. Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta, GA 30305

Chef: Gerry Klaskala

As one of the nation’s most critically acclaimed restaurant chefs, Gerry Klaskala has earned a reputation for award-winning, contemporary American cuisine. His style is simple and direct. He captures and enhances individual flavors, resisting the temptation to combine too many. With the launch of Aria in March 2000, Klaskala found the perfect element in which to showcase his creativity and commitment to the overall dining experience.

While he heads up the kitchen at Aria, Klaskala’s influence is also found in a second restaurant he owns with partners George McKerrow Jr. and Ron San Martin. Their company, We’re Cookin’ Inc., owns Aria, as well as Atlanta favorite Canoe. Both restaurants are distinct in concept, yet very similar in popular appeal.

Prior to beginning work on Canoe in 1995, Klaskala was the chef and managing partner at Buckhead Diner, one of Atlanta’s highest volume restaurants. During histenure, Buckhead Diner was consistently one of the most acclaimed dining establishments nationwide and was featured in Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Esquire and The New York Times.

Klaskala helped launch Buckhead Diner after managing the start-up of 45 South in Savannah, another restaurant with national kudos to its credit. Klaskala also worked with the Hyatt Hotels Corporation for nearly 10 years, ultimately serving as executive chef at two of the hotel company’s locations in Boston and Savannah.

The prodigy art student began cooking at 15 and entered a gourmet food show as an apprentice at age 17. He subsequently took home “best of show” honors, the first time a cooking novice had earned such a prestigious award. He abandoned his professional aspirations in the art world for another passion — culinary artistry — and graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America.

A recognized spokesperson for his industry, Klaskala is frequently sought by local and national media outlets as an authority on American cuisine. He has appeared on NBC’s “Today” show, “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee,” and CNN, among others. During his nearly 25 years of cooking, he has received numerous awards, including the 2001 Robert Mondavi Winery Culinary Award of Excellence. Klaskala is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the American Institute of Wine and Food and The Chaine Des Rotisseurs. He has exclusively represented Atlanta in prestigious events associated with the James Beard Foundation in New York, The International Association of Culinary Professionals and the Hanna Winery Celebration in Santa Rosa, California.

An avid painter and gardener, Klaskala resides in Atlanta with his wife, Sally and their children, Michael and Max.

Chef Gerry prepared for us:

  • Lemon Risotto
  • Snapper with Vegetables

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Lemon Risotto

Serves 4 as a side dish

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • freshly grated Parmiggano Reggiano
  • chopped arugula
  • lemon zest
  • unsalted butter


In a saucepan bring broth to a simmer and keep at a bare simmer. Finely chop onion and in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan cook in butter and olive oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add rice, stirring to coat with butter. Add 1 cup simmering broth mixture and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a simmer, until absorbed. Continue cooking at a simmer and adding broth mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, about 18 minutes total. (There may be broth left over.) Stir in Parmesan, arugula, lemon zest, more butter, and salt and pepper to taste and cook over low heat until heated through, about 3 minutes. Cover and let rest before serving.

Snapper and Vegetables

  • one filet of red snapper per guest
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • butter
  • salt and pepper
  • white part of leeks, julienned
  • sugar snap peas, julienned
  • ginger, finely grated
  • lemon grass, finely diced
  • white wine
  • butter
  • mussels
  • chicken stock


Season the snapper filet with salt and pepper and lightly coat with olive oil. Heat a sauté pan and add a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Sear the filet on one side, and then turn and sear on the other. Reduce the heat, and cook fish for a few more minutes until just cooked through.

In the meantime, put the leeks, sugar snap peas, ginger, and lemon grass in a small sauce pan. Add a little white wine and a touch of butter and heat through. Add the mussels and a half-cup of chicken stock, and cover until the mussels have opened, 1-2 minutes.

Serve the snapper over the risotto, topped with the mussels and vegetables. Sprinkle with a little chopped Italian parsley.