Restaurant Reviews DFW

Luciano Salvadore on Early Career Beginnings and Coming to America

Perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in the realm of Dallas fine dining is Southlake. Known for its lavish neighborhoods and shopping centers, the city of Southlake boasts a variety of fine dining experiences. Although Southlake may be a bit of a drive, lovers of Italian food should most certainly pay a visit to Il Calabrese.

Il Calabrese is the brainchild of  Luciano Salvadore. From a young age, Salvadore was passionate about food. He studied culinary arts in Italy and graduated from The Recoaro Terme Culinary School at just 17 years old.

“School was pretty easy for me,” Salvadore says. “The hard part comes after. School is just pen and paper, but when you start cooking, it becomes a much harder process. Even now, 40 years after finishing school, I still find new ideas and challenges.”

Calamari Fritti from Il Calabrese (Via Facebook)

Despite owning one of the biggest, and most acclaimed restaurants in Southlake, Salvadore is always sure to keep an open mind. He believes that no matter how far one comes in their career, there is always room for improvement.

“A lot of people come out of culinary school thinking they know everything, and that’s the worst thing you could do,” Salvadore says. “There is something to be learned from everyone. Always be humble, be polite, and be respectful to others.”

Salvadore has lived by this code since the early beginning of his career. He came back and forth from Italy three times before he finally opened Il Calabrese.

“The first time I came to America, I told myself ‘if it doesn’t work out here, it’ll just be a vacation’” Salvadore says. “I worked in six different places my first year here. This guy hired me to help open a restaurant in January of that year. It didn’t end up opening until May, so in between that time, he had me helping out his friends in different restaurants all over town for anywhere between two weeks and two months at a time. Once the restaurant where I was working opened in May, I worked there for six months, then I moved back to Italy. Everything here was all too much for me.”

Salvadore’s return to Italy, however, didn’t last long.

“You grow to miss America,” Salvadore says. “Your mentality in your career changes when you get to America. You become open to more challenges. There’s a lot more competition in Dallas’s restaurant industry, but there are also a lot more opportunities to thrive.”

Insalata di Mare from Il Calabrese (Via Facebook)

Salvadore cites American eating habits as major factors in his decision to return to the states.

“In Italy, they go out to eat for special occasions, like birthdays,” Salvadore says. “Americans eat out seven days a week. There are a lot of people here who don’t mind spending money on different products, therefore, it is easier to work and make money here.”

Il Calabrese makes their tortellini in-house (Via Facebook)

Since Il Calabrese’s opening in 2014, Salvadore has certainly proven that by being open to challenges and new ideas, one will most certainly see success. Il Calabrese offers a variety of Italian dishes with ingredients sourced directly from Italy.

Il Calabrese is located at 1281 E State Hwy 114, Southlake, TX 76092. They are open seven days a week, from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Restaurant Reviews DFW

Bar Manzanilla Joins Irving’s Big Beat Dallas

With the popularity of the Toyota Music Factory, Irving is quickly becoming DFW’s newest art and nightlife district. Visits and outings to Irving/Las Colinas are expected to exponentially increase with the opening of Big Beat Dallas this Thursday.

Big Beat Dallas is an amalgamation of a Texan’s two favorite things; food and live music. It is a project ten years in the making by Billy Bob Barnett,  founder of Billy Bob’s Texas, one of Dallas’s most famous country dancing clubs.

Upon opening this Thursday, Big Beat Dallas will be home to five original restaurant and bar concepts, seven live music stages, an open-air plaza, and a rancher’s market. Big Beat Dallas will also host live music performances every single night.

One of Big Beat Dallas’s five new restaurants is Bar Manzanilla. Bar Manzanilla is a coastal taqueria and tequila bar offering guests a variety of cocktails and dishes with impeccably fresh ingredients. I had the privilege of trying Bar Manzanilla last week at an exclusive media preview lunch. Based on my experience, I can say that Bar Manzanilla is most certainly promising.

