Restaurant Review: Zio Cecio Cucina Italiana in Dallas

Plump clams with squid-ink-infused spaghetti; chef Francesco Farris, who learned to cook in Sardinia. Photography by Kevin Marple.

In the spring of 2005, I took a press trip to a hotel on the island of Sardinia, about 120 miles west of Italy. Forty-five seconds after the tour bus entered the walled community, I realized the property was a horrid Disneyland version of an Italian resort. It could have been in Frisco. Brand-new buildings were painted to look like ruins, and the hotel workers were dressed in various historic Italian costumes. So I planned an escape.

From my room, I called Lori Farris back in Dallas. Her husband, Efisio Farris, and his brother, Francesco Farris, then co-chefs and co-owners of Arcodoro & Pomodoro, were born and raised in Sardinia. For more than 20 years, the Farris brothers have fought to get Sardinian food the respect it deserves in Dallas. When Lori answered the phone, I asked her to help me get to Orosei, the hometown of the Farris brothers.

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  • Frankie

    It seems to me that after three bottles of wine your pallet might not be able to make an educated critique on the food. Maybe you should visit again when you aren’t inebriated….

  • B Sintobin

    I have not dined at the restaurant, (although I intend too), but strictly coming from a reader’s point of view it seems a little harsh to call the server “Goofus.” Name calling lacks class, as I have been taught from a very early age. Perhaps you could have stated that “your server was not up to par.”

  • Frankie, there were six of us and we shared two bottles of wine.

  • Mr. Lavette

    As a fellow foodie, I can appreciate constructive criticism…however, comparing spaghetti to a bowl of tangled black hair. Let’s get real.

  • the spaghetti is infused with squid ink and it is black. and tangled.

  • Kessler Porker

    I for one appreciate your frank review. I’m still going to go to check it out but will have lowered expectations and therefore won’t be upset if it’s not great and conversely will be very pleased if it is. Then on the way home my wife and I can go “Nancy Nichols – what’s with her hair – it’s like spaghetti!”

  • Shiloh

    A few weeks back, my fiance and I dined here to celebrate my birthday. We had heard of a new Italian restaurant opening and since that is my favorite we thought we would give it a try. We are very glad we did. We have dined at Arcodoro & Pomodoro several times before, although I think we will now be frequenting Zio Cecio instead.

    My favorite part of the experience was hands down the sea salt crusted fish! Oh my goodness. I haven’t had a meal that delicious in I don’t know how long. Maybe never.

    We cannot wait to visit again!

  • Dubious Brother

    @B Sintobin – In a restaurant that charges $20 for a pasta dish and claims to have Sardinian roots, one should expect a server that reflects the same in both knowledge and efficiency. It can be and often times is the reason for customers to return. The waiter should know that he is out of his league and desperately needs training or to move on. On the other hand, the manager or owner should have known the same. Goofus may seem harsh but it may be too kind.

  • ER

    Being a recent transplant from NY, I have been more than disappointed with the local Italian fare, in the Dallas area. My feelings changed with my recent visit to ZIO. First what an exquisite design overhaul from the former establishment it now transplants.

    My wife and I enjoyed the Carbonara and Osso Buco, both done to perfection. The latter as tender as it comes. Prior to this, the Chef can to our table and after some conversation, sent over a seafood type salad not on the menu, bursting wtih flavor yet soft on the pallate.

    We will definitely be back!

  • melissa

    Really, is this article a review or about your trip?????? I had to read 6 paragraphs which included me drinking a cup of coffee and eating a bagel. i had to refill my coffee and come back to read the trip/review. I agree with B.Sintobin about your class toward the waiter. i have dined at Zio’s 2 times already and both were unforgetable, including the TIRAMISU!

  • Maria Pacino

    Bellissimo! It is amazing, I am Italian and I can ascertain what a good Italian food is. This restaurant took me back in a taste journey to Italy…by the great taste of food .

    If you are a seafood and pasta lover, you definitely will love this place.

    I had Cozze Agli Aglumi- Mussels in citrus and white wine for appetizer, it was a real delight.

    My entree was the Mezzeluna a la fonduta- Ravioli filled with seafood and ricotta in a creamy pistachio sauce, I did enjoy every single bite… it was very PALATABLE.
    Our server was so friendly, his great service was the dinner very enjoyable.

    I was bragging about this place since I was there ( I was even texting my Italian friends while I was still at the restaurant).

