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Ferrari’s’ beautifully presented Italian fare harks back to classic fine dining. Photo by Jordan Ricaurte.

There is something admirably gutsy about naming your restaurant after the world’s most recognized high-performance automobile. That kind of bravado sets expectations that simply wouldn’t be there if the place was named, say, Peugeot’s. The Secchi family of restaurateurs has staked a claim on luxury Italian dining in the ’burbs, first with the original Ferrari’s in Addison, now 25 years old. The Grapevine location has been around for eight years. Something more than a fancy name seems to be driving the restaurant’s success.

My guest and I journeyed to the far northwest corner of Tarrant County to see if Ferrari’s Italian Villa and Chop House could deliver a dining experience worthy of at least one inevitable sports car metaphor. First impressions were not promising. The building looks like a repurposed Macaroni Grill, and there is some concept-crowding: Ferrari’s Italian Villa and Chop House shares its building with Ferrari’s Pizza Patio, a casual dining option. It was a confusing beginning.

[box_info]Ferrari’s Italian Villa and Chop House
1200 William D Tate Ave, Grapevine. 817-251-2525. 4:30pm-9pm Sun, 5pm-10pm Mon-Thu, 5pm-10:30pm Fri-Sat. Reservations and all major credit cards accepted.[/box_info]

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Ferrari’s has a pre-recession opulence that is going to look dated sooner rather than later, but it is also warm, composed, and controlled. Our hostess marched us past a display of the day’s specials: slabs of uncooked meat and fish wrapped in plastic. It is one of several anachronistic touches that make the place seem both charming and a bit bizarre –– decidedly un-hip perhaps but the sort of spot your grandparents would have loved.

We started with the fritto misto, a steaming pile of fried calamari and shrimp with a trio of dipping sauces. The seafood was juicy and tender, and the cornstarch breading was light and crispy. The herbed tartar sauce was homemade, and the marinara was tangy and fresh. A lemon wedge was wrapped in yellow cloth and tied with a green ribbon like a peace offering from 1989. In all, it was a classic dish prepared well enough.

The romaine wedge salad arrived shortly thereafter. Our server apologized for the additional cooking time required for the crispy chunks of pancetta ham and toasted hazelnuts that topped the perfunctory stack of lettuce leaves swimming in gorgonzola cream. It was at that point in the meal that we began to realize what we had signed up for: an evening of decadence, heavy on the butter, cream, and cheese, with deceitful renegotiations of diet plans and workout schedules.

We were enjoying a breather before the main course when our server arrived with a completely unnecessary and utterly delicious platter of fresh focaccia with spicy arrabbiata dipping sauce. The assault on our self-control was relentless.

My guest ordered the lamb osso buco, a primeval hunk of braised lamb shank splayed evocatively on a bed of silky, sexy, creamy polenta just like Nonna never made. The lamb melted in our mouths while perfuming the air around our table with an intoxicating vapor of wine and herbs.

The evening’s seafood special, a Dover sole pan-fried and filleted tableside meunière, could have come straight from Julia Child’s The Way to Cook. A serious and taciturn gentleman emerged from the kitchen to expertly debone my fish while we watched, and then he finished it with a splash of white wine. The sole was flakey and tender, and the lemon-caper sauce was light and tangy. The problem was that it was served with a risotto brimming with peas, asparagus, and lobster that was so perfectly sublime and decadent, the poor fish was upstaged.

At that point, exhausted and humiliated, there was nothing left to do but order dessert. Ferrari’s serves a very passable tiramisu, unremarkable but delicious, as well as a “Cioccolata all’ Stefano,” chef Stefano Secchi’s signature pot of cold chocolate fudgepaste smothered in whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings. We ate it all.

As we waddled, defeated, out to the parking lot, we had to concede that Ferrari’s had been an awful lot of fun, but the place offers as much quantity as quality. Its luxury is more of a Hummer stretch limo than a sleek Italian roadster.

[box_info]Ferrari’s Italian Villa and Chop House
Dover sole special     $40
Lamb osso buco     $28
Cioccolata all’ Stefano     $8[/box_info]

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