First and foremost, if you plan on going out to Big Beat Dallas, I would highly suggest going the Lyft route or parking somewhere nearby. The parking garage was nearly packed to the brim. I can’t even imagine how it will be once the pavilion officially opens to the public.

To kick things off, I tried their house mule. It came served in authentic Mexican pottery and was jam-packed with ginger and lime flavor. As a lover of mules, I was fully satisfied with the taste and presentation of Bar Manzanilla’s version. However, given the drink’s price, I would’ve preferred a larger serving.

Bar Manzanilla’s mule, served in authentic Mexican pottery (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

For appetizers, my party and I ordered the Campechana Ceviche and the Chicken Tinga and Cheese Nachos. The ceviche was thick and had the consistency of tomato soup. The chunks of shrimp, scallops, octopus, and crab were plentiful, giving the dip a perfect amount of meatiness.

Campechana Ceviche (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Normally, I don’t care for nachos, but I think that’s because a lot of restaurants make them greasy and oily. Bar Manzanilla’s Chicken Tinga and Cheese Nachos were a marvelous exception. Rather than the typical tortilla chips slathered with Velveeta, Bar Manzanilla’s nachos come baked, topped with Queso Oaxaca, avocado, crema, and pulled chicken. The chicken was seasoned and cooked to where it had the perfect amount of spice and sweetness. Despite being topped with so many ingredients, the chips remained crisp and didn’t get chewy and floppy as most nachos do.

Chicken Tinga and Cheese Nachos (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

For the main course, I ordered the Beef Barbacoa tacos. These tacos contain slow braised brisket, guajillo aioli, queso fresco, shredded cabbage and avocado with radish. The combination of the ingredients made for the most savory tacos I had ever tasted in a bar/grill style restaurant. Albeit somewhat Americanized, these tacos were hot, fresh, and flavorful.

Beef Barbacoa Tacos (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

To wrap things up, my party and I ordered the Avocado Creme Brulee and the Coconut Tres Leches. The Avocado Creme Brulee may sound a bit eccentric, but it was surprisingly very good. Although the taste is very discernable from that of a traditional creme brulee, the avocado still allowed for creamy, custard-y goodness.

Avocado Creme Brulee (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

The Coconut Tres Leches cake was also quite delectable. Personally, I prefer coconut products in place of dairy products, so I was excited to try this. Although the portion appears to be small, it is just the right serving size to where one won’t feel uncomfortably full upon finishing.

Coconut Tres Leches cake (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Overall, I was highly satisfied with my visit to Bar Manzanilla. If Big Beat Dallas’s other restaurants are able to match Bar Manzanilla’s quality and service, the new music and dining epicenter is guaranteed to be a nightlife staple for years to come.

Big Beat Dallas will be having grand opening events beginning this Thursday through Sunday. For a full list of festivities, be sure to check out Big Beat Dallas’s event calendar.

Restaurant Reviews DFW

Pascal Cayet Shares Secrets to Making a Restaurant Feel Like Home

Perhaps one of Dallas’s best-kept secrets is Lavendou Bistro. The provincial style restaurant, which rests outside of far north Dallas’s Bent Trail neighborhood, specializes in authentic French cuisine. Although French culture is often associated with luxury and hyper-romance, owner and operator Pascal Cayet wants for Lavendou to have a more familial feel.

“I opened up my first restaurant, Chez Girard, in 1984 on McKinney Avenue,” Cayet says. “It was a country, French restaurant, but I wanted to do something different.”

Cayet eventually sold Chez Girard, then opened up Lavendou Bistro in 1996.

“Lavendou is more of a Provençal restaurant, inspired by south of France,” Cayet says. “A couple of friends and I had gone on vacation in the south of France and wanted to recreate some of the feelings and bring them over here.”

French onion soup from Lavendou Bistro (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

And thus, Lavendou Bistro was born. Since its opening nearly 22 years ago, the menu has stayed relatively the same. Lavendou has since become well known for its signature items, including their souffle.

