Restaurateur Ed Bailey is well known for his embrace of "big," but even by his standards, the new Patrizio Osteria in Southlake is over-the-top. With two stories, multiple patios and 8,900 square feet, it's the Cowboys Stadium of restaurants, so grand that the actual eating part can seem almost incidental.
Features include a fireplace outdoors, big-screen TVs and a 6-by-4-foot mural commemorating Italian food names such as Cento and Ferrari. From the glass rotunda enclosing a spiral staircase to expanses of marble and granite to the chandelier that looks like bubbles, this Patrizio is so outrageously opulent, it almost seems tongue-in-cheek.
Bailey gave his Prime Plus steakhouse chain -- now down to one branch at the Shops at Park Lane in Dallas -- a similar luxe treatment. But the ante here is raised; Bailey is partnered with property owner Oscar Renda, who added touches at the behest of his daughter Natalie. She's the one who suggested borrowing the idea for the "Champagne" chandelier from the Mix Restaurant/Lounge at the Hotel at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, and for bringing in Los Angeles artist Stuart Patterson to paint the mural. They've spent millions on this spot, and it shows.
Its opulence contrasts with Patrizio's reputation for solid Italian at affordable prices. But that's always been part of Patrizio's mission, even before Bailey bought it in 2006: to do a better version of Italian food in a nicer setting than the mediocre glop being served on cheap red-and-white-checked plastic tablecloths in suburban strip centers.
Southlake has the old Patrizio menu, with budget-friendly dishes such as angel hair pasta with artichokes for $13.36 or spaghetti with meat sauce for $9.81. Being able to eat a $10 entree in a high-end setting like this is unique.
But all parties involved, including Bailey, the Rendas, chef Luciano Salvadore and manager Ken Kuczwaj, are committed to offering more authentic Italian options and have supplemented the regular menu with an "Osteria" selection of unusual dishes using better ingredients. According to Kuczwaj, this will be the template for all future Patrizio's.
The salumi plate ($15.81) had Parmesan and Grana Padano cheese, prosciutto, olive tapenade, buttered toasts and a chunk of honeycomb. It wasn't a lavish or complicated plate; the collection of ingredients emphasized simplicity and excellence.
Another starter, titled "mozzarella" ($14.67), had the same minimalist approach, with a trio of cheeses on a rectangular plate, accompanied by thick grilled slices of bread and "aged" tomatoes -- like an extra-juicy version of sun-dried. The cheeses included an oval of buffalo mozzarella, a super-creamy knob of burrata cheese and mozzarella fior di latte, fresh and starkly white.
New entrees include red snapper, pork shank with polenta, and linguine with shrimp. Orecchiette alla Calabrese ($13.78) featured pleasing ear-shaped pasta, like little half rounds, topped with a ruddy house-made marinara sauce laced with crumbled sausage, sauteed peppers, slivers of garlic and a couple of broccoli florets, to add a little green. The sauce was lightly applied, just enough to color the pasta without overwhelming it. The combination of flavors -- sweet, savory and a shot of garlic for good measure -- made this an irresistible dish, and a prototypical standard-bearer for the new menu.
New pizza choices boasted terrific and uncommon toppings such as arugula with smoked speck and sweet Gorgonzola cheese ($11.91) or four-cheese with tomato, sausage and pine nuts ($12.26); you don't see pine nuts too often on a pizza. But more traditional diners can still find old standbys like pepperoni and meatball.
Satisfying though dinner may be, getting to eat it can feel like an obstacle course, beginning with the parking situation. If you don't like to valet, you're pretty much out of luck, as self-parking options are limited. There's also the fact that the place is a mob scene, getting the full embrace by Southlake residents of all stripes: from families and couples dining to 30-something singles who are thrilled with this swanky new bar.
The place doesn't take reservations, so if you go on a weekend, you're in for a wait. But hey, at least there's plenty to look at.