By Meda Kessler and June Naylor
Stefano Secchi: Hitting it big in the Big Apple
When we profiled chef Stefano Secchi a couple of years ago, his culinary career was on an upward trajectory. Since then he has gotten married, started a family, moved to New York City and opened a restaurant. Rezdôra celebrates Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, home to Parmigiano cheese, tortellini and balsamico. Last month, The New York Times awarded Rezdôra three stars, heaping praise on its handmade pastas and more. Others have fallen in love with the eatery, too, including The New Yorker and the New York Post, which called the pastas “sinfully delicious.” As we noted early out, Secchi knows his way around the cucina. He spent years cooking in Italy, learning the art of handmade pasta and modern Italian cuisine at Osteria Francescana and Hosteria Giusti — two of the most beloved Italian restaurants in the world. Secchi’s cooking is so popular, reservations at his tiny restaurant in the Flatiron neighborhood book up to 30 days in advance. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to jet to New York to enjoy some of his culinary magic. During his time in Texas, he deeply influenced the handmade pasta menu at his parents’ two DFW restaurants, Ferrari’s Italian Villa & Chop House in Grapevine and Addison (ferrarisrestaurant.com), which both received a Times shoutout as Secchi’s launchpads. 27 E. 20th St., rezdora.nyc.
Malai Kitchen Southlake gets bigger
Work is underway at the Park Village location to increase seating, add a private dining room and expand the brewery. With the popularity of Malai’s house brews, including the Thai PA, 3C Porter and seasonal pours, it has been difficult to keep up with demand at all three locations of the popular fusion restaurant.
Chef Point Restaurant & Bar
Fortified by 16 years of success at their gas-station-turned-bistro hot spot in Watauga, chef Franson Nwaeze and wife Paula Nwaeze expand their footprint with a second location. Opening this month in Colleyville, the expansive, modern restaurant and bar debuts with a slightly shortened version of its Watauga menu, serving signature items such as Italian nachos, lobster mac ’n’ cheese, cioppino, maple leaf duck, and chicken and waffles — each with a suggested wine pairing. The Colleyville store’s wine focus is augmented by the bar’s offering of its famous Bloody Best, a double-size bloody mary topped with a smorgasbord of garnishes, including fried chicken, slider, waffle fries, grilled shrimp, jalapeno, pickle and bacon. Happy hour is from 3-7 p.m. weekdays, lunch and dinner are served daily, and brunch is served weekends at 5220 Texas 121, Colleyville, chefpointcafe.org.
Hot Box Biscuit Club
It’s been almost three years since chefs Sarah Hooton and Matt Mobley first capitalized on brunch fever with their Hot Box Biscuit Club pop-ups in Fort Worth. The duo, friends since teaching in culinary school together more than a decade ago, open their first permanent HBBC cafe this month in the Near Southside’s South Main Village. What’s different at the restaurant? “You get to pick what you want to eat instead of only whatever we’d decided to serve that day,” says Mobley, referring to the in-the-works menu. Organized by courses, there are starters as well as entrees, and you can be sure there are plenty of biscuit-sandwich offerings. Expect to enjoy greatest hits, such as pimento cheese hush puppies, all kinds of deviled eggs, fried green tomatoes and the spicy chicken called Nashville Bling, as well as plenty of surprises. Hooton’s in charge of desserts — Hot Box regulars count banana pudding and French silk pie among favorites — and the pastry-focused chef delivers more of the high-caliber sweets for which she was known during a long tenure at Central Market (where she also ran the cooking school). The chefs are discussing lighter options, as well. Beer, wine and specialty cocktails are available. Breakfast and lunch only Tuesday through Sunday at 313 S. Main St., Fort Worth, hotboxbiscuitco.com.
Piaf Kitchen + Wine + Bar
Fabien and Yasmine Goury, owners of the ever-popular Main Street Bistro & Bakery in Grapevine, add another restaurant just across the historic thoroughfare. Opening Piaf Kitchen + Wine + Bar this month in the two-story space formerly housing the shuttered San Daniele, the pair offers a menu showcasing coastal Mediterranean food. “That eclectic mix includes cuisines from the south of France, Sardinia, Corsica and even Morocco,” says Yasmine of her chef-husband’s cooking. The name honors legendary French singer Edith Piaf and plays on the “little bird” translation of the French word piaf. “We like the idea of gathering things to build a nest, and gathering food and drink, which is the idea of the Grapevine community,” Yasmine says. Look for pizza, flatbread and roasted cauliflower to come from the wood-burning oven and an extensive wine list and craft cocktails menu to be enjoyed downstairs in the main dining room or upstairs on the balcony the Gourys are calling The
Perch. Seating is for about 120 (there’s private-dining space for 40). Opening for lunch and dinner daily and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. 129 S. Main St., Grapevine, piafkitchen.com.