“Not too many people do souffle anymore,” Cayet says. “It’s very time consuming, but making a good souffle is a matter of having the right ingredients, the combination, and the right oven. In the beginning, making a souffle can be challenging, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy.”

Having built a strong customer base over the course of the past two decades, Cayet has made very few changes to the menu, for the sake of the customers.

“I think some of my customers might kill me if they saw that their favorite item was no longer on the menu,” Cayet says humorously. “Oftentimes, they come in with the same order each time, which is why we try to keep our menu consistent.”

Tournedos Félix Faure (via Facebook)

Both Cayet and his customers are very fortunate to have had much of the same staff working in Lavendou since its opening.

“We’ve had the same cooks, the same servers, and same waiting staff for almost 22 years,” Cayet says. “Most of our patrons are regulars, so the servers know their customers’ orders by heart.”

Lavendou Bistro’s signature crème brûlée (via Facebook)

Because of the fact that Cayet has emphasized consistency in his operations, this has established a sense of familiarity with Lavendou’s customers, allowing them to feel at home. Guests are often so satisfied with their experience that they will often bring new customers into the mix.

“Sometimes, bringing in new customers can be a challenge, since everything tends to stay the same,” Cayet says. “But luckily, our regular customers bring in their friends and family all the time, so we pull in a lot of new customers organically.”

Whether you try the gooey goodness that is Lavendou’s French onion soup, or one of their delicious soufflé, customers are in for an authentic French experience at Lavendou.

On April 1, Lavendou will be having an Easter Sunday brunch, featuring a special menu. Tickets run at $42.95 each, plus beverage, tax, and gratuity. Call (972)-248-1911 to make your reservation today.

Restaurant Reviews DFW

Bob Jackson Shares Keys to Successfully Operating a Business

“If the customer is wrong, pretend,” Bob Jackson says regarding his store’s approach to customer service. Jackson is the founder of Jackson’s Home and Garden, a longstanding home and garden supply store in Dallas. For 35 years, Jackson has sold a variety of fixtures, plants, furniture, and grilling fixtures to the Dallas community.

“People come from all over Texas, as well as other states, just to shop here,” Jackson says. “They love the unique patio furniture and different grills we carry. They also love our customer service compared to that of other stores.”

The “Green Egg” grill is one of many items Jackson’s Home and Garden has to offer. (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

In order to ensure that Jackson’s Home and Garden is providing customers with the best customer service, Jackson will sometimes send his employees on “secret shopping” missions to competing retail chains.

“We look to see how friendly their employees are to their customers,” Jackson says. “We also look to see how knowledgeable they are about the products they are selling. Over here, we train our people. We want them to know everything about what we sell and we don’t like to let them go once they’re trained.”

In Jackson’s office sits a placard that reads “Treat employees like they make a difference, and they will.” Jackson believes that the key to good customer service is to prioritize those providing the customer service.

“We love our employees,” Jackson says. “We like to retain them as long as we can, so we do all we can for them in terms of pay, insurance, holidays, and vacations. We care more about their success and happiness than we care about how much they can do for us.”

With good employee morale comes a positive customer experience. Apart from providing customer service with great fervor, Jackson keeps people coming back by offering unique and high-quality products. He has traveled to 36 different countries as a means of finding inspiration for the store and its product offerings.

Ceramic tabletops from Jackson’s Home and Garden (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

“The chandeliers we sell are handmade in Florence, Italy,” Jackson says. “The works of art are by artists from all over the world, and we buy them at trade shows throughout the country.”

The Jackson brand is one that is associated with quality, therefore he is making sure his family carries on the legacy for generations to come.

“My son Forrest is the Chief Operating Officer,”  Jackson says. “He runs the wholesale and manufacturing and has an overall view of the retail aspect. My son Hunter does all the photography for the website and the catalogs. He used to be the general manager, however, he now does photography for us and for his own clients.”

