Restaurant Reviews

Fiatto in Uptown Struggles To Find Its Footing

Fiatto in the West Village has all the looks of a pleasant Italian restaurant.
Fiatto in the West Village has all the looks of a pleasant Italian restaurant. Alison McLean
Food has the power to stir our memories and help us create new ones. Naturally, chefs and restaurant owners tap into their memories as well when opening a restaurant.

When we first read of Fiatto, the casual Italian spot that opened in the spring of 2022 in the West Village, we learned that the kitchen would be headed up by executive chef Kylil Henson. Henson’s resume is impressive, with spots local (Flora Street Cafe), national (French Laundry in California) and international (Coque in Spain) to his name. But it was his memories of Italian food growing up that led Henson to Fiatto.

"Growing up in South Philly, one of the biggest hubs of Italian cuisine in the country, I was fully immersed in the culture and cuisine," Henson said in a press release announcing Fiatto’s opening. "My mom’s Italian co-workers would always give her recipes to make us at home as well, so I grew up eating classic Italian dishes all the time.”
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The pork belly tortellini has been retired.
Alison McLean
During our first look at Fiatto, Angie Quebedeaux found plenty of Italian influences across the menu. Dishes like Caprese and burrata, trout saltimbocca and short-rib pappardelle were all hits, and we looked forward to returning for a formal review.

By the time we returned in the fall, Fiatto was showing some slips from its early brilliance. General manager John Dal Canton left the restaurant over the summer, and Henson left at the end of September to relocate to Denver. Gone were most of the dishes mentioned in our first look, replaced by other Italian classics.

Two oddities stood out to us on our visit in October. First, we had made a reservation, thinking that a restaurant in the West Village would be busy on a Friday night. We needn’t have bothered. Save for a party of 12 and a couple at the bar, the restaurant was empty during the prime dinner hours. Second, and something we didn’t notice until later, was that on our $123 tab, we were charged just $3.05 in sales tax, well below the 8.25% normally collected.

We returned a week later, as we visit restaurants at least twice in the course of our formal reviews, and yet more changes had taken place. The menu had been revised yet again from our visit the prior week, with some additions that didn't seem very Italian at all.

Until the day of our meal, I’d never had crispy pork ribs at an Italian restaurant. In all honesty, they were the most delicious item ordered by our party of three. An arugula and goat cheese salad was a little more on theme, and chicken meatballs were a solid choice. However, the salmon entrée one of our friends ordered was unimpressive, and my malfadini pasta swam in a cream sauce so salty that it bordered on inedible.

From-scratch focaccia has been replaced with Boom Boom Shrimp ($22). Gone is the pork belly tortellini, which our photographer snapped beautiful photos of in the fall; instead, there's now pickle fried chicken ($16).

Once again, the restaurant was all but vacant. With hardly any tables to wait on, you might expect better service, but our waiter was absent for long periods of time. We hoped to share a bottle of wine, but our first two choices were unavailable. Sales tax collected for our party of three with appetizers, entrees and wine? Zero dollars.

These curiosities pointed to a restaurant that was clearly struggling, and we couldn’t help but wonder if Fiatto would stay open long enough for us to complete a review. We heard from some former Fiatto staffers who agreed to speak only off the record. They had experiences with paychecks arriving late, underpayments and other problems. Also around this time, negative reviews started popping up on Google and Yelp, with a repeating theme of poor service, long waits for food and subpar dishes.
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Foccacia bread is no longer on the menu at Fiatto, but you can get Boom Boom Shrimp now.
Alison McLean
While writing our review in late November, Fiatto reached out to let us know that new owners had taken over. All mention of the previous management team had been scrubbed from the website, and yet another menu was hastily assembled. Once a seven-day-a-week restaurant, Fiatto is now open for dinner only four nights a week, with brunch and “social hour” on Sundays. The landing page of Fiatto’s website mentions the building of a new team, and it's no joke; every position from dishwasher and busboy to assistant manager and general manager is open and seeking applications.

We went back after the holidays with the hope of speaking to some of the owners or management about the changes and challenges. We spoke to Chanel Price, one of Fiatto’s new managers, who informed us that there had indeed been a change of ownership, and there was no general manager we could speak to, as the previous one had quit. Price admitted that the restaurant had work to do to get people in the door. Price added that yet another menu is in the works with more Italian dishes, along with salads and soups to lighten up the offerings.

“We’re still going to do Italian, just more casually so we don’t intimidate people while we try to get them in the door,” Price said.

We also took the opportunity to try another meal, but perhaps we should have taken the plethora of empty tables as a sign that things were still on shaky ground. The menu in the restaurant doesn’t match what’s online, and what is available is a far cry from the family-inspired Italian recipes offered when Fiatto opened. That new menu can't arrive quickly enough, as little of the current version is Italian at all.

Fiatto meatballs ($16) are made with ground pork, seasoned with fennel and Parmesan and served in a dish of house-made pomodoro. It’s a decent opener, but be prepared for a spicy zing that isn’t mentioned anywhere in the ingredients.

Entrées are a quick read, and even quicker if you skip over a brisket burger, Australian rack of lamb or bone-in rib-eye, none of which has roots in the Old Country. We did try the bone-in Duroc pork chop ($36), described as being served with “pommes puree and bacon marmalade."

The pork chop arrived on a bed of lumpy mashed potatoes, and the marmalade was all but absent. We’re not sure why an Italian restaurant would try a French potato recipe. France shares a border with Italy, so at least Fiatto keeps the errors on the same continent.
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Fiatto's truffled chicken rigatoni.
Chris Wolfgang
Besides a spaghetti Bolognese, the other Italian-sounding dish was a truffled chicken rigatoni ($27), promised with spinach, black truffle butter and a garlic cream sauce. The rigatoni was firm but tender, and with some focused concentration, we were able to detect notes of truffle oil in the cream sauce. The spinach was nonexistent, and the chicken breast on top was a rubbery hunk of protein encased in a thick and chewy coating. It tasted like something from the frozen food aisle at the grocery store, not an Uptown restaurant. Even with new owners, Fiatto still hasn’t figured out how to charge sales tax, collecting just $1.07 on our $172 tab.

We had high hopes for Fiatto. The space is beautiful and surrounded by plenty of West Village residents who would gladly embrace another solid restaurant offering. Opening and running a restaurant successfully is a massive challenge, though, and we can only hope that Fiatto’s new owners are up to the task of staffing the restaurant and executing a menu with a consistent theme. And, for their own sake, hiring an accountant. Until then, Fiatto leaves us with memories that we would much prefer to forget.

Fiatto Uptown, 3600 McKinney Ave., No. 126. Wednesday – Saturday, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.  
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Chris Wolfgang started writing about barbecue for the Dallas Observer in 2015, and became the Observer’s restaurant critic in October 2021. In his free time, he’s a dog owner, plays a mediocre guitar and is likely recovering from his latest rec-league sports injury.
Contact: Chris Wolfgang

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