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Cover Story

The Best New Restaurants in Dallas 2011

Where to find some of the city's greatest bites to eat.
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Image
photography by Kevin Marple

Image
photography by Kevin Marple



Italian | Lucia




Lucia is not for everyone, and that’s a good thing. The restaurant in the Bishop Arts District seats 36, and the wait for weekend reservations can run a month or more. It couldn’t get any bigger if it wanted to. It doesn’t want to. Husband-and-wife owners Jennifer and David Uygur are perfectly content with small. It gives them a modicum of control and space for creativity.



Keeping it small allows David to make everything himself, from the crusty house bread to the nightly risotto to the panna cotta dessert. Keeping it small lets Jennifer seek out the rare boutique labels she loves to feature on her wine list and share the characteristics of those wines with inquisitive diners. Keeping it small means that David can change the menu on a whim, when a recipe begins to feel stale or an ingredient goes out of season.


Lucia is nominally Italian, with recognizable dishes such as spaghetti with ragu sauce or gnocchi or gelato. But it is Italian as interpreted by David. His food exhibits an intriguing duality. There’s an old-world stolidity but also a sultry streak. The contrast helps create some drama on the plate. He slow braises his meats until they nearly collapse into softness. He opts for organ meats and atypical cuts like pork shoulder and chicken liver, then pairs them with offbeat vegetables and starches such as farro, the classic Italian grain. For the spaghetti’s ragu, he bypasses trite choices like Angus beef in favor of tripe, cooked until soft, then spiced up with hot chiles. Of course he loves the roots: beets, parsnip, celery root, cooked until they turn intense and sweet. The signature item is the salumi board, a tasting of house-cured meats that usually includes a couple of salami, pâté, and an addictive, spicy, spreadable sausage.


There’s not a lot of lightness here—usually only one salad, maybe two, and even his appetizers, some pickled and cured, seem burdened and severe. The controlling aspect extends to the staff, a quirky cast that’s like family, some of whom followed Uygur from Lola. At its best, service feels unhurried and charming; at worst, it’s on their terms, not yours. But perhaps this is what happens when your restaurant receives numerous nods as one of the more important openings in Dallas by the likes of the New York Times. It’s their world, not yours. You enter it with an open mind and hope to be transported.

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