Chef Leigh Hutchinson remembers the moment her future came into focus. It was nearly two decades ago, and the then twenty-year-old college student was standing on the Piazza della Repubblica, in Florence. “I even remember what I was wearing,” she told me with a laugh. At that moment, the third-generation Italian American knew she wanted to open a restaurant in her hometown of Dallas, the kind of place that was intimate and warm, where the owner knew customers by name.  

Her dream took a while and then some. She had gone to Italy on a semester abroad, immersing herself in its culture and foodways. (She would also eventually visit all but one of the country’s twenty regions.) But she didn’t return to Italy until 2015, when she went to Florence to complete a certificate program at the well-regarded Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici and study one-on-one with a local chef. Back in the States, she worked in kitchens in Dallas and in Buffalo, where her uncle owned two Italian restaurants. “I would make pasta in the afternoon at one,” she said, “and then help cook at night in the other.” 

The years passed and, as dreams do, hers morphed. “I initially imagined something tiny, like four tables, where I cooked whatever inspired me,” she said. Of course, a restaurant with four tables would not have lasted four days in present-day Dallas, but the spirit of Hutchinson’s adorably naive plan is evident at the sixty-seat Via Triozzi, which she finally opened in August (she named it for the street she lived on in Scandicci, a small town southwest of Florence).  

The lasagne al forno.
The lasagna. Photograph by Brittany Conerly

She cooks most nights, with the assistance of executive chef Sonia Mancillas, and if things aren’t too busy, she enjoys stopping by tables to say hello and share a story or two about favorite dishes. Take, for instance, the coccoli: yeasty orbs of deep-fried dough accompanied by soft, spreadable stracchino cheese and gossamer slices of San Daniele prosciutto. The array is designed to impress, but in fact coccoli are a lesson in waste not, want not. Hutchinson’s Sicilian American grandmother Angelina (“Nani Angie”) taught her to make similar snacks as a way to use up leftover dough. 

The arancini, another thrifty dish, are anything but routine here, with a pinch of saffron, good made-in-house mozzarella, and spot-on frying. Just as surprising is the exemplary cacio e pepe, with its perfectly al dente spaghetti, freshly grated pecorino romano, and shower of pungent black pepper. 

Those who are pining for more hearty dishes from Italy’s vast repertoire will find a rustic chicken cacciatore, with tender pieces of meat in a zesty sauce of tomatoes, onions, and green and red bell peppers. Hutchinson’s lasagna, with besciamella and a long-stewed pork-and-beef Bolognese strewn with pecorino, is nonna caliber. And meatballs? Of course there are meatballs—classy polpette made with beef and pork sitting in a lovely pool of light, fresh-tasting tomato sauce. My only quibble was with their texture, which was dauntingly dense. 

Chef Leigh Hutchinson. Photograph by Brittany Conerly
The coccoli, with stracchino cheese and San Daniele prosciutto.
The coccoli, with stracchino cheese and San Daniele prosciutto. Photograph by Brittany Conerly

Because Texans love their beef, steak is on the menu, specifically a sixteen-ounce grilled Texas Wagyu New York strip. It’s seasoned alla fiorentina with good olive oil and a little sea salt. An excellent side is the grilled Romano beans topped with toasted pine nuts. Simmered with small, sweet tomatoes and cipollini, the flat green beans arrive on a bed of pureed cannellini beans. (“I have had guests say, ‘That hummus was great!’ ” Hutchinson told me with a laugh.)  

By the time you make your way to dessert, you may be tempted to go with something familiar, such as tiramisu, but a more novel choice is the cannolo sbagliato. For this version of the famous sweet, Hutchinson keeps the traditional creamy ricotta filling (and the garnishes of candied orange peel, cacao nibs, and crushed pistachios) but ditches the usual fried pastry shell for a quartet of pizzelle: fragile, crispy-edged cookies cooked in a press that resembles a small waffle iron. As the evening drew to a close, I picked up the last pizzella by the edge and scooped up a bite of filling. This dish, I thought, evokes tradition, honoring it and also gently reimagining it for the modern world, not unlike Via Triozzi itself.  

Via Triozzi
1806 Greenville Ave, Dallas
D Wed–Mon. $$$
Opened August 23, 2023

This article originally appeared in the January 2024 issue of Texas Monthly with the title “The Italian Job.”  Subscribe today.