Zoli’s Pizza and Pasta
The parking lot and landscaping are in around the Quonset hut-style building off Hulen Street, and work is visible inside through the windows as Zoli’s hopes to make its Fort Worth debut by the end of September. Owner Jay Jerrier, who also owns Cane Rosso on Magnolia Avenue in Fort Worth, wants this location to be a home run. (Zoli’s originated in Oak Cliff, got chased off by development and then opened in Addison). Our fingers are crossed, as we’re fans of Zoli’s hefty crusts (the opposite of the thin versions served at Cane Rosso). There’s much more to the menu, though. Think massive chicken Parm sandwiches, bowls of rich carbonara, and brunchy foods such as smoked brisket hash and fried egg toast. Even the burgers are solid. Chef Lee Hunzinger, the quiet one to Jerrier’s jokester, is responsible for Zoli’s culinary kudos. We’ll give a nod to his Long Island roots for that. Jerrier has mentioned expanding the menu with the addition of a wood-fired grill and wanting to do some “fun things” with Fort Worth’s Swiss Pastry Shop and Heim Barbecue. While Zoli’s offers some killer desserts, look for a walk-up window for soft-serve ice cream from Cow Tipping Creamery. Look for updates on the Zoli’s Fort Worth Facebook page. 3501 S. Hulen St., zolispizza.com.
SAVE THE DATE
Chefs for Farmers Food & Wine Festival | Nov. 1-3
Tickets are on sale for Dallas’ largest culinary bash. In addition to lots of Big D’s glitterati, including Dean Fearing and John Tesar, the lineup also features Misti Norris of Petra and The Beast — named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs this spring — and Matt Pittman of Meat Church in Waxahachie. Fort Worth favorites in the mix are Kevin Martinez of Tokyo Cafe and Juan Rodriguez of Magdalena’s; Jennifer Brightman, a Dallas caterer and former chef at The Classic Café in Roanoke (where she mentored Rodriguez) is joining in the fun, too. Events include a sake-pairings dinner at Uchiba, the popular Japanese bistro in Uptown; a bourbon dinner at 18th & Vine, the elevated barbecue joint near the Design District; Street Food Night Market at Victory Park; and the vast food-and-drink walk-around party, Main Event at Dallas Heritage Village, immediately south of downtown (ticket prices vary). For all details, visit chefsforfarmers.com.
Te Deseo spices up Uptown with cool menu, cocktails
Harwood Hospitality (Dolce Riviera, Happiest Hour, Mercat Bistro) is behind this Latin and Tex-Mex spot, which transforms into a lively cocktail party late at night fueled by a collection of more than 100 tequilas and mezcals. The chef, Ty Thaxton, has cooked in Cabo San Lucas and Cancun, a background that helps pull Te Deseo’s ambitious menu together. He makes easy work of everything, from small plates and ceviches to an Argentina-inspired grilled beef feast. After dinner, stay for the salsa band or head up to the rooftop patio bar for cigars and a nightcap. Make a reservation for tomorrow on your way out. 2700 Olive St., Dallas, 214-646-1314, tedeseodallas.com.
Nosh Bistro — and Avner Samuel — back in business
Three Dallas culinary icons have joined forces to reprise a long-shuttered but beloved Dallas restaurant. Chef Avner Samuel has reincarnated Nosh Bistro, his short-lived upscale restaurant — on the edge of Highland Park — that turned south with the economy. At the new Nosh, in the former Dish restaurant space, Samuel runs the kitchen with assists from talented Dallas chefs Bruce Zalk, Lori Finkelman and former Fearing’s pastry whiz Jill Bates. Samuel says he has spent most of the past few years cooking in Israel, but family ties (and a new wife) pulled him back. He has been plotting Nosh’s return the entire time. “Dallas restaurants have gotten stagnant. We have too many people doing the same thing, and most of them don’t have good culinary training. People here deserve more than burgers and the same 20 dishes you find everywhere.” So what’s on Nosh’s menu? A mishmash of modern Mediterranean dishes (falafel, hummus enriched with eggplant, za’atar-crusted tuna, sumac-dusted scallops with red beet Israeli couscous) plus familiar touchstones (roasted lamb, artichoke ravioli with brown butter, beef filet with fois gras butter). You’ll also find Samuel’s tortilla soup, the now-famous recipe he created while he was top chef at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in the 1980s, plus a tasting menu and nightly specials. “Customers don’t want to eat in fancy restaurants anymore, but they deserve fantastic cooking and great hospitality. We’re going to give them that.” 8611 Hillcrest Ave., Dallas, 469-730-2400, noshbistrodallas.com.
