When Julian Barsotti — Dallas' king of Italian cooking — opens a new restaurant, that's big news. And when Nick Badovinus — the city's congenial maestro of steaks, seafood and good times — debuts a new place, that's big news, too.
Put them together and you've got cause for major excitement. And yes, it's true: Barsotti and Badovinus plan to partner in two restaurants in the old Village Theatre space in Highland Park Village. Upstairs, Barsotti will be in charge of Fachini, an upscale, old-school, dinner-only Italian place. Downstairs, Badovinus will preside over Perfect Union Pizza Co., a "very casual, super affordable" place for New Haven-style pies, roasted chicken and oysters on the half-shell. (D magazine first reported the story.)
"It's going to be awesome," says Barsotti of the "swank Italian-American" upstairs project he hopes to open in November. "I want to create an homage to the classic mid-20th-century upscale Italian-American dining experience. Dark, with lamp-shaded chandeliers, black-and-white octagonal tile floors, plush booths, white tablecloths. Hopefully with a somewhat escapist kind of feeling, like loud crooner Italian-American music mixed with the Drifters. The challenge when you do that is to make it so it doesn't feel like a theme park and make it somewhat personal." Waiters, captains and bartenders will wear dinner jackets.
Barsotti has had such a project in mind for a long time, he says. "But you couldn't do that unless you had a particularly cool space. I don't think you could do it in a strip center; I felt like it had to be a historical space."
As for the food, "It'll have a little bit of a New Orleans-Sicilian accent," says the chef, who also owns Nonna, Carbone's Fine Food & Wine and Sprezza. "We're going to do classics. Tableside Caesar — it's so fun and interactive and nostalgic. Double-cut veal chop marsala. Veal parm. We'll do baked oysters from the gulf, and I think we'll do Rockefeller and casino." And chicken scarpariello, and maybe 100-layer lasagne, and certainly crab cocktail — "in the New Orleans style, but tweaked in my own personal way." When you're seated, you'll get complimentary garlic bread, house-made ricotta, spicy olive salad and a few slices of capicola — "a deconstructed version of the muffaletta."
Barsotti might even (are you sitting down?) do a timpano.
Downstairs: Perfect Union Pizza Co.
Badovinus' downstairs place, Perfect Union Pizza Co., will open first — by the end of summer or early fall, says the chef, whose Flavor Hook restaurant group also owns the Neighborhood Services restaurants, along with Town Hearth, Montlake Cut and Off-Site Kitchen.
It will feature rotisserie-roasted chickens, oysters on the half-shell, and "decidedly New World" pizza, says Badovinus. "Kind of that New Haven-style, not quite as big, and with a California sensibility." He plans to offer 12 or 13 pies daily, "a mix of red and white," plus chopped salads and pasta. "We're going to do a few spaghettis in classic styles, so we'll only be extruding one pasta. And the style is decidedly New World."
Both chefs say they're excited about the projects and about the partnership. "Jules and I have been great friends for years," says Badovinus. "I always ask his opinion; he kind of asks mine. He's somebody I've always bounced ideas off of, and I've always loved his food."
"Our restaurants will be autonomous, but we take a little partnership in each other's thing so we can be more in sync with what we're doing," says Barsotti. "I really like the idea of rooting for the other person, and this facilitates it."
Construction on Fachini is expected to begin around the time Perfect Union opens.