1540 S University Dr, FW. 7am-10pm daily. 817-945-9095. All major credit cards accepted.
Once again, my gig as this publication’s film critic has paid unexpected dividends when it comes to reviewing food. You see, I’d already eaten several times at Eatzi’s, due to its Plano location being right next to a movie theater where I’d sometimes attend advance screenings. Now the chain of Italian-flavored delicatessens has opened up a Fort Worth store. This is less a proper restaurant than an upscale grocery store in the mode of Dean & DeLuca’s.
As a place to eat, the location at University Park leaves quite a bit to be desired. The indoor seating area (furnished with a countertop and metal stools) is tiny, and while the outdoor seating area has been expanded, your comfort level there will depend on the weather. When I arrived at the peak of lunch hour, there was literally no place to sit, so I ate my lunch standing up at the counter until the man next to me vacated his stool. On top of that, the situation at the checkout registers is chaotic, with three registers for people who are only grocery shopping and a drinks counter for people who either want to eat in or take a drink with them. Except that you can order drinks at the shopping registers, too, and then pick them up at the drinks counter. And the drinks counter can ring up your groceries as well. I had no idea where the line started. I think I may have cut in front of people, but I’m not sure.
Good thing my sandwich was magnificent. Eatzi’s benefits greatly from having an excellent bakery attached to it, so you can take home a freshly baked loaf of white chocolate apricot boule or pain au levain. All sandwiches are made to order, with your choice of bread, cheese, topping, spread, and up to three “middles,” which include not only meats but also things like egg salad and, for the vegetarian/vegan crowd, caramelized onions. My sandwich was neatly layered with prosciutto, salami, provolone, onions, lettuce, cucumber, and judicious amounts of ancho chile mayonnaise and black pepper. It was all on wheat “striatta” bread (the Italian word “striata” translates as “stretched” and not as “bone,” as the restaurant says) dusted with a layer of flour that I appreciated. The bakery was also responsible for my chocolate chip cookie afterward, which had a pleasing chewiness with a browned bottom to give it some caramelized flavors.
The store’s plastic shopping bags are emblazoned with the slogan “Don’t Cook. Take It Eatzi’s.” Indeed, much of the space is given over to food that you take home from the chef’s case located in the middle. My chicken breast had a three-cheese crust that was a bit greasy to the touch after I warmed it up in my oven, but the meat did come out tender without being chewy or dry. As for the Caprese salad, I could have used a bit more acidic zip in the tomatoes to counteract the tang of the mozzarella, but this might have been due to the fact that I ordered the last of the salad in the display case. Contrary to its name, the slice of Chocolate Oblivion cake didn’t hit me over the head with its chocolate flavor but presented me politely with its flourless cake with toffee bits and chocolate mousse. As grocery store-prepared food goes, this is as good as it gets.
Despite the Verdi and Puccini playing over the P.A. system, the extensive wine and cheese selections at Eatzi’s don’t hew to the Italian feel of the rest of the establishment. That may be a plus or a minus to you. The wine store features everything from Perrier-Jouet Belle Époque to Broke Ass Red Wine, but the spottiness of the selection means you’ll have to go to a real wine shop for a Barolo or a Barbaresco. Eventually I was able to find a knowledgeable staffer to take me through the Riesling selection.
As a grocery store, Eatzi’s might not supplant Trader Joe’s or Central Market, but as a bakery and a sandwich shop, it’s a nice addition to the TCU neighborhood, especially with the sandwiches at a price point that’s cheaper than the East Hampton Sandwich Co. across the street. I may even go back for that seeded wheat bread that comes showered in poppy seeds.
Sandwich made to order $7.99-9.99
Three-cheese crusted chicken $8.99
Chocolate Oblivion cake $3.99