Maintaining a home and garden store with multiple departments and floors takes hard work, but even after 35 years in business, Jackson shows no signs of slowing down.

Jackson’s Home and Garden offers a variety of plants and flowers

“We will continue to do just what we do,” Jackson says. “I enjoy working and I am thankful to be in good health. I will soon be 73 years old, but I continue to work every day except for Sunday.”

Jackson’s Home and Garden is located at 6950 Lemmon Ave. in Dallas. They are open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Be sure to drop by on March 31 for Spring Open House! Come early for cooking demonstrations, food sampling, and Diamond Jim the Magician.

Restaurant Reviews DFW

Evandro Caregnato Prepares for DeLucca Opening

After having spent most of his life working in Brazilian Churrascaria restaurants, Chef Evandro Caregnato has decided that it’s time to go his own way. In a Churrascaria restaurant, guests pay a set price and servers, known as gauchos, walk around tables offering a variety of meats to the guests. Today, Caregnato will be opening DeLucca, a new restaurant in Southlake that will be serving pizza in the churrascaria style.

For as long as he could remember, Caregnato has had a passion for the culinary arts.

“Since I was a little kid, I have always loved helping my parents in the kitchen,” Caregnato says.

One of Caregnato’s first jobs was working in his grandfather’s restaurant, Churrascaria Caregnato, in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. He was later approached by the founding partners of a Dallas Churrascaria chain to assist in the opening of their restaurant. They sought his help in order to ensure that all of the operations were performed faithfully to Brazilian customs and traditions.

“I was at this chain for over 20 years,” Caregnato says, “But now, I feel it’s time to finally have something of my own.”

After having spent much of his career working in a chain, Caregnato wants to bring something unique to Dallas restaurant scene.

“In my hometown, we have something called ‘Rodizio pizza,’” Caregnato says. “The pizza is served in the similar style of the Churrascaria. It’s a beautiful concept, but there’s nothing like it in the states, as far as I know. I thought it would be cool to bring it here.”

DeLucca will be gracing Southlake with its ‘rotisserie pizza’ beginning on Wednesday. Caregnato refuses to settle for anything less than authentic perfection and has made sure to use the best appliances to prepare the menu offerings, despite any challenges he may have faced.

“Moving the pizza oven inside the building was a very difficult task,” Caregnato says. “It weighs about 7000 pounds. We have two ovens, this heavy one and a smaller one imported from Italy. Both are wood-burning ovens.”

These ovens will be used to bake a variety of pizza, including Kale & Bacon, Chicken Tikka Masala, and more. On the dessert side, guests can choose a Nutella pizza and a dulce de leche pizza.

“There’s not a such thing as a ‘Brazilian style pizza,” Caregnato says, “It’s about the way the pizza is served. With one set price, the customers get to try so many different styles, and we’re going to create several unique options.”

Upon DeLucca’s opening, Caregnato’s family will be playing a significant role in the restaurant’s operations.

“My wife has a lot of restaurant experience,” Caregnato says. “She has a great personality and will be running the show. I will be in charge of menu development and will be focusing on the food side. I will also be scouting out future locations, as I hope to duplicate the concept.”

DeLucca officially opens its doors to the public today. They will also be having a grand opening celebration on March 29th at 4:30 PM, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with a DJ and a laser show.

Restaurant Reviews DFW

Alberto Lombardi Details Early Career Beginnings, New Additions to Legacy West

While Dallas’s nightlife and dining scene is currently on an exponential rise, Alberto Lombardi has been a major driving force in the industry for decades. If you go out and about regularly in Uptown or in Knox Henderson, chances are, you’ve dined in one of Lombardi’s restaurants. Dining establishments, including Taverna, Lounge 31, and Toulouse are all fathered by Lombardi under his restaurant group, Lombardi Family Concepts.

From a young age, Lombardi knew that his lifelong career was destined to be in the realm of hospitality.

