For whatever the reason, it’s a quiet afternoon at Terilli’s. The first floor is missing diners entirely, each table dressed up with white tablecloths and a yellow rose in the center. The bartender is cutting limes and leans over the counter to tell a story: He’s having a strange day after his ex-girlfriend showed up for an awkward exchange. Later, the valet guy walks in, does a dance, which one of Terilli’s servers answers with a like-minded dance. Another server walks out slices of classic white paper, which, if they were missing from the tables, would feel wrong. There’s joy in witnessing all the behind-the-scenes play in the moment: Terilli's is a neighborhood restaurant that almost didn't make it.
Nine years ago, just before the sun rose, a blaze tore through Terilli’s. The scene was gut-wrenching: Flames ran along the roof and smoke muted the sky with gray. Dallas firefighters blasted water into the fire and smoke from every angle they could find. A few hours after the four-alarm blaze began, the roof caved in over Terilli’s, Hurricane Grill and the Greenville Bar & Grill. Terilli’s had been open for 25 years.
Now, around 35 years after Greenville’s neighborhood Italian joint first opened — fire be damned — a pork osso bucco sandwich lands on the bar with french fries. It’s one of Dallas’ most surprising and simple lunches: Bolts of pork cling to a warm, peppery wine sauce under sheets of fresh spinach and thick-cut disk of red onion. There’s more of the wine sauce on the side, which, if you’re doing it right, will double as a dunk tank for the garlic Parmesan fries.
Halfway into the sandwich, alongside a few more tall tales from the bartender, I'm quick to find relief and gratitude for the neighborhood joint’s easygoing revival after such a devastating blaze. Not everything sings as tried-and-true as this lunch sandwich at Terilli’s. Some pastas, like a sausage and peppers tortellini, are overwhelmed by cream. Others suffer from butter intoxication. Crab claws are fine, thanks to the indefatigable duo of garlic and butter. That's when the real beauty of the pulled pork osso bucco sandwich hits you: It’s hovering on the brink of Italian and barbecue.
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Osso bucco, often a braised veal shank dish, is about as old a plate as dinosaur bones. “Why not make it on a sandwich?” is, truly, a beautiful thought for Lower Greenville. Even better: Few ingredients, served fresh-as-rain and in between a buttered bun, and right as the lunch hour gnaws at your gut. It’s a great meal at an Italian joint that’s literally survived the roof caving in.
Terilli's, 2815 Greenville Ave. (Lower Greenville)