    OH MAMMA MIA! I certainly will be back. Grazie Chef 🙂

  • Neca

    • I’ve never been disappointed with a plate from Zio Cecio. We’re there at least once a month.
    Most everything is made on-site, and the stuff that isn’t is carefully screened for amazing quality to match the homemade items. The pastas are excellent, the portions are generous, and the flavors are memorable.
    My favorite is the Osso buco, because they are AMAZING. The veal is tender as can be and flavorful. The funghi risotti is perfectly cooked with a great combination of flavors.
    Francesco and the crew are always willing to brag on their food and get to know you. Just like in Italy, they want to make you part of the family.

  • Alejandro Piero

    Me and my wife had a beautiful evening, it was our first time at the restaurant. We ate the Alla Caprese and the Di Salmone as our appetizer which had a nice flavor to it. As our entree we had the La Bolognese con fettuccini and the Osso Buco, we were very satisfied with how each dish was presented. Everything looked very appetizing. To accompany our meal we had a bottle of Pinot Grigio. All in all it was a very nice experience and we left satisfied and are looking forward to visit again soon.

  • Carlos Rivera

    This place is a perfect date night place, it’s not very often my wife and get to dine without the kids. The staff was very friendly and knowledgeable,we decided to skip appetizers and get a bottle of Darioush cab instead. My wife had the Quadratini Alla Mentucci, the ravoillis were amazing, I had to steel some from her. I had the Nodino Di Maiale Alla Pappa Dealer, the pork chops had a sweet sauce over it but I can’t remember what it was, but it was cooked perfectly. After we took the server recommendation and did the Grand Marnier flight for dessert. The chef stopped by just to say high, we thanked him for an incredible dinner. I can’t wait till the next time we go.

  • Kevin Leahy

    I just dined at this restaurant last week and I must say that it was first class from start to finish. The server was very knowledgeable and had us wanting for nothing. The wine list is over the top. I found the veal osso bucco on the menu and knew I had to have it as my main dish. Let’s just say that it did not dissapoint. Can’t wait join them again.

  • Marie

    My husband and I dined at Zio last month….it was an amazing dining experience! We each enjoyed apps, salads, various pasta dishes, wine, deserts and after dinner drinks. The atmosphere of the restaurant is decidedly intimate—However, allowed us first hand access to the wait-staff to answer our numerous questions when the need arose. The potato and mint filled ravioli, Carpaccio & tiramisu were by far my absolute favorites (I don’t think that I have ever consumed a better tiramisu in my lifetime).

    We will be back for many returns!

  • Dani

    Zio is a must try for anyone looking for something a little different in the realm of Sardinian Italian cuisine!

    I had the very distinct pleasure of dining at the restaurant a few weeks ago with my husband—we had recently heard of Zio’s opening and made a trip from far Northwest Fort Worth over to Dallas for the sole purpose of having dinner there. Let me tell you that it was definitely worth the trip over as we have not had the pleasure of locating a dining experience similar in nature in a very long time. The courses of our meal flowed fluidly—by the end of the meal I believe that we had something in the neighborhood of 5 courses to be exact. I don’t think that there was a single thing that we tried that we didn’t both sit back and relish in the flavors.

  • Alfonzo Eudardo

    My wife and I had an amazing dining experince at Zio when visiting Dallas from Wisconsin. We loved the service and the food was sensational. I just can not forget the Filetto Di Salmone and would love to come back again whenever possible. Great selection of Italian Wines.

  • Sheila

    The best expirience in Zio restaurant. Good value, excelent atmosphere, and fresh & delicious pasta. I order the “Di Mele Noci e Funghi Porcini” it was cooked to perfection, all fresh & tasty between walnuts and mushrooms. Also, excellent service, value for money & lovely pasta. It was divine.

  • Logan

    What, did this restaurant make some kind of announcement for all their diners to come on here and post something?

  • jesus

    Been at Zio Cecio days ago and I had an amazing dinning experience, a very nice atmosphere love the service and food was delicious.

  • TLS

    This has turned into a Yelp review with many suspect reviews seemingly written by the same one or two people. Let’s see…this time I’ll write as “Dick Fitzinhugh”.

  • Jackie

    Really? Obviously the person behind this story and who wrote this review knows nothing at all about Italian food.
    My boyfriend & I recent just moved to Dallas from the Northeast part of the country where it’s know to have some of the best Italian food ever. I was bit sceptical about trying Italian food in Dallas, However after hearing many great things about Zio Cecio we decided to give it a try.