“I’ve been in this business since I was 13 years old,” Lombardi says. “I worked in Italy and went to school over there for three years. Then, when I was 16, I left for Berlin and worked in a hotel. After that, I went to Norway for six months, then worked on a cruise ship.”

Apart from his extensive European travels, Lombardi also worked in Miami and San Francisco, eventually finding his way to Dallas.

“I arrived in Dallas in 1974,” Lombardi says. “My first job in the city was managing The Venetian Room, which I did until 1976.”

After eventually parting ways with The Venetian Room, Lombardi opened his first restaurant, Lombardi, on McKinney Avenue in 1977. He later opened the first Taverna location in Knox Henderson, which has remained a staple in the city’s dining scene. He has expanded his empire by opening Taverna locations in Houston, Austin, Laguna Beach, Atlanta and most recently, Plano’s Legacy West shopping center.

One of Taverna’s many pizza options.

“When I first heard about the Legacy West project, I said ‘wow, let me put my concepts in,’” Lombardi says. “When I first came to Dallas, Plano was a rural area. There was nothing to do, but Legacy West is such an urban area where people can shop and go to restaurants. It’s amazing how much Plano has changed.”

Despite having opened Taverna’s Legacy West location only two months ago, Lombardi has shown no signs of slowing down. Earlier this year, Lombardi announced big changes would be taking place within Lombardi Family Concepts. These changes include his three daughters playing a larger role in the restaurant group’s operations.

“My daughter Laura will be handling marketing and my other daughter, Sarah, will be coordinating the menus,” Lombardi says. “Anna will be helping us with the technological side of the business. She’ll be maintaining our website and our social media handles.”

Apart from the big changes coming from within the company, Lombardi Family Concepts will also be expanding its territory by opening up Toulouse and Kai locations in Legacy West during the first quarter of the year.

“The Toulouse location in Dallas is more of a bistro,” Lombardi says. “The Legacy West location will be more like a brasserie. I believe it will be one of the most beautiful restaurants around here.”

Toulouse is set to open for Dinner beginning March 12. Also joining the Legacy West development will Lombardi’s newest concept, Kai Asian Bistro.

“Kai will consist of Asian fusion, a sushi lounge, and live music,” Lombardi says. “We plan to open at the beginning of April.”

Lombardi Family Concepts currently operated multiple restaurants across the Dallas metroplex. Also, be on the lookout for Toulouse and Kai’s new Legacy West locations opening soon.

Restaurant Reviews DFW

Bulla Gastrobar Brings Authentic Spanish Tapas to Plano

While Texans are known to be lovers of Mexican food, there are a variety of dishes from other Hispanic countries just waiting to be discovered. Legacy West’s newest addition, Bulla Gastrobar, offers a variety of Spain-inspired dishes, drinks, and tapas.

Last weekend, I had the chance to preview Bulla’s dinner menu ahead of the restaurant’s opening this coming Tuesday.

To kick things off, my guest and I ordered a plate of embutidos (cured meats) and cheeses. We were allowed to pick one type of meat and one type of cheese. For the meat, we chose the finocchio, which is a handcrafted Italian salami. For the cheese, we chose the mahón, which is a firm cow’s milk with lemony, salty, tangy flavor. The plate came garnished with nuts and candied pecans in the center. It also included three crispy crackers with drops of cajeta dolloped onto them. The sweet and savory portions of the plate paired very well together and set the bar high for the upcoming dishes.

A tapa from Bulla Gastrobar, with finocchio and mahón cheese (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

After my guest and I finished off the plate, we received our drinks. Although it is customary to receive drinks before appetizers, the restaurant was packed, and therefore orders had been getting mixed up throughout the night. This was understandable, considering the restaurant is still gearing up for opening and working the kinks out.

We were each allowed two drinks from the cocktail menu, the first of mine being the Bullfighter. The Bullfighter consists of Bulleit bourbon, Aperol, Dow’s Port, lemon juice and cranberry. It had a taste similar to that of a good fruit juice, like acai berry. The alcohol taste was just slightly noticeable, which allowed for me to take in the delightful combination of fruit flavors.

