A new Italian restaurant has opened near American Airlines Center that seems ready to endure where others have not. Called L' Italiano Bistro & Bar, it's a prototypical downtown joint serving a full menu of Italian food including pastas, pizzas, and meatball subs.
The restaurant occupies the ground floor of the Victory Place apartment building, at 2610 N. Houston St. The decor is your basic tables and chairs, lots of dark wood, with some effort made via shelves on the wall that hold wine bottles.
But the bigger goal here is decent red-sauce Italian at not too high a price.
Dishes include chicken with angel hair pasta, gnocchi, and pesto tortellini, frequently blanketed with a thin sheet of mozzarella cheese. If you like mozzarella blankets, this is your place.
There is sausage and peppers, eggplant parmesan, and even a vegetarian risotto. Baked pastas include a sampler for $15 with beef lasagna, chicken cannelloni, and ravioli in tomato sauce.
Pizzas include alfredo with chicken, artichokes, and spinach; and a buffalo chicken with spicy chicken and ranch dressing. Their dessert lineup includes cannoli, and they also have a full bar, with cocktails, bottled and draft beer, and wine.
One strong point is the complimentary bread, made from the same dough that they use for the pizza, brushed with butter and served hot.
Owner is Victor Osami, who grew up in Rome and has been on the downtown Dallas Italian restaurant scene for decades. He also helped co-found the Brothers Pizza chain and says he was first in town to offer pizza by the slice. Who would dare contest such a bold claim?
"I was the first one to open a place on Main Street in 1988," he says. "I opened Roma Express, which is now closed, and I opened Ravenna across the street, which I've since sold."
This was back in the day when having a restaurant in the Central Business District was neither cool nor vastly profitable. And yet Osami was there, an early settler, with his everyday pastas and pizzas. Victory Park has seen more than its share of restaurant turnover; perhaps this is the kind of determination it takes to withstand the challenges of being a restaurant near an entertainment venue that is not open every day.