It’s no secret that one food critic’s treasure is another’s trash. Chow, Baby unreservedly disliked Macaluso’s Italian Restaurant (“Crabby,” April 24, 2013), though probably not without good reason.
But things have improved since my colleague’s visit. My table of four started with the “caprise”; salad –– and nontraditional spellings aren’t the only things Macaluso’s does differently. The kitchen also takes some semi-nontraditional approaches to the food. Unlike a caprese salad, the “caprise” was more than just mozzarella rounds, tomatoes, and chunks of basil drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The plate also featured capers, roasted red peppers, and a spicy radicchio and lettuce mix, which led to bite after scrumptious, salty-sweet bite.
The salad was much better than the “broschetta,” which was basically chopped tomatoes atop admittedly lovely croutons.
No doubt a carryover from owner/chef Zeke Jusufi’s days at Fortuna Italian Restaurant on the West Side, Macaluso’s entrée menu is pretty standard. The scallops platini made for the best dish of the entire lunch. Perfectly pan-seared, the bivalves arrived in a mouthwatering sauce of mushrooms, shallots, and brandy. It’s spectacularly easy to ruin scallops: They can go from raw to overdone in a flash. Macaluso’s had a barely translucent center, with lovely caramelization on the outside.
The chicken marsala was tasty but a little spicier than I’m used to, with fresh mushrooms and garlic reduced in the sweet wine sauce. The lunch special, chicken breast in herb-infused balsamic sauce with dried tomatoes, was also pleasant.
The veal parmesan was perfectly breaded, and the tomato sauce and comforting blanket of mozzarella cheese on top were excellent. The linguine accompanying the dish was also cooked immaculately, but the veal itself was just a touch mushy. Yes, veal is supposed to be soft — but not mushy.
Mushiness was also at the heart of my other small complaint: Instead of being served with pasta, all of the lunch entrées except the veal came with vegetables, which were steamed well beyond the point of doneness. Quality notwithstanding, these plates could have benefited from some additional starch. Thankfully, there was enough tasty complimentary bread to go around.
The two homemade desserts on the day we visited were cannoli and tiramisu. Both were outstanding. The single, giant, cinnamon-kissed cannoli shell was still crunchy and delicious, which led me to believe that the heavenly chocolate chip-studded mascarpone filling had only recently been piped in. (Sometimes filled cannoli sits for a few hours, and the crust takes onthe consistency of Play-Doh.) The coffee-spiked tiramisu was lushly moist.
Macaluso’s sits in what used to be Le Chardonnay (which then became Pegasus, then Grady’s). The space is pretty, though the owners have not made the best use of it –– the Lady and the Tramp-style red checkered tablecloths are a little corny. There’s a private dining area downstairs and a back patio festooned with twinkly lights.
In Fort Worth, any locally owned restaurant opening in a neighborhood (as opposed to in a strip mall full of chain restaurants or a high-rent area with limited parking) is cause for celebration. Unfortunately, the neighborhood surrounding Macaluso’s seems to be inhospitable to Italian food –– you can tell by the shuttered doors of Ruffino’s around the corner and Sapristi! across the street.
We can only hope thatall of that bad juju is gone and that Macaluso’s will continue to improve.
Macaluso’s Italian Restaurant
2443 Forest Park Blvd, FW. 817-921-2200. 11am-10pm Sun, 10am-10pm Tue-Fri, 4pm-10pm Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Caprise salad ……………….. $5.95
Veal parmesan …………….. $10.95
Chicken marsala ……………..$7.95
Scallops platini …………….. $16.95
Cannoli ……………………….. $4.75