Love's latest concept is Caterina's, a classic Italian-American restaurant in the Stockyards on Mule Alley serving house-made pastas and an exclusively Italian wine list. Serves wear crisp white dress shirts and red vests and some staff don white tuxedo jackets. Guests are greeted with a glass of prosecco rosé then led past a display of premium-aged prosciutto di Parma, then past the pasta drying room. Every meal starts with a trio of focaccia and a platter of cured meats with aged Parmigiano Reggiano.
Something you won't see at the restaurant, however, are cell phones.
A representative of the restaurant explained that as guests arrive they're given a pouch to put their phone in that they take to their table with them, so they get to keep their phones with them, but they are locked away. Some comedians do something similar at live shows.
If a diner needs to use their phone, they can have the bag unlocked and step outside to make a call. But no selfies, photos, scrolling for scores, the weather or news. Certainly no loud phone conversations or distracted texting.
People who haven't even set foot in Fort Worth are writing Google reviews for the restaurant based solely on the fact that Caterina's locks away guests' phones during dinner. Others have dined there and left reviews indicating they had no idea about the cell phone policy before arriving and were not happy to be asked to lock theirs up. The restaurant also requires men to wear a jackets, and some write they didn't like being told to put on a jacket at the door. (Editor's note: the reviews seem to be missing from Google now, perhaps the restaurant flagged those particular ones from diners who hadn't visited.)
Regardless, there is some science behind the effects a phone can have on our brains while eating or otherwise. The University of Texas released a report, "Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity," in which they found that, yes, phones are a distraction:
"Results from two experiments indicate that even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention—as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones—the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capacity."
The source of some of the negative reviews might be fact that Caterina's makes no indication of their cell policy or jacket requirement on their website. After a search, we found the only mention of the jacket policy is from other media outlets. If you make reservations, which require a credit card to secure, a confirmation email contains a note about the policy.
Local chef John Tesar has a long history of fine-dining in Dallas and Florida, where his restaurant was recently given a Michelin star. We asked him if phones distract diners at any of his restaurants. "Never," Tesar says. "And it's none of my business. It's their time and their money. I've seen it in other restaurants but not in my restaurants. I've traveled with my kids and walked in and see six people on their cell-phones, but they're all content. They've been with each other all day long, they're on vacation, it's become a modern day distraction."
Caterina's, 128 E. Exchange Ave. (The Stockyards), 4 - 10 p.m. Sunday - Thursday, 4 - 11 p.m. Friday - Saturday