Sprezza, a new "Roman tavern" from Julian Barsotti (Nonna, Carbone’s), is the second step for the Maple Avenue Dining District, a $3.5-million development from Crow Holdings that so far has given Dallas 18th & Vine, the nearby Kansas City-style barbecue spot with live jazz and an upscale feel. Much like 18th & Vine, Sprezza feels bright, airy, fresh — and though it doesn't serve the cheapest cuisine in Dallas, it's certainly not outlandish with dishes ranging from $11-$26.
The interior is sleek but not stuffy. Along with tables and booths, there is plenty of bar seating that enables you to watch the bartenders or the wide-open kitchen. In the corner near the espresso machine, a turntable and a stack of records — Ray Charles sitting on top — is perched beneath a white orchid. The endless windows make the space feel light and pleasant, certainly making this a happy hour contender for nearby Oak Lawn and Uptown office workers. The music — a playful mix of retro soul and R&B with dancey current pop music — reinforces the idea that Sprezza doesn't take itself too seriously.
The dinner menu is broken up into handy categories where everything is priced the same: spuntini (snacks/bites) are $11, antipasti (appetizers/hors d'oeuvres) are $14, stagioni (seasonal) dishes are $14, pizzas are $16 and traditional pasta dishes $17. Under the spuntini menu, don't skip the squash blossoms, featuring this light flower stuffed with mozzarella and swimming in an anchovy tomato sauce. There's a lot to explore on this not-so-massive menu, one that balances classically heavy Italian dishes with light bites. There's a robust Italian wine list broken up by price-per-bottle ($45-$120) and a small menu of three Italian beers. There's also a playful little $12 cocktail menu featuring a Negroni Blanco, the summer-ready Rossini (strawberry purée and Prosecco) and a light, herbal cocktail called the Di Rosmarino, made with rosemary-infused gin, maraschino, Pernod, egg white and bitters.
A fun touch at this bar: When the bartender mixed up my cocktail, what didn't fit into the glass was served in a smaller iced glass along with the drink, which made this cocktail feel more like 1.5 cocktails.
The Maple Avenue Dining District may only have a couple restaurants in its roster, but what is up and running on this corner of Oak Lawn is so far exceeding expectations. So far, Sprezza feels like a playful, fun extension of Barsotti's other Italian food concepts, and the gorgeous interior should bode well with the neighboring Design District.
Sprezza, 4010 Maple Ave.