The Bullfighter (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

For the second drink, I ordered the Moscow Mule. Bulla’s Moscow Mule consists of Russian Standard Vodka, Fever Tree ginger beer, fresh lime, cardamom, currant infused syrup and candied ginger. While most bars’ Moscow Mules are rather gritty and bitter, Bulla’s was a delightful exception. The currant syrup gave the drink a sweet, fruity flavor, allowing it to taste similar to Sprite mixed with a candy-like infusion.

Moscow Mule (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

As for the post-drink effect, I felt that the impact was just right. I didn’t feel drunk, but I did feel relaxed enough to just unwind and enjoy a stress-free night.

For the next plate, we ordered the Montaditos de Castillo, which were an arrangement of four slices of toasted bread topped with braised short ribs, tomato marmalade, guindilla, and tetilla cheese. Although this sounds like a lot to take in, I highly recommend just taking a big bite and consuming every aspect of the piece all at once. The combination of the ingredients makes for a hearty, flavorful appetizer with a sweet and spicy kick.

Mostaditos de Castillo (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

When it came time to order the main entree, my guest and I ordered the paella, however, there was a bit of a mixup in the kitchen, which resulted in our order being pushed back an extra 20 minutes. To make up for this, one of the servers offered us the albondigas.

The albondigas were an arrangement of three veal and pork meatballs immersed in a tomate frito sauce and topped with manchego cheese. The meatballs were thick, warm, meaty and cut very easily. Eating the albondigas was like eating miniscule meatloafs and they were enough to tide us over until the paella arrived.

Albondigas (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Bulla’s paella is a soupy, creamy rice dish, with calamari, prawns, clams, red sofrito, shrimp and saffron arranged to make a beautiful display. It tasted just as amazing as it looked. The consistency of the rice was just right, the insides of the clams pulled out easily, and the shrimp were cooked to a pink perfection.

Paella (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

We ended the night with the flan de coco, which is a coconut flan served with a side of passion fruit sorbet. The sorbet was unlike anything else I had ever tasted; sweet, icy, and packed with fruit flavor. The flan itself was also a unique dish, given its utilization of coconut.

Flan de coco with fruit and a side of passion fruit sorbet (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

From beginning to end, I was highly satisfied with the food and drinks served to us. Despite a few minor kinks in terms of customer service, I appreciated the fact that the staff acknowledged the mistakes, made it up to us by offering us extra food, and by allowing us to fill out feedback cards. With their diligence and customer orientation, everything should be running smoothly by opening day.

Bulla Gastrobar officially opens on February 13 in Legacy West.

Restaurant Reviews DFW

How Pazzo Encompasses Everything Dallasites Love About Uptown

When Dallasites head out for a night in Uptown, they are seeking delicious food, good drinks, and/or fun music. Cedar Springs’s newest opening, Pazzo, has managed to combine these three elements to create an Italian dining and lounging experience. Pazzo is the brainchild of Luke Zeutzius, whose mission is to bring an evolving menu designed for the American Italian fusion enthusiast.

Upon arriving at Pazzo’s media and influencer event, I am greeted with smiles from two casually dressed young ladies, who quickly seat me in the proper section. I am first offered water, and once the server returns with a cold glass, I am then asked for my drink order.

To kick things off, I order the Walk of Shame, which consists of Zephyr gin, lemon, and Angostura bitters. It is a tangy, fruity, sour drink, which tastes like lemonade with a hard kick.

The Walk of Shame (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

I follow the Walk of Shame up with the Straight Skinny, which consists of Código, agave, and lime. It is Pazzo’s version of the margarita and it has a light taste. The agave makes it sweet, but not to the point where it overpowers the tequila and lime. Most house margaritas taste like Slurpees, however, Pazzo’s tastes like a delicious, healthy juice that one could pick up at a Pilates studio; theirs just happens to be kicked up a hard notch.

