What was once a rundown lot catty-cornered from the Belmont Hotel is now a strip of “luxury” apartments plopped next to a handful of eateries and shops. At first pass it looks like just another real estate mogul’s wet dream, but on closer inspection, Sylvan Thirty, as it’s un-creatively labeled, is becoming a place for neighbors and foodies alike. Certainly, the strip contains one of the city’s best options for casual dining: CiboDivino Marketplace.
On a beautiful night in Dallas when the light breeze whips warm air through your hair and the sunset fills the sky with jewel tone pinks and purples, imagine yourself drinking a glass of wine on a patio somewhere, waiting for your custom-order Neapolitan pizza to arrive at your table. Now imagine you paid retail price for the wine you’re sipping — and that when you crave pistachio gelato or a handful of Dallas Caramel Company goodies later, you won’t have to change locations. Want to add a salad to that order? Done. Craving a steak fresh off the grill? Done. A cappuccino to top you off? Done. A bottle of the wine you’re drinking to-go? Done. This is the reality of CiboDivino.
Owners Christina and Daniele Puleo — whose other restaurants include Daniele Osteria, Inzo Italian Kitchen and Brix Pizza and Wine Bar — wanted to recreate the Italian market experience a little bit close to their home in Kessler Park.
“We wanted to create a place you could return to multiple times in a day,” Christina says of CiboDivino, which opened in May 2015. “You stop by in the morning for coffee, you come back for lunch or groceries, and you drink wine with us in the evening.”
The eatery itself can be overwhelming in its options. The menu boards sit above a pizza oven and chef cases filled with meats and salads. The dishes change depending on what the local farmers have fresh each week. There are a few staple pizzas — try the Di Fica, which tops a creamy white sauce base with habanero honey, gorgonzola cheese and figs for a salty-sweet combo — and the chefs are flexible when it comes to special orders. You get the impression that if they have the ingredients, they will make it for you.
“Ultimately our customers are building the business,” Daniele says. “What are they looking for, really? If we don’t have it, we try to add it. We are constantly listening to new suggestions.”
This dedication to doing things consciously can be seen in the way the Puleos source food as well. When choosing a meat provider, they visited 44 Farms to observe the way the animals are treated. They serve free range chicken, non-GMO vegetables, gluten-free pizza and pasta options, and even their plasticware is BPA free.
"We want to spend the extra money so our guests have the best experience," says Christina. And somehow, they manage to keep these standards without exorbitant prices. You can dine in or take it to go with a reasonable bill (salads are around $8; pizzas around $15). If you're craving a steak, you buy the meat at retail price and the chefs prepare it free of charge.
The wines are sold at a retail price point and are a mixture of vintages from Italian and California (Dean & DeLuca, the Napa Valley chain, is one inspiration for the shop). April's wine list featured a beautifully fruity La Bambina Rose for $6 a glass and $14.99 per bottle, which is a price point that's hard to find in Dallas. The most expensive wine on the list was $9 per glass. When they first opened, Daniele had a secret cellar of hard-to-find wines, but when the word got out, these were all quickly purchased. Now, they're working on blends of their own under the label Puleo. So far, these are the shop's bestsellers.
"We've got a chianti and a pinot grigio," Daniele says. "We've got a Prosecco on the way at the end of May, followed by a rose."
It's evident that the Puleos have found a business model that makes them happy. And the customers too. On a recent Saturday night, the patio was packed. Parents split bottles of wine while children kicked a soccer ball around on the patch of grass next to the shop — it can get a little kid crazy depending on the time of day. Every table was full, as was every wine glass.
CiboDivino Marketplace, 1868 Sylvan Ave., open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily