Sfuzzi -- Welcome Back!
This latest iteration of the venerable Cal-Ital plus pizza restaurant may be the best yet.
by Andrew Chalk
Can you believe that it was 1987 when Sfuzzi first burst on the Dallas dining scene? That was so long ago, can you remember who was on the throne back then? Was it Lincoln? Adams? No, it was Ronald Reagan. Since then, the country has seen six more presidents and Sfuzzi has seen almost as many reincarnations (this is the fourth).
The fourth time may be the charm. Current owners This and That Hospitality have form, with Ferris Wheelers, The Whippersnapper and other venues to their name. My visit, just a couple of weeks after opening, showed a restaurant with a staff that was still striving and eager, a menu that offers something for every palate, and a market-astute centrality of the bar and high-yielding cocktails to compete with anyone on Henderson Avenue.
Despite the tyranny of the cocktails I was actually quite impressed with the wine list. Almost every one of the 42 selections was a legitimate retail wine rather than a restaurant-only label of uncertain provenance. And ‘my corner’ of the list (pinot noir) gave me great choices and left me with good memories. I started with a 2019 Joseph Drouhin Burgundy ($14) and The Moll had a David Bynum Pinot Noir ($18) from California’s Russian River Valley. They were both excellent examples of their type with the David Bynum flaunting more fruit and the Drouhin more gout de terroir (literally, taste of the earth, but more epigramatically meaning earthiness, herbal, and savory aromas and flavors).
Our appetizer choices were calamari ($13) and Beef Carpaccio ($18). The calamari was prompted by the fact that ‘everyone’ has it and this would give us a chance to compare the new Sfuzzi with the competition. The Sfuzzi folks must be aware that they cannot just be as good as they were. The bar has moved, as they say. So has Sfuzzi, with serious dry crisp batter firmly wedded to the squid and an al dente cephalopod character that makes this calamari among the best I have had. Try it with, or without, the accompanying marinara sauce.
Beef carpaccio arrived exhuming truffle oil (which I like). One question I had was how Sfuzzi slices their prime filet so thinly. I found scraping with the side of a fork was the best way to get it off the plate in something resembling slices. Form aside, the taste of the beef, pickled red onion, caper gremolata, and spicy arugula was a major league success.
On to the second courses and the dreaded supply-chain woes hit us with no Spicy Vodka Rigatoni, so I settled for Pesto Fusilli ($22), a spiral pasta dish with slices of chicken, sun-dried tomato and parmesan cheese tossed in a creamy basil pesto sauce. This was a substantial helping and I actually took some home for lunch the next day. The moll focused her champagne taste eyes on the Sea Bass ($34), oven baked and served with a puttanesca sauce, and the most expensive item on the menu. The sea bass was perfectly cooked, flaking under the bite and carrying that distinctive sea bass taste. The puttanesca sauce was rich in tomato and olives, the latter supplying brackishness and acid to keep the sauce alive in the mouth.
As a side we chose Mac n' Cheese ($12) in which the pasta came wrapped in the creamiest, sweetest sauce.
Staying with pinot noir I ordered a 2020 Latour Bourgogne Rouge ($18) and the moll got a 2020 Foris from Oregon. I expected this pinot noir to be much closer to the French style than the David Bynum, given the different climate in Oregon. However, it was much sweeter, although I don’t know why. Overall, the first two wines were the best of our four.
We sat indoors but on leaving, and feeling the balmy air, regretted not choosing the wraparound balcony at the Sfuzzi space that used to be the Capital Pub. Another patio plus is that you can bring your dog (or boa constrictor) for fun on the balcony.
Our waitress, Genesis (sp), was always around and eager to please. Despite it being early in the week the pandemic is over and the dining room got more full all the time that we were there after our early start (6pm). Henderson Avenue was, as they say, throbbing.
At one time, Sfuzzi had a score of sites across the Metroplex. If they carry on like this they may go supernova again!
Disclosure: This was a media event.