Remember when Taverna first opened in 2004 and you couldn’t get a table? Not much has changed. People both young and beautiful still camp out on the couch with a glass of Mumm sparkling rose, contentedly waiting for a table at this neighborhood Italian spot from restaurateur Alberto Lombardi.

It’s a near-perfect concept, a casual-chic restaurant with mix-and-match furniture and a nifty little bar. You can split a salad and a bowl of risotto, have some wine, some cheese; no wonder it’s sprouted spin-offs in Austin and Fort Worth.

Risotto, pizza, and pasta are the staples, enhanced by nightly specials such as pan-seared fish. Restaurants never cook risotto properly but Taverna sure does. One night’s special risotto, with saffron, tomato, and small shrimp, achieved the ideal texture, with the grains of rice poised between creamy and firm.

Pizza here is not quite what it used to be. Despite the showpiece copper-clad oven, the quality of the crust can be inconsistent. Roast chicken was dry, although the frothy polenta that came with it more than compensated. Even better were the pastas—the butternut squash gnocchi in Asiago cream sauce dotted with crisp leaves of deep-fried sage. Or the luscious Gorgonzola-and-pear-filled pasta with chopped walnuts and arugula in a sweet cream sauce, oh yes.

Get contact information for Taverna.