This splashy Design District newcomer isn’t trying to be an authentic Italian restaurant, but the kitchen shows reverence for the cuisine, particularly in its crudos, handmade pastas, and wood-grilled seafood (don’t miss the roasted oysters topped with fine-diced pepperoni and the arctic char with salsa verde and tangy tomatillo). Chef J. Chastain, an alumnus of Stephan Pyles and the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, adds creative flourishes, like Texan and Latin accents, to regional Italian dishes (think beef short ribs with chimichurri and pickled Fresno chiles). The white-bolognese cappelloni—handmade pasta “hats” stuffed with a veal-and-pork ragù and lapped with Parmesan cream—sound traditional Northern Italian, but Chastain enhances this classic dish with crispy dried-olive bits and crunchy bread crumbs. Charred octopus atop earthy pureed chickpeas was delicious, its wood-grilled note balanced and brightened by mint pesto and pickled radishes. Our vegetables benefitted from the grill as well; charred broccoli spears bore a hint of smoke (a rustic tomato sofrito proved a good complement). Paprika-infused creste di gallo pasta with rock shrimp packed more chile heat than we expected, so we soothed our tongues with a rich and velvety chocolate budino accented by sweet-tart candied kumquats. We can’t wait to explore more of the menu. The restaurant’s decor echoes the kitchen’s Italian-with-a-twist theme: black lace curtains play off upholstered leopard-print banquettes; ornate Roman capitals top tall, airy frames (a cheeky riff on classic columns); and a mishmash of chandeliers and pendant lights glam up the place. The way owner Chas Martin works the high-energy dining room, you’d think he were welcoming guests to a party at his house.
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This splashy Design District spot shows reverence for Italian cuisine, especially handmade pastas, crudos, and wood-grilled seafood.