North Italia embraces the season
The winter menu at North Italia restaurants in Dallas and Plano includes dishes with seasonal ingredients such as butternut squash, figs, rainbow cauliflower and hazelnuts. We stopped in for the new crispy eggplant Parmesan and handmade butternut squash anolini pasta topped with roasted hazelnuts. But then we spotted porchetta on the menu. North Italia’s version — a pork belly riff on the slow-roasted, crispy-skin pork middles famously served in Rome — didn’t quite transport us to Italy, but we sure enjoyed the flight.
2301 N. Akard St., Dallas, 972-619-3770, northitalia.com
Escondido: Small in size, big in flavor
It seems odd that restaurateur Jon Alexis chose Escondido (Spanish for “hidden”) as the name for his new restaurant, as it sits at a busy corner of a prominent intersection, but we’re glad it’s no secret. Alexis, a seafood expert who also owns Malibu Poke and TJ’s Seafood Market & Grill, has wisely partnered with accomplished chef Stan Rodrigues on this landlocked venture. With scratch cooking and strong neighborhood appeal, it offers just 70 seats inside and a nearly equal number on the patio. While the place is compact, Rodrigues’ flavors and creativity go big. Alexis and Rodrigues hope the one-page menu of Tex-Mex staples and combo plates suits the neighborhood. But with “bacon-fried” refried beans, ancho-butter fajitas, roasted corn fritters and huevos rancheros served all day, it will motivate us to drive there, too.
5950 Royal Lane, Dallas, 214-471-5929, escondidodallas.com