I think we’re in the middle of another of our city’s now-notorious restaurant sea changes, in which amazing (if flawed) local places fold and are replaced by a spate of new chains, celebra-chef expansions, and trend-driven joints.
Over the last month, Revolver Taco Lounge shuttered its lone Fort Worth location (there’s a new one in Dallas) less than a year after reopening in the Forest Park shopping center that once housed Sera Dining & Wine and Sapristi! Bistro & Wine Bar. Last week, the owners of Le Cep announced on social media that they’d be closing down after a three-year run on West 7th Street.
Both restaurants were unquestionably at the top of the local restaurant hierarchy. Had I ever relied on dumb, clickbait lists, they’d both have been perennially at or near the top of the best in town. Each was admirably ambitious, especially for a chicken-fried barbecue city like Fort Worth. Sometimes, though, this town can punish restaurant visionaries – and by sometimes, I mean “almost always.”
I don’t want to kick these places while they’re down, but let’s not pretend either eatery was perfect. Revolver’s service was often bad and sometimes altogether absent. Le Cep’s waitstaff was, at times, a hovering, pretentious caricature of European formal service.
These two closings came within a few weeks of each other and on the heels of 381 new restaurants either opening or announcing that they’d be open soon. After all, there’s a lot of new real estate to fill: The River District, Waterside and Clearfork developments, the Trinity River Vision, and God knows how many other river-themed projects are coming online and always seem packed with people chasing the shiny new object – the same ones who were at Le Cep and Revolver a couple of years ago. But, as is always the case around here, there aren’t many independently owned chef-driven cafés in this latest wave of slick concepts and gimmicky menus.
Maybe the most promising of the new joints is Piattello Italian Kitchen (5924 Convair Dr, Ste 412, 817-349-0484), the recently opened brainchild of Chef Marcus Paslay (of Clay Pigeon fame) in the Waterside development.
The dining room is open and spacious, with a modern rustic vibe. There are various species of fresh tomatoes on display in front of the open kitchen, just in case you were wondering if the chefs used canned sauce.
The menu is traditional Italian: simple and fresh-tasting with an emphasis on time-honored techniques and some modern flourishes. Highlights of the appetizer course were the gooey, cheesy squash blossoms ($12), with mozzarella, ricotta, anchovies, breadcrumbs, and basil; the salty-sweet burrata and figs ($14), with shaved prosciutto and the sweet fruit piled onto honey-dripped toast points served with basil and grapes; and the blistered shishito peppers ($8), prepared simply with a side of lemon and much-needed salt.
The entrée round was more impressive on paper than in execution. The veal Milanese ($24), a fork-tender, breaded veal loin topped with a salad of arugula, tomatoes, red onions, parmesan cheese, and lemon was a little too simple in presentation and flavor and desperately needed a touch of acid – perhaps a drizzle of aged balsamic. The chicken saltimbocca ($24), medallions of fowl stuffed with prosciutto, and prepared with sage and marsala, was cloyingly salty. The meat was perfectly tender, which suggests the bird might have sat for too long in its brine or that someone in the kitchen pranked the chef by loosening the saltshaker lid – or maybe they were just pouring out some salt to remember the fallen restaurants.