When the four-decade-old Dallas institution The Grape made the tough decision to close its doors for good, the city mourned. The Grape first opened for business in 1972, making it a Gen-Xer edifice. That being said, any restaurant venture that would attempt to move into the old bones of The Grape has gargantuan class-act shoes to fill. Fortunately, the people at Duro Hospitality, which is behind The Charles, are up for the challenge with the new restaurant Sister.
The menu at Sister consists of Italian and Mediterranean-inspired dishes with wood-fired meats and daily homemade pasta. Sister calls itself a trattoria, which after having lived in Italy for four years, is a tad misleading. Trattorias in Italy are traditionally dive-y neighborhood joints where families can dine in or grab some antipasti and vino for the house. This place here, however, is absolutely gorgeous. From the candlelit and flawlessly cultivated decor to the sexy bar and cozy patio.
The friendly staff, on the other hand, does give you that genuine fuzzy neighbor welcome, as if we're all drinking buddies in another life. And to the trattoria slant, Sister is nestled in one of the oldest and most popular neighborhoods in Dallas.
Another charming characteristic about Italian trattorias is, simply put, less is more. They generally have a very simple and sometimes rustic menu that anyone can dine at no matter which box the world tries to compartmentalize them in. Sister follows this philosophy by creating a warm (but so dam sexy) atmosphere and taking non-complicated dishes and elevating them.
For starters, we landed on the beets and avocado ($18) made with lemon vinaigrette, wild rice and tahini. Bright pureed beets created a kaleidoscope of both taste and color. Next, we had the octopus panzanella dressed with nduja, tomato and tiny bits of focaccia ($18). Generally, octopus is served with more citrus and mild flavors, but this little sliver of heat from the nduja worked great here. The charred marine mollusk was tender enough to cut with a spoon but firm enough to have that nice chew.
The clam vongole is exceptional.
For the main course, we started clams vongole ($13). This definitely is not your nonna's traditional spaghetti vongole, but is so radically good. Just when you think you have a handle on the flavors, you get sideswiped by another layer of salty and spicy greatness.
The wild "boaranaise"($23) is made with rye malfadine, fiore sardo, and sprigs of rosemary and was equally satisfying. The malfadine pasta, a larger crazy cousin of fettuccine, is cooked to a perfect al-dente that helps absorbs all of the rich flavors from the sauce.
The ambiance is decadent and charming. Upon arrival, you may be serenaded by the sounds of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin that will transport you to a different place in a different era. It's almost like the ghosts of “The Grapes” past giving a thumbs up to the new kids on the block, saying everything is going to work out fine.