The Straight Skinny (Photo Credit: Alex Gonzalez)

After drinks, the servers bring out a variety of appetizers, including the White Truffle Garlic Bread, Crispy Polenta Cakes, and Crispy Eggplant. Although all of the appetizers are phenomenal, my personal favorite would have to be the Crispy Polenta Cakes. As a Texan, I love my pork, and Pazzo’s polenta cakes come topped with a sweet, shredded, savory pork shoulder. It is the perfect merging of Italian and Texan culture.

Crispy Polenta Cakes (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Before the main entree, the servers bring out what’s called The Vinegary One, which is Pazzo’s house salad. The signature dressing nicely complements the greens and vegetables, giving it a salty, lemony taste.

Pazzo’s house salad: “The Vinegary One” (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

For my main course, I order The Cripsy Piece of the Lasagna, which is a lasagna dish layered with spinach noodles, bolognese sauce, and a combination of fresh and aged cheeses. As its name suggests, the noodles are rather crisp. The bolognese sauce is hot, hearty, and packed with spice and flavor.

The Crispy Piece of the Lasagna (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

To wrap things up, I pick the Chocolate Chip Cookie Panwaffle “Smore” as my dessert. A fun fact about this is that Pazzo’s owner Luke Zeutzius invented and patented the Panwaffle pan, as a result of him and his younger brother arguing about what to eat for breakfast. The Panwaffle Smore is topped with strawberries, chocolate, graham crackers, ice cream, and burnt marshmallow fluff. It is a dessert experience unlike any other, and a must-try for first-time visitors.

The Panwaffle S’more (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

After dinner, we are taken to a lounge, in which the walls are lined up with couches. We toast with champagne to celebrate Pazzo’s prosperous future.

I leave Pazzo highly impressed with what I’ve experienced. Pazzo manages to encompass everything Dallasites love about Uptown, from fun, upbeat music, good drinks, and delicious (not to mention, relatively inexpensive) food.

Pazzo will begin serving items from their brunch, lunch, and dinner menus beginning February 2. They will also host a grand opening celebration on February 23.

Restaurant Reviews DFW

Corey Pond Speaks on The Common Table’s New Frisco Location

For nearly eight years, The Common Table has been a hot brunch destination for Dallasites and Uptown dwellers. With its new location in The Star in Frisco, founder Corey Pond hopes to expand Common Table’s horizons and attract a wider demographic. As its name suggests, The Common Table is a haven for those who wish to bond over the love of beer and food.

“It’s more of a feeling than it is anything literal,” founder Corey Pond says of the eatery’s name. “A common table is a place where you would go and meet people you don’t know, and hopefully make new friends. We believe we’ve incorporated that sort of philosophy here.”

A “common table” inside The Common Table’s Frisco location (Photo credit: Alex Gonzalez)

Although The Common Table is arguably most known for its brunch and beer dinners, Pond notes that he hadn’t originally planned to serve food.

“I had a love for craft beer and wanted to open a craft beer bar,” Pond says, “but because of the location we ended up with, we also had to have a restaurant. It took us a little while to get the food right, but now I think the food in both places is very good, especially for the price.”

    Founder Corey Pond (left) with Operation Partner Rodman Shields (right)

Weekend brunch is a staple in Dallas. With so many restaurants to choose from, The Common Table has set itself apart by making quality dishes and creating an amped up atmosphere.

“Brunch food really isn’t difficult to prepare,” Ponds says. “It’s just all about buying good ingredients. It’s a chill vibe here most of the time, but at brunch time, we turn up hip-hop music a little louder than usual.”

Although The Star and Uptown are two vastly different scenes, The Star’s location shares a lot of the elements that the original location has become well known for.

“We’ve just recently started the live music series here [in The Star,] Pond says. “The music events are held every Thursday and Saturday night, like in Uptown. Some of the artists are the same, but we also have some new artists.”

