It was just over a year ago that Nancy Nichols wrote that “two Dallas powerhouse chefs are teaming up to open two restaurants in Highland Park Village.”
The time has finally come. I’ve written about my first impressions of Nick Badovinus’s Perfect Union Pizza Co. And now Julian Barsotti’s Fachini is open upstairs, completing the duo of restaurants in which they are both partners. Fachini’s website isn’t finalized and Opentable is just newly taking reservations, but they’ve been open for service quietly as of late last week.
And service will be something. The world of Fachini is a reimagined version of fancy, old-school, red-sauce Italian-American, with inflections of mid-20th century continental dining and New Orleans-style glamor, as conceived by Barsotti, who passes it all through the lens of his own family experience. (Fachini is the maiden name of his paternal grandmother.)
“Since Carbone’s, I’ve had this interest in doing something dedicated not just strictly to the food,” he says. It’s the whole atmosphere he wants.
As Barsotti drew inspiration, he looked to old Italian-American institutions like Bamonte’s in Brooklyn, as well as places in Las Vegas and New Orleans. His new restaurant would not be strictly New York, he determined. It would have that style of Southern inflection that he saw in the Sicilian-laced food of New Orleans, where his mother has roots.
“Italian-American food is a food that, for a time, could be considered ubiquitous. There was so much of it, and so much of it wasn’t very good. The idea is to respect it for what it is in its own right as a cuisine, and try to not manipulate it, but cherry-pick certain elements from the wealth of dishes and try to present them in a way that’s absolutely delicious,” he says.
Part of this vision meant creating an illusion with the design. Capturing the glory of an old building, with tin ceilings, brick, and stucco from the 1930s, and rounding it out with classic, black-and-white hexagonal floor tiles and mixing that with deep-blue polished Venetian glass.
Here, the template of Italian American gets a re-boot, while staying true to an aim to do justice.
Antipasto will arrive on the house: ricotta or house-made mozzarella; salumi (salami or prosciutto or whatever they have on the block); and garlic bread. And in homage to New Orleans, a house-made spicy olive salad, as though you might assemble your own muffaletta.
A soundtrack of 50s and 60s music will put you in the mood of an era. Where an old-school Italian American menu would list veal, seafood, and pork, in all their iterations, specialties will round out the menu, meant to be ordered “almost steakhouse-style,” says Barsotti, rib-eye bistecca or veal Marsala accompanied by spicy broccoli rabe or creamed escarole.
“Dining in that tradition. That might be a challenge,” says Barsotti. “I’m known for pasta. But to be true to the spirit of the cuisine, it needs to be generous.”
And so there will be the veal Parmesan, a center-cut veal loin chop, butterflied, with house-made mozzarella, cream, and hand-crushed tomatoes, pan fried in duck fat and presented on the plate with the imposing bone. “It’s huge, and it’s meant to be shared,” Barsotti says, but there’s an attentiveness to the quality of the ingredients that you might not expect from red-sauce joints.
Other throw-back elements include a table-side Caesar. Signature cocktails are reinterpreted classics, like the list’s three Negronis. The wine list focuses on the north of Italy, with reds primarily from Piedmont, Tuscany and Veneto, and Italian whites joined—for the first time on a Barsotti wine list—by French whites and Champagne. Desserts are a straight line of classics such as cheesecake and tiramisu. But maybe, Barsotti says with a smile in his voice, maybe they’ll go table-side for something, something in the spirit of the classic Commander’s Palace bread pudding soufflé.
And that is the key. Barsotti is bringing the spirit of Commander’s Palace or Galatoire’s to Dallas. The staff will be in tuxedos or white dinner jackets and bowties. But you? Come as you are.