For Zaza Pachulia, Atlanta began to feel much more like a permanent home this summer.
The 25-year-old native of the country of Georgia signed a new contract with the Atlanta Hawks, a four-year, $19 million deal.
“I really felt like this is my hometown and I can definitely live for the rest of my life in this city,” Mr. Pachulia told GlobalAtlanta.
With a growing attachment to Atlanta, Mr. Pachulia went one step further in cementing his future here. He purchased Eno, a restaurant and wine bar on Peachtree Street just two blocks from the Fox Theater.
Mr. Pachulia invited GlobalAtlanta on a tour of the restaurant, which he has renamed Eno by Zaza.
“Dining is one of my favorite things, especially after the games,” said Mr. Pachulia.
He was already a fan of Eno, describing it as “quiet and classy.” Shortly after signing the new contract with the Hawks, he heard Eno was for sale and began negotiating with the restaurant’s owner, Doug Strickland.
“When we were negotiating, I was coming here almost every day, meeting the servers, sitting in different places,” said Mr. Pachulia. “I was dining, checking things out, enjoying my dinner.”
Shortly after he purchased the restaurant, Mr. Pachulia headed to Tbilisi, an Atlanta sister city and the capital of Georgia, a country of 4.6 million people situated between Turkey and Russia. While in Georgia this summer, he played for the Georgian national basketball team and visited with family. Mr. Pachulia owns a hotel in Tbilisi, which his mother manages.
He also found time to visit the Khanvanchkara winery and to negotiate a private label for wine he will sell at Eno by Zaza.
Then it was back to the U.S. where Mr. Pachulia recently started Hawks training camp and celebrated the birth of his second child, a son named Saba.
Meanwhile, Eno by Zaza was gaining national television exposure. Chef Eli Kirshtein is a contestant in the Top Chef competition on Bravo Network.
Also, Sandra Saakashvili, the first lady of Georgia, dined at Eno by Zaza during a trip to Atlanta in September. Mr. Pachulia envisions the restaurant as a gathering place for the Georgian community. Although Eno’s menu is European Mediterranean, Georgian wine will be available to customers. There is no Georgian restaurant in Atlanta.
Mr. Pachulia, who is beginning his fifth year as an Atlanta Hawk, is not involved in the day-to-day management of the restaurant. However, even as as a rookie in the restaurant business, he has already decided on a few changes, including opening for lunch and staying open later at night so he and his teammates can eat there after Hawks games.
“My number one job – the place to be – is on the court, basketball, the Atlanta Hawks,” said Mr. Pachulia. “This is where all my focus goes. I was already going to restaurants for lunch and dinner. Instead of going somewhere else, I’ll be coming here most of the time. Now I have my own place.”