Then there's Terilli's.
Terilli's is finished out in snazzy black-and-white, with live jazz six nights a week, a place where, even on a Tuesday night, the girls have put their high heels on for dinner dates. It's not that it's pretentious or fancy; Terilli's just has a snappy tilt to its hat that most of the neighborhood doesn't. Hell, by that metaphor, the rest of the neighborhood doesn't even have a hat.
And it's a popular destination on that Tuesday night, with nearly every table inside taken and the streetside patio filling up. We sat outside, our back to Carlos Guedes' electric harp-playing just inside the window. It's a rare Dallas view--pedestrians everywhere, shops open. And we enjoyed a meal at the incline of the week that reminded us why it should be no surprise that Terilli's has lasted 10 years in a city famous for fickle diners.
"Italchos" are part of the reason. Sounding like something Frito-Lay would have packaged by now, "Italchos" are not the junk food you might expect. The crisp chips of pizza dough are topped with mozzarella and a choice of toppings. We picked artichoke hearts and black olives and ate the plateful with a cold glass of white wine from the list.
Salads were surprisingly good. I only say surprisingly because generally salads are so much better than they used to be. Terilli's tosses scored twice. The Caesar was long on anchovy, so rich we couldn't eat it all, and the dinner salad was an excellent mix of leaf and romaine lettuces in an olivey vinaigrette, not too tart.
Before the entrees arrived, the waiters did, to roll down the plastic screens and turn on the tall heaters, making the patio a cozy little world and allowing us to hear the inside music over the cars.
The list of entrees sticks to the Italianesque. We tried a standard, spaghetti and meatballs, which was really capellini bathed in a light tomato-puree sauce and topped with big sausage and fennel-spiked meatballs. There are nightly appetizer, pasta, grilled, and dessert specials. On the night we visited, these included mushroom-filled ravioli and snapper with lemon buerre blanc, a moist fillet.
Like greatest hits, lots of the entrees bear dedications to first names only along with their descriptions. I tried the one dedicated to Tom (but knew it was for the former coach because the dish was titled Tom Landry's chicken). I don't know what the relationship between Tom and this slightly overcooked chicken breast is exactly, but I liked its sauce, a glaze of port and balsamic vinegar, even though it would have suited a roasted, cracklin-fat skin better. A pilaf of wild and white rice, with toasted pine nuts, and some steamed vegetables just as free of seasoning as most restaurants believe they must be, came with the chicken.
At the bottom of the menu is a note, requesting patrons to consider others and, "Please limit your time at the table to two hours." Frankly, it's usually a service problem that makes me linger in a restaurant more than two hours, but I can see where Terilli's would have a problem with people wanting to stay all night.
By the way, Carlos Guedes is also playing for Easter brunch, on Sunday, April 7.
--Mary Brown Malouf
Terrilli's, 2815 Greenville Ave., 827-3993. Open for lunch daily 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; for dinner Sunday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-12 a.m., Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Sunday brunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Cheese Italchos $5.95
Tom Landry Special $14.50
Spaghetti and Meatballs $8.95
Special Snapper $15.95