Apart from the live music events, The Common Table’s Frisco location also has Live Trivia Wednesdays, Brewsday Tuesdays, and Pour Man’s Beer Dinner on Mondays.

Trivia Nights and Pour Man’s Beer Dinner are just a couple of The Common Table’s notable events

“The Pour Man’s Beer Dinner is different every week,” Pond says. “Each week, the chef in each location comes up with a different four-course menu, each of the courses is paired with a different beer.”

Because of the wide variety of beer available in house, The Common Table’s customers are able to taste unique pairings of beer and food.

“Beer’s such a versatile drink, more than wine.” Ponds says. “There are over 100 different styles of beer, so for any type of food you make, there’s a perfect beer to pair it with.”

The Common Table is currently open in both Uptown Dallas and in The Star in Frisco. Be sure to pay a visit and try their unique pairings.

Restaurant Reviews DFW

Francesca Nor Details Dive’s New Renovations, Personal Journey to Dive

Dive Coastal Cuisine is going into its eighth year of serving hearty seafood in the Highland Park district. For the past three weeks, Dive has been undergoing some major renovations. They will officially reopen their doors on Wednesday.

“We are basically taking the front walk-up center and putting in a full-service bar,” owner Francesca Nor said of Dive’s renovations. “We’ve always been a walk-up concept and have never been ‘full service’ anything. There will be five or six seats at our bar where we will serve beer, wine, infused tequila, and our signature sangria.”

Apart from the bar and full-service aspects, Dive’s rebranding will also include changes to its aesthetic.

“Where there was a high-top communal table, there will now be a banquette,” Nor said. “We’ve added some lighting, we’ve redone the menu, we’ve redone the website, and we’ve added coral to our color palette. Our color palette was originally navy and turquoise, but now, it’s navy, turquoise, and coral, so it has a little bit more of a ‘poppy’ feel.”

From a very young age, Nor became fascinated by culinary arts, cultures, and unique dishes.

“I was about five or six years old when I first became interested in food,” Nor said. “I was born in Los Angeles and my parents would take us to upscale, hip restaurants. I would go into these restaurants and order things like the caviar or the shark, and the waiter would look at my parents like ‘Is she for real?’ I didn’t know any different, I just knew that I liked that food because my parents exposed me to it at a young age.”

Dive’s signature SURF+TURF dish, consisting of Churrasco steak, grilled shrimp, cilantro rice & black beans with house-made chimichurri sauce (Photo Credit: Claire McCormack)

Despite having developed an interest in food so early on in life, Nor began her higher studies in the realm of art.

“Funny enough, I went to school to study photography and mixed media art,” Nor said. “It wasn’t until I was about 21 years old until a light went off. I was living in Florence, Italy and I took a workshop at Cordon Bleu, and realized ‘this is what I need to be doing,’ so then I decided to go to culinary school.”

Nor finished culinary school at the top of her class. Following culinary school, Nor traveled the world, acquired knowledge of various world cultures, and eventually opened Dive. When selecting her employees, Nor believes in a personal approach, as opposed to modern technological pre-screenings.

“There are a lot of ways restaurants select their employees,” Nor said. “There are HR departments, there are all sorts of personality tests, but honestly, I just kind of go with my gut. I get the first impression of someone and I just kind of go off of how they click with me. Experience is always important, but if they don’t respect my business and what I do, then it’s just another job to them.”

For those wanting to follow in Nor’s footsteps and open a restaurant, Nor offers a bit of advice.

“Hands down, you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing,” Nor said. “Stay true to yourself and make sure that what you’re doing is something you enjoy. Staying honest with yourself and not doubting yourself is conveyed in everything you do. If you believe it, your customers will believe it too.”

Fish on the Grill (Photo Credit: Claire McCormack)

Dive Coastal Cuisine officially reopens on Wednesday and operates from 11 a.m to 9 p.m. They will also be open until 11 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday and will offer a variety of late night bites, including cheese boards, hummus boards, and more.