When it comes to restaurants, Dallas is very fickle. A hot new restaurant opens and everyone can’t wait to try it. The décor, the chef and the menu all contribute to the “wow” factor. But no matter how good the food is, how wonderful the service is, the wow factor seems to fade and diners move on to the next big things.
So for a restaurant to stay open for 33 years, it has to have a loyal following. It helps if the restaurant keeps perennial favorites on the menu, and loyal insiders know they can request them and the kitchen will happily oblige.
Patrizio Uptown has found a niche that Dallas diners love. They offer traditional Italian food with a contemporary twist. When you walk in the front door, the staff make you feel like you are part of the family, and the aroma from the new wood-burning pizza oven creates an instantly warm and satisfying environment, one primed for fine dining.
The original Patrizio was started in 1986 by Jack Knox in Highland Park Village. He then opened a second location at Park and Preston in Plano. Ed Bailey bought both locations from Knox in 2006 and has since expanded to Uptown, McKinney Avenue, Highland Village, and Fairview, which has 13,000 square feet with over half the footage designated to private events.
The tone and vibe of the Uptown location exudes comfortable elegance. The lighting is kept low but highlights artwork brought over from the original Highland Park location, which closed after a new lease could not be negotiated. Classic Italian music, fused with the Rat Pack, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, plays in the background.
Jonathan Thomas, general manager/private events and catering at Patrizio Restaurants, explained that the décor was updated for the move. “We added a more modern and contemporary feel with low-back leather chairs, floor-to-ceiling leather booths and new artwork fused with the old artwork,” he says.
“Patrizio was seen as an institution for over 30 years at the Highland Park location,” Thomas continues. “So the Patrizio Uptown was designed with a mixture of old-world elements [from Highland Park] with the newer more contemporary feel of McKinney Avenue.”
In addition to changes in the décor, minor changes were made to the menu. “The decision to make changes to the menu was born out of the idea of mixing the old with the new,” says Thomas. “We wanted to keep the old favorites and add new items that would appeal to a broader section of people with dietary needs. We also changed our selection of ingredients as a part of the farm to market approach to freshness. Our guests’ tastes changed over the years, and we want to keep up with them in addition to not losing the core of who we are and what we do.”
For consistency, the menus are the same from location to location, however there are some small variances to appeal to the different demographics. The Fairview location has over 13,000 square feet and the décor consists of crystal chandeliers, marble floors, granite table tops and damask wallpaper under soaring 30-foot ceilings. “It is the more ‘Gianni Versace’ of our restaurants— big and grand in every sense of the word,” says Thomas. Fairview specializes in private events that can accommodate parties from 10 people to over 300. The event space comes with AV equipment and sound systems. In contrast, the Highland Village location has a take on quiet sophistication. It is nicely appointed with white leather and black accents. “A little more old Hollywood glam but in a comfortable atmosphere,” Thomas says.
Patrizio respects the special dietary needs of diners. If you are a vegetarian or gluten intolerant you will find it easy to order at Patrizio. There are many vegetarian options, including the cauliflower steak with romesco sauce, super greens, and golden raisin-mint gremolata. For dessert there is a flourless chocolate cake option that includes two mini-bundtstyle cakes with whipped cream and gelato.
If you are not a vegetarian, you can still get your vegetables in a luscious carrot cake generously slathered with cream cheese frosting.
Whether you are a fickle eater or have fickle taste in your dining establishments, Patrizio will be pleasing to both palate and perception.
Madelyn Miller is a freelance writer who specializes in travel and food articles. Follow her on travellady.com.