    AMAZING!!!!! After our first visit at Zio’s it definitely reminded us of being back home and having a great Italian meal. We started off with the Alla Caprese, then afterwards I decided to have the La Bolognese Con Fettuccine, and my boyfirend had Neri Alle Vongole. We paired it off with a bottle of Sliver Oak a Cab from Napa Valley. OMG! It was Delish! Made to perfection! After we finished our meal we were so full that we had no room for desserts, coffee, or any after dinner drinks.

    Our server was very attentive, and was knowledgeable. Impeccable Service!

    We will be returning to Zio’s very soon and we will make sure to leave room for desserts & after dinner drinks as well!

  • Paulina Ogliastri

    Wow, I came across this review and was excited to read about Zio Cecio thinking this would be a great story! My husband and I absolutely love this place and have dined there on multiple occasions and service and food have been exceptional every time.

    I truly think that when you go in looking to have a great time and enjoy the dining experience and the company of the people you are with, you seem to appreciate everything more! Nancy and her “chef friend” were clearly just there to find flaws.

    Very disappointing review, specially the part where she writes: “As I handed him the signed bill, I said, I want you to know I tipped you 20 percent because I know you need to pay your bills. But you really deserve nothing.” This speaks a lot about the “high level of taste” she claims to have. No matter how bad service was, humiliating the server by saying such a horrible thing is simply distasteful. A normal human being will simply speak with management or decide to tip less, or simply have a little bit of class and not say anything.

    Chef Farris has nothing to worry about; Zio Cecio is one of the best Italian restaurants I have dined at in Dallas!

  • Laurie

    Went there a few weeks ago. I agree with Nancy.

  • Sense

    @jackie. How funny you say the person eh wrote the reviews doesn’t know Italuan food and you brag about drinking overpriced California wine. Whoever you are writing these comments which are obviously the same perso quit it. Get over your self.

  • VM

    Hey, I’m looking for a place to go with my husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend, would Zio Cecio be a good choice?

  • Beda

    Scott Reiser at the Dallas Observer reviewed this place a couple of weeks ago, and gave it a less than glowing review. No offense to Scott, but as a rule, hardly ever does anyone respond to Scott’s reviews, but this one was the exception. As in this case, there was a high number of incredibly positive, glowing reviews of a restaurant that has just recently opened. Which makes me highly skeptical of the authenticity of all of these comments.

  • Beda

    Excuse me, Scott Reitz, I should have checked his name first instead of relying on memory.

  • eric

    the other day as i picked up a D magazine as i waiting for my kids to go to the dentist i came across a review i could not believe. I saw a review on one of my new favorite italian restaurants, Zio Cecio. Expecting to hear the place was perfect to my surprise i kept reading about this lady who obviously is one of those people that come into a restaurant maybe mad at something that happened throughout their day or maybe even throughout their life and decided to give their waiter a hard time and being that i work in the restaurant business i can pick these kind of people as soon as they step into the restaurant and say “The place was loud, and the lighting was low” when you go out to a restaurant especially here in Dallas where the food and the ambient in the air is great you cant expect to have a quiet dinner. Well in short words in my opinion the place is perfect yes it does only seat about 75 people but like most great italian places they are usually found in a hole in the wall not in a big restaurant that has a location every other exit. This place is so good that if you live in Mc Kinney I’m sure you wouldn’t mind the 45 min drive because as soon as they bring your food you wont be disappointed at all. Everything that i have tried there has been more than great i would describe everything that have tried but i would be here for hours. As for the service maybe the waiter she had that day was in training or something the place is pretty new. As for my experiences i haven’t had a waiter even close to the one she had, everyone is always as friendly as they can be it gives you a feeling like walking into your favorites aunts house where she is there delighted that you walked through the door and ready to make you some of your favorite dishes. Over All great food great service will be back for more and maybe next time i will go on and on about the food not about this lady who obviously has no class what so ever especially with her final comments on her waiter saying and i quote “As I handed him the signed bill, I said, “I want you to know I tipped you 20 percent because I know you need to pay your bills. But you really deserve nothing.” don’t know who the have representing them at D Magazine but hopefully they find someone with more class then this. Very disappointed in the article i read it’ll be a while till i pick up another D Magazine if these are the kind of people they have representing them. Zio Cecio great place great food have recommended to everyone and continue to do so.

  • Bill

    I want you to know I tipped you 20 percent because I know you need to pay your bills. But you really deserve nothing.” Classless

  • Clara

    I loved their pizza! It is a great place to enjoy a good food with a great atmosphere!
    I will recommended to everybody!