At first glance, downtown McKinney and its approaching streets seem bucolic, picturesque, quaint even. Wooden frame houses line Louisiana street, giving a small-town feel to the place. When you reach the courthouse square, you will swear that you've entered Fredericksburg or some other Hill Country burg.
As far as dining goes, it seems like the best you could hope for is a couple of coffee shops or classic Texas diners where a bee-hived waitress calls you "honey" while serving you chicken-fried steak, the specialty of the house.
Don't be fooled. There is at least one chef with serious culinary chops practicing his craft hereabouts. His name is Paul Petersen, and he toils for two establishments just around the corner from each other. You may have already heard of Rick's Chop House at the Grand Hotel and Ballroom, a meaty kind of place which has earned four stars from Zagat, as well as rave reviews from local scribes. Luckily, he is also now twirling his pots and
pans for the newly-opened Sauce on the Square, a pasta and pizza place where
the food is so good it's sure to win a serious local following.
Walking in, my wife and I found ourselves in a brick-lined, upscale shotgun shack: red-checkered tablecloths (thankfully, no chianti-bottle candles perched atop the wooden tables), large chalkboards holding daily specials info, a gorgeous collection of lamps suspended in the center of the place. We were greeted almost immediately by Brent, who took genial yet meticulous care of us the entire evening.
Although we had wanted to try two entrees, Brent informed us that portion sizes of the entrees were large, so we decided to adjust and split a starter, salad, and main course. We took his advice--and were happy we did.
Crostini was soaked in balsamic vinaigrette and then insanely fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and balsamic were baked into a feast for the senses. Served with a small side of field greens, this appetizer was so satisfying, we could have called it a night right there and been happy. Luckily, we didn't.
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Insalata Rustico followed, with fontina, artichokes, olives, roasted red peppers, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Wisely, we kept a few of our greens from the appetizer, which blended nicely with the Italian cheese and peppers. We paired our meal with excellent wines, first the very good Dry Creek Fume Blanc from Sonoma, then the even better Four Vines "Old Vines Cuvee" Zinfandel, also from California. These wines were served in
glassware resembling oversized shot glasses, which you don't see too often locally.
Finally, the pièce de résistance: Margherita pizza , with their "slammin" pizza sauce, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and mozzarella. The crust was given a nice, light char, and retained some crispiness, and the slammin' sauce was complimented nicely by the sweet, perfectly fresh basil. We had fully intended to push ourselves away from the table, but by this time, Brent was rattling off the dessert list, and my wife stopped him when he said "goat cheese cake." Creamy and rich, it reminded us of sunlit afternoons sipping wine and nibbling cheese plates at Scardello's. A fitting ending from Sauce on the Square and the kitchen of Paul Peterson.
Sauce on the Square
112 E Louisiana Street
McKinney, TX 75069