Eat This

Mille Lire’s Summer Pastas Are an Overlooked Gem in Oak Lawn

Mille Lire's spaghetti with spicy Calabrian chile sauce. Oh, and a lobster.
Mille Lire's spaghetti with spicy Calabrian chile sauce. Oh, and a lobster. Brian Reinhart
This has been a bad month for Mille Lire, Oak Lawn’s criminally underrated Italian restaurant. On June 30, co-owner Brian Ellard, wife Ornella and her two teenage children were killed in an airplane crash in Addison. The restaurant kept its doors open after the tragedy and Ellard’s co-owner and brother-in-law, Giuliano Matarese, continued to lead the kitchen.

But at 7 p.m. on a recent Friday, the expansive, well-lit, gorgeous dining room — which Ornella Ellard designed — sat nearly half-empty. Where is everybody, and why don’t they know how good this restaurant’s summer pastas are?

Just look at the photo at the top of this story. Mille Lire has a bowl of spaghetti with a spicy Calabrian chile and cherry tomato sauce that’s garnished with half a freaking lobster ($36). And here’s the thing: It’s not even my favorite pasta there!

click to enlarge
Creamy, summery corn soup with crumbled bacon and crab at Mille Lire.
Brian Reinhart
That lobster looks great on Instagram, I confess. But the real highlights at Mille Lire this summer are subtler, like thick housemade strips of fresh fettuccine "al limone" ($28). The noodles are tossed with big, tender flakes of crabmeat that taste as if they’ve spent some very happy time with a stick of butter, plus crisp asparagus cut diagonally and cooked until it's just barely crossed the line into tenderness. Then the dish is finished with a big squeeze of lemon, a showering of breadcrumbs for crunch, some parsley and just enough red pepper flakes to look good.

It tastes exactly the way that summer feels. The bowl is both light — fresh pasta and veggies! — and indulgent — lots of crab! It’s refreshing. It’s also big enough for two people to share, although they might regret giving half the bowl away.

Another summery dish that ought to be drawing more people in from the steam bath that is Cedar Springs Road is, surprisingly, a soup. But it’s a sweet corn soup, creamy and thick and packing huge amounts of corn flavor ($16). Those crumbled-up bits of crisp, browned bacon don’t hurt. And neither does the crabmeat.
click to enlarge
Chef Giuliano Matarese batters shishito peppers in Parmesan and serves them with a parsley-heavy dipping sauce.
Brian Reinhart
OK, maybe I’m just in a crabby mood this summer. There could be a lot of reasons for that.

Summer is a tough time in the restaurant industry. A lot of kitchens are doing some of their best work, inspired by the gorgeous corn, tomatoes, wild salmon and other top-notch ingredients that warm weather brings. But the crowds tend to shy away, afraid to spend even a second in the face-melting heat on their way to an eatery. And, of course, lots of folks turn to their backyard grill.

But this is an especially difficult summer for Mille Lire. The sudden accidental deaths of its co-owner and its interior decorator are a reminder of the precariousness of all that we take for granted. Go show some support for a local family-run business, Dallas. They need our love right now. The fact that they serve really great fresh pasta is the cherry on top. No, wait. It’s the lobster on top.

Mille Lire, 3102 Oak Lawn Ave., Suite 116
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Brian Reinhart has been the Dallas Observer's food critic since spring 2016. In addition, he writes baseball analysis for the Hardball Times and covers classical music for the Observer and MusicWeb International.
Contact: Brian Reinhart

Latest Stories