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Via Triozzi’s Italian Fare Proves Simple Is Best

By staying rustic to the core, Via Triozzi gives Dallas a fresh take on Italian cooking.
By | |Photography By Brittany Conerly
Via Triozzi ravioli butternut
The ravioli comes with butternut and delicata squash. Brittany Conerly

When you write about food and dining in our city, one of the most frequent arguments you get into revolves around this question: “Does Dallas have good Italian food?” On one side, loyalists to Lucia, Nonna, and Jimmy’s Food Store lobby in favor of those beloved classics. On the other side, haters point to the generally gloopy standard of our red-sauce joints. I wouldn’t be surprised if a local high school debate team has argued the topic.

One dinner at Via Triozzi is enough to settle the question forever. It’s not just that the food here is good. It’s also that we clearly did not have anything like this before. Here “Italian” doesn’t necessarily mean cheesy or rich, though it can be when necessary. It also doesn’t mean an ever-curious Lucia-style journey across the boot in search of rare pasta shapes. Via Triozzi’s style is to take pristine ingredients, most of them vegetables, and treat them minimally but sympathetically. This is the kind of menu from which you order the dish that sounds the least interesting because that’s what will taste the best.

Case in point: grilled zucchini with ricotta cheese. We get a lot of zucchini in this area, and a lot of ricotta, too. My partner makes ricotta at home. But Via Triozzi’s zucchini are brilliantly fresh, chargrilled with just-right stripes of black. The ricotta is boldly lemony and rich, the best and most flavorful I’ve ever had. And there’s more: the plate is scattered with fresh herbs, chopped pistachios, and a drizzle of herb oil. It’s just a grilled vegetable, but I remember it more vividly than anything I’ve eaten at Carbone.

This kind of cooking—with humility and simplicity—is something first-time restaurateur Leigh Hutchinson learned twice, first from family members of Sicilian descent and then again at a culinary school in Tuscany. 

“I thought I was full-blooded Italian for the longest time,” she recalls. “My grandmother Angelina was the matriarch. She had a huge sense of hospitality. You never knew who was going to be at the table, but somehow there was more than enough food every time.” Though two of her uncles got into the restaurant business, Hutchinson didn’t plan to do so until after her grandparents had died. “I realized they have a legacy I need to continue,” she says. “I quit my job, moved to Florence with my dog, enrolled in an art institute there, and basically curated my own culinary program. They offered wine courses as well.” 

When she’d taken every cooking class, she enrolled in private lessons. As many people have learned when exploring their immigrant identities, Hutchinson found that her own experiences only hinted at the diversity of Italian cooking and culture. As she puts it: “I remember one day leaving class thinking, I know nothing about Italian food! I’m starting from nothing!

Now she knows a few things, and she has a prominent showcase for them. Via Triozzi occupies a prime location on Greenville Avenue, with a well-appointed bar, a pasta-making room next to the front door, and stairs leading up to a rooftop patio. (At the time of this writing, in mid-December, the patio wasn’t finished yet, but it will feature a more casual, shareable food menu, lots of drinks, and an Italian patio look.) Decorations in the two-story dining room include Hutchinson’s family photos. The house-party mood is also set by Via Triozzi’s music choices, jazz crooners such as Nancy Wilson and Sammy Davis Jr.

The restaurant’s menu proves again and again that simplest is best. Don’t think about arugula salad and yawn. Its dressing tastes like a string of exclamation marks, and the green is also showered with slivers of Parmesan and a crumbling of fried bresaola (cured, salted beef). It’s salty, acidic, a little spicy, full of life. I’d order it again even if it didn’t come with slices of bresaola underneath the greens. Another humble star: crisp-bottomed pane bianco, or white bread, topped with olive oil, anchovies, and lots of oregano. Save some, if you can, to soak up pasta sauces.

