"Buona sera,” said the strapping young waiter as he passed around menus to the table. Actually, the traditional Italian greeting, delivered with a Texas twang, sounded more like “bueno sarah.” Thankfully, he wasn’t one of those Los Angeles, in-character waiter types rehearsing lines while waiting tables. This guy was an earnest, happy, and enjoyable character.
Luckily for us, and the other loyal diners in the room, the kitchen of this cozy restaurant speaks fluent northern Italian. Owners Brett and Ryan Stallard have molded Modo Mio into a reliable neighborhood spot by consistently turning out satisfying, well-priced food paired with a beautifully compact wine list. One recent evening, we ogled the bright red tomatoes piled high on bruschetta. They were as sweet as they were pretty. Although the billed “traditional” Caesar didn’t meet my criterion for traditional—prepared tableside with the ceremonial breaking of an egg into a wooden bowl rubbed with garlic—Modo Mio’s version was above-average, with dressing smacking smartly of mustard, Parmesan, and anchovies. But the real star of the starters was a simple salad of fresh baby artichokes and shaved Parmesan, tossed with lemon and olive oil.
From the list of affordable wines, we chose a Di Majo Sangiovese, and the ripe, fruity flavor enhanced every dish. Like the tenderloin pounded flat, filled with skinny asparagus spears and fontina cheese, then rolled into cylinders that were grilled and served with a shimmering, rich demi-glace. I was equally thrilled with ravioli stuffed with duck and bathed in a sauce of butter and fresh sage. Even veal scaloppine, usually placed on menus for old fogies, was alive with flavor. Three thin slices of veal sautéed in delicate white wine and lemon sauce were served with what appeared to be perfunctory sides of broccoli and potatoes. Wrong. The broccoli actually crunched, and the pre-boiled taters were crispy, thanks to a few minutes under a hot broiler.
Little things—fresh pepper offered at every course, water glasses filled without intrusion, tiramisu rich and soggy in all the right places—make Modo Mio more than a neighborhood find. They make it a meal worth a drive from any part of town. 18352 Dallas Pkwy., Ste. 112. 972-713-9559. $$.
Update: Modo Mio has closed.