With restaurants like Nonna and Carbone’s under his belt, it's no surprise that Julian Barsotti's latest restaurant has been seeing some brisk business, thanks in no small part to the fact that Sprezza offers a different perspective on the Italian food Dallas diners already love.
About a month ago, Barsotti opened Sprezza, a celebration of water and flour that focuses on Roman food.
“Opening restaurants, especially if it’s a new concept, always has a steep learning curve," Barsotti says. "And the idea is to be as fluid as possible and to take lessons you’ve learned from the past and anticipate the best the you can. We didn’t do a lot of practice soft opening; it was quick training, soft open for two days, then we opened for business. It’s been learning while being super busy.”
The menu at Sprezza is broken into categories, with all items in each category priced the same. Antipasti dishes are all $14 each, for example. Parts of the menu change each day, and bigger changes will come about four times a year, he said.
“People are engaging this menu in kind of a unique way, like sharing, and there are a lot of people doing both pasta and pizza,” he says. “I just thought it would be a unique format to do the one-pricing throughout, and I think that’s kind of landed to people bouncing around. … I feel like it lends itself to the atmosphere in here.
"The whole idea was to create something fun and energetic but with no compromise in the seriousness of the food and hospitality," he says.
While at Nonna and Carbone’s, guests usually follow the method of first course, second and so on, he says, but guests at Sprezza are hopping all over the menu — and the majority of them are landing on the pizza section.
“The pizzas are different in style, and I think Scott [Lewis] kind of spearheaded creating the dough and facilitating how it’s made on a daily basis,” he says. "I think it’s craveable, it’s delicious. It’s got a really crispy bottom crust, so it kind of maintains a little airiness on top of it. I just think they’re delicious."
Pasta and pizza may not sound like they fit the current diet. Those with celiac disease, of course, might look to other options on the menu; and in the last few years, a variety of diets have more or less denied people across our country their carbohydrates.
“It seems like we Americans love fad diets, like of-the-trend,” Barsotti says. “There are many layers to that onion, but a lot of it, it doesn’t have long traditions of food culture, like, for instance, Italy does or Spain or France.”
In fact, after declining for years, American pasta sales are up, BuzzFeed recently reported. Even Google search data seems to indicate that pasta is once again on the upswing. Even so, Barsotti doesn't advocate eating bowls upon bowls of carbonara all the time, he says.
As for the name of the restaurant, Sprezza comes from the word sprezzatura, which is, simply put, studied carelessness.
“I love it as a narrative and aspiration. It applies really well to Roman food," he says. "An example is spaghetti cacio e pepe. It’s spaghetti, pecorino and it’s black pepper: three ingredients. In the hands of somebody, it can be a gloomy mess or it can be just good, but to make it truly remarkable, I think it requires some sprezzatura."
Sprezza, 4010 Maple Ave.