It's been a big year for the man leading Dallas' Italian restaurant empire. In spring, Julian Barsotti opened Sprezza, crafting a menu of inventive Roman-style pizzas, highly seasonal fresh pasta bowls and the standout squash blossoms in tomato-anchovy sauce. Business at Sprezza has been booming ever since it opened, and justly so, since it treats Italian country cooking with such a sense of fun. Barsotti's first restaurant, the more formal Nonna, took a vacation from serving fresh fish and lobster ravioli to go through a full remodel. Only at the third of Barsotti's landmarks, Carbone's, does it feel like nothing has changed; they're still lavishing unusual care on red-sauce comfort foods like eggplant Parmesan or spaghetti and meatballs. Barsotti, who is shy about the spotlight, now offers Dallas expressions of Italian food as eaten in both the trattorias of Rome and the checkered-tablecloth eateries of New York. In May, he told the Observer that "the whole idea" of Sprezza "was to create something fun and energetic but with no compromise in the seriousness of the food and hospitality." Dallas could use a little more of that thinking.
Brian Luscher, The Grape and Luscher's Red Hots