A jewel of an Italian restaurant with an impeccable pedigree is coming to Frisco. Called Caffe Baonecci, it's a family-owned restaurant whose owners are natives of Italy and who moved here from San Francisco where they owned a similarly-named restaurant in North Beach.
The restaurant will open in late spring at 7151 Preston Rd. #451D, in a center east of the Tollway and south of Main Street, going into a space that was once a Le Peep Grill and most recently a Mexican restaurant, Rosita's Tex-Mex.
Baonecci is from husband-and-wife Walter and Stefania Gambaccini, who previously owned Baonecci Ristorante, a small, unassuming, yet highly regarded trattoria in San Francisco where they served a very specific regional cuisine: the rustic dishes of their native Lucca, a city in Tuscany. They also created a unique style of thin-crust pizza that seems destined to please Dallas' preference for a crisp crust.
Walter is the charming host. Stefania is the acclaimed chef, known for simple but authentic dishes including lasagna, bolognese, and crunchy thin-crust pizza. Elia and Filipo are their sons.
Overwhelmed by the pandemic, they came to Texas in 2021.
"We traveled to see how places were handling COVID-19, and we had some friends here," Walter says. "We saw that Texas was booming, especially where we are in Frisco."
Their California restaurant was in San Francisco's Little Italy, where it made best-of lists for its authentic, comfortable ambience — one that summoned restaurants found in the small towns and villages of Italy.
Natives of Italy appreciated that they served dishes from Lucca you might only find in Italian homes, such as carpaccio di bresaola, a light, flavorful dish rarely seen in American restaurants. The food can have an almost peasant aspect, yet refined.
"Lucca is blessed with its own culinary traditions, and our homemade traditional recipes are not the usual," Walter says. "People also love our pizza which is unlike any other. It's thin and crackly, but not dry. It's very thin and baked on a stone, similar to the way pizza is done in Rome. We were the only restaurant in San Francisco doing that style."
Their menu is still being finalized but includes dishes such as tagliatelle pasta with San Marzano tomato sauce, and tortellini filled with porcini mushrooms — a Northern Italian favorite. Pizza Baonecci is a classic with prosciutto, arugula, and shaved Parmigiano.
One thing they'll add for Texas: a full bar with Italian-inspired cocktails such as the Negroni and Aperol Spritz.
Walter has a casual attitude, one that almost takes for granted that of course they'll make their pasta made fresh every day, with sauces made in house — no need to mention that everything will be from scratch, carefully prepared, fresh, what other way would there be?
"We won't be the most inexpensive, due to the high-quality ingredients used for each dish, plus the love that Stefania puts in every dish," he says.
Fittingly, the name, Baonecci — pronounced "bow-knee-chee" — also has a distinctly regional connection.
"It's dialect from the Lucca area," Walter says. "It can mean a lot of things... positive, superlative, cool, groovy, 'really good.' You say, 'The pasta was good — baonecci!'"