Eclectic Boogaloo

At Tutto Eclectic Italian, the menu doesn't fail to seduce, but the food falls flat on delivery

Maybe it's predictable that the tar pit should return, except this time it sings, if a little off key. Risotto nere con vongole is a bowl of firm risotto with clams and squid, all stained into invisibility with a flood of squid ink. The risotto is slightly undercooked and freckled with grit most likely from fragments eroded off the clamshells. A strange black hole this is; one that hides not only the seafood, but the garden tomatoes as well. Riding on this abyss rim are sprays of green: pineapple sage and savory.

Crab-stuffed artichokes wrapped in a Gorgonzola crust and dripping with honey aioli have beautiful artichoke petals that are tender and supple, but the crab's a little fishy and the cheese a little rubbery.

The transformation of Watel's into Tutto seems to have been accomplished primarily with paint. The outer walls of the structure glimmer bright orange. The dining room appears little changed from its Watel's days. Yet the slight changes are worthy of focus. Sconces bolted to the posts are fitted with real candles that fuel real flames. There's a lot of resourcefulness in this dining room, too, the kind that makes dollars scream in agony when they're stretched beyond the limits of human decency and possibly international law.

Chef Joseph Gutierriz's latest restaurant has promise, but it's betrayed by some stale-tasting food.
Tom Jenkins
Chef Joseph Gutierriz's latest restaurant has promise, but it's betrayed by some stale-tasting food.

Details

Stuffed calamari $8
Artichokes with crab $9.50
Tomato salad $9
Bean soup $7
Veal chops $28
Black risotto $18
Ricotta cake $7

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Example: One wall in the bar is clad not in wallpaper or textured mud pestered with rags and sponges, or bamboo strips or ceramic squares. It's pieces of snipped tin nailed to the wall and treated with copper flake. The bar is decorated with pyramidical post caps sprayed into precious metal sheen. But the dollars screaming the loudest went into the cap above the window near the hostess stand. It looks like a relief, painstakingly chiseled and shaved from a slab of wood, stained to hues befitting a 19th-century library or some English pub timber left to soak up and nurse the airborne particulate of the ages. Only this is a Styrofoam relief cleverly treated and tacked to the wall to lend the room cathedral-like dignity. If only those dollars could scream some sense into the menu. 2719 McKinney Ave., 214-220-0022. Open for lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Open for dinner 5-11 p.m. daily. $$$

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