An upscale Mexican restaurant with the ambitious name Casi Cielo — “Almost Heaven” — is coming to the new City Springs district, where Sandy Springs is making its own ambitious attempt to create a new downtown.
Casi Cielo, under construction now in the Modera Sandy Springs mixed-use development at 6125 Roswell Road, comes from the owners of La Parrilla, an Atlanta-based chain that is the official Mexican restaurant of the Atlanta United soccer team.
Casi Cielo, an upscale casual dining restaurant focuses on an Oaxacan menu. Oaxaca, a state in southwestern Mexico, is known for its indigenous people and cultures, including food focusing on cheese, mezcal, grasshoppers and chocolate.
The 135-seat restaurant with a patio is expected to open in late August and is just a stone’s throw from the new City Springs, a $229 million mixed-use civic center. For updates, see casicieloatl.com.
The menu from Executive Chef Juan Ruiz of Bogota, Colombia, will feature specialties such as sous-vide and charcoal-baked octopus and lobster, foie gras meatballs with tenderloin tartar, mole sauce, grasshopper salt for cocktails and chocolate lava cake with guajillo chili. Ruiz is making his debut in the U.S. at Casi Cielo after working at Michelin star restaurants in Panama and Spain.
Juan Fernando Henao is vice president of Casi Cielo. He started working at his family business, La Parrilla, when he 16, and has worked in all areas of the restaurant industry, from dishwasher on up. We asked him about the new restaurant.
Q. Why did you choose to open in Sandy Springs?
A. Sandy Springs has grown so much in the past few years and has truly become one of the best areas for restaurants, businesses and the community members in general. We chose a mixed development space for Casi Cielo because it guarantees foot traffic. Sandy Springs is also a very central location and is only a short drive away from all of the greater Atlanta area neighborhoods. Lastly, Roswell Road has become one of the best streets to go out to eat in Atlanta. This area is really booming with culture and we felt like Atlanta was ready for this other version of authentic, refined Mexican food.
Q. How did you decide on the name of the restaurant, which translates in English to “Almost Heaven”?
A. It has been a benchmark in the language, standing for something that is very hard to reach. The word “cielo” [“sky” or “heaven”] in Spanish is a very beautiful word in itself but it also has both spiritual and magical aspects in the Spanish language. For example, as a kid, when you ask your parents, “How much do you love me?”, your parents would respond, “To the sky.”
Q. How was Chef Juan Ruiz selected for Casi Cielo?
A. I met him through mutual friends in the food and beverage industry, but what really got my attention was his passion for traveling and cooking and how is passion showed whenever he began talking about food. He has worked in so many different countries with distinct cultures and has learned how to cook for people with differing backgrounds. He’s the type of chef that enjoys a nice meal in a Michelin star restaurant, but will also eat tacos in a plaza in Mexico. As a person, a friend and a husband, he is someone you want to be around. Essentially, we knew he was the right fit for Casi Cielo due to his passion for good food, his immense knowledge of culture and his talent in the kitchen.
Q. What was it like growing up and working at La Parrilla?
A. When I was growing up, working at La Parrilla was a fun experience, but I actually wanted to be a lawyer at the time. I fell in love with the food and beverage industry and the environment at La Parrilla so I decided to stay. The hospitality industry is one of the few businesses that people thank you and come back for more. There aren’t many businesses in the world where you can generate the same feeling and loyalty from your customers or guests.