Jasper’s returns with new look, attitude
Once a Dallas culinary beacon, Abacus restaurant is now Jasper’s. The elegant Uptown restaurant that first catapulted chef Kent Rathbun (and Dallas) into the culinary limelight closed earlier this summer for a makeover, reopening a few weeks ago. Like Rathbun, who split with the ownership group in 2016, Abacus’ white tablecloths, hushed voices and most of its original Asian fusion menu are out. So are most of Abacus’ lofty prices. Bright decor, an upbeat soundtrack and a new name are in. But what of Abacus’ famous lobster shooters? They’ve made the jump to chef Chad Bowden’s new menu, along with a tight selection of sushi, steaks and Jasper’s irresistible blue cheese potato chips. 4511 McKinney Ave., Dallas, 214-559-3111, abacusjaspers.com.
All plants, all the time
Hillary Biediger, founder of Juice Junkies in Fort Worth and Keller, is now offering her own line of plant-based organic foods. It’s part of her new business, called Beedigger’s, in which she is partnering with her sister, Gretchen Biediger Hines. Beedigger’s first offering is Creamy Cheeze Sauce, sold by the jar freshly made and refrigerated. The sauce is dairy free, gluten free and soy free and uses no GMOs. And it looks exactly like melted yellow cheese. Beedigger’s provides several vegan recipes on its website, including Broccoli Cheeze Soup, Loaded Nachos and The Ultimate Baked Spaghetti. We made our own version of the mac and cheese and were pleasantly surprised by the creamy texture and flavor of the sauce. While it lacks the gooey richness of a dairy cheese, it’s a fine substitute for those who choose a plant-based diet. $9 for a 15-ounce jar. Find it at both locations of Juice Junkies: 925 Foch St., Fort Worth, 817-885-7775, and 261 Town Center Lane, Suite 2109, Keller, 817-741-3665. Check out the website, beediggers.com, for complete nutritional info. Look for more products including creamy salad dressings and a veggie chili in the future.
IN THE WORKS
The Shopping News
Will Fort Worth support a downtown grocery store — for longer than others have survived? Kyle and Ashlee Cowan, both chefs, are betting on it with their Neighbor’s House Grocery, a handsome-looking retail/dining concept. The target opening date is Oct. 1; watch for announcements this month, including word of an event with proceeds benefiting the Humane Society. The grocery’s airy space will be stocked with approximately 2,000 different items, including household products and everyday foods at prices the Cowans are working to keep reasonable and competitive. They’re aiming to compete with something like Central Market on quality of food offerings and also hope people will embrace the shop as their neighborhood store — like a bodega in New York. Neighbor’s House will offer thoughtful services, including meat and produce butchering (the latter for your fruit and veggie prep work), a recipe-fulfillment service (they’ll bag up everything you need for a recipe you send in), and grab-and-go meals and meal kits. Look for local products, such as Sons of Liberty coffees, baked goods from Pearl Snap Kolaches and The Proof Bakery, and twice-a-week vegan meals from Nature’s Plate. Dine in and check out the wine bar (a wine wall holds 1,200 bottles), a salad station with premium protein options, a grilled cheese bar with eight or nine choices, a cold-pressed juice bar and an in-house location of Rollin’ n Bowlin’ for acai bowls. Neighbor’s House will be the first street-level tenant to open in First on 7th, a thorough reimagining of the old Bank of America building, across from Burnett Plaza (look for Buon Giorno, the popular local coffeehouse, to open this winter). Parking will be free for customers across Sixth Street in the First on 7th garage (formerly the Bank of America garage). Look for it at 500 W. 7th St., Fort Worth, neighborshousegrocery.com.
— Marilyn Bailey