Cacio e pepe—the simple dish of pasta, cheese, and black pepper—is now so trendy that our city is drowning in tragic cheese sludge. Via Triozzi’s improvement uses properly chewy house-made noodles and features pepper as the equal flavor partner it’s meant to be. The restaurant’s eggplant Parmesan also reduces the dish to the bare essentials: a long-cooked tomato sauce, very thin slices of eggplant, and a top garnish of bread crumbs and oregano. It eats more like a casserole than the usual fried, cheesy flavor bomb.

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Via Triozzi’s Italian Fare Proves Simple Is Best

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“It’s how I was taught,” Hutchinson says. She thought the dish was mush until the Tuscan cooking school introduced her to the method of frying the thin slices of eggplant to keep them crisp and then stacking them with sauce in a ramekin, as if the dish were a lasagna. 

Lasagna, by the way, is likely to be Via Triozzi’s biggest hit. I counted at least 20 layers of noodle, flavorful béchamel, ragù, and cheese. It’s a towering portion, and it tastes of all the hours of care that go into it. Hutchinson says her lasagna takes two days to properly develop the flavors, and that her techniques—béchamel instead of ricotta, fresh pasta instead of dried—again reflect what she was taught in Italy.

She did compromise on her lasagna recipe one time, whipping up a quicker overnight batch. That occasion was the meeting where she pitched the idea of Via Triozzi to her future landlords.

“I brought lasagna to the meeting,” she says. “I heated the lasagna up in a toaster oven, and we ate it at 10:30 am.” She thinks she, and not a more experienced restaurateur, got this prime space because at the time the building was a shell, with dirt for floors and air for walls. It could be that. Or it could be the lasagna.

To pair with it, look to Via Triozzi’s wine list, which is concise—just one page—and full of goodies. The “house wines” are not the migraine-inducing potions many Italian restaurants serve under that name. Instead, they’re delightful natural-wine bargains. There are excellent bottles of red and white starting at around $50, and even the showiest, splashiest reds to go with your steak are $180. (That’s the minimum price point at some of Dallas’ new openings.)

Although Via Triozzi mostly keeps things rustic, one culinary wrinkle will drive purists mad. The cannoli here is “deconstructed.” Instead of a round pastry shell, small pizzelle cookies stand upright on the plate, separated by dollops of cream. The cooks scatter cacao nibs and chopped pistachios over the top of the cream, taking care to miss the cookies. It’s easy to raise an eyebrow at this setup, but tasting is forgiving.

The menu proves again and again that simplest is best.

I found myself having a purist moment only twice, earlier in the meal. The first came on the plain old mixed salad. It’s a lovely blend of greens, shaved fennel, herbs, and fried shallots. (Imagine if your croutons were onion rings, and you’ll have the idea.) But wasn’t our salad just a little overdressed? Given the arugula salad’s perfection, it was probably a one-time thing.

Or perhaps not. Our ravioli, filled with butternut and delicata squash and then topped with diced cubes of both, boasted excellent house-made dough, good flavor, and torn sage leaves. It also had so much butter that we could have taken extra sauce home and put it on toast for breakfast. Just a little thing, but in a restaurant that focuses on little things, you notice them more easily.

In a way, it’s surprising to see Via Triozzi be so exceptionally popular in its opening months. (Reservations before 9 pm can book up a month in advance.) It doesn’t try to be trendy. Its menu is surprisingly small, especially if you’re not hungry enough for one of the Florentine steaks. There are no neon signs on the walls or caviar-topped canapes. Most of the cooking depends on simple things: the quality of the produce, the amount of dressing, a quick final jolt of acidity.

“We’re rustic to our core,” Hutchinson says. “We’re not reinventing the wheel.”

All of this suggests that Via Triozzi is perpetually sold out for the best reason possible: because this is food that Lower Greenville wants. Good, fresh produce; smart cooking; and a thoughtful, affordable wine list. That’s how you keep people coming back. That’s how you settle debates.  


This story originally appeared in the February issue of D Magazine with the headline “Now That’s Italian! Write to [email protected].

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.

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