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Italian restaurant with tragic history departs Dallas' Oak Lawn neighborhood

Italian restaurant with tragic history departs Dallas' Oak Lawn area

Mille Lire
They had wonderful pastas. Photo courtesy of Mille Lire

An Italian restaurant in Dallas that endured some tragedy in its lifespan has closed for good: Mille Lire, the restaurant in the Oak Lawn/Cedar Springs neighborhood, called it quits — but with a teaser that its Italian-born chef would return.

"Our journey ends here for now," said chef-owner Giuliano Matarese. "It's been beautiful and exciting but we have also been through so much. These are really tough times and we need to concentrate on gathering our strength, honoring our loved ones and building a prosperous future."

Mille Lire opened in 2017 as part of a renovation of The Centrum building. The restaurant occupied the corner facing Cedar Springs Road and Welborn Street, which had a somewhat troubled history of its own, with prior occupants such as Bengal Coast and Manuel's Creative Cuisine that were unable to prosper in that space.

But Matarese and his partner Brian Ellard gave the space a beautiful makeover, replacing walls with windows that opened the space to the street, reconfiguring the dining room into a more open floorplan, and installing a spiffy bar and new flooring with geometric tiles.

Matarese had other assets including name-brand value and experience that included luxury resorts and Michelin-starred restaurants such as Convivio. He was a TV cooking show veteran with appearances on shows such as Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay.

The menu featured impressive house-made pastas, seafood, and Italian dishes such as polenta and osso bucco, plus signature items including meatballs served with house-made bread.

However, the restaurant suffered a fatal blow when Ellard died in a tragic plane crash in June 2019. The airplane crashed at Addison Airport, killing all 10 people inside, including Ellard, his wife Ornella, and her children Alice and Dylan Maritato.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Matarese tried the shift to takeout, offering menu items along with family-style trays of dishes such as lasagna and appetizer samplers that would feed up to 6 people.

In his goodbye, he thanked the "Mille Lire family" and said that, "Chef G will be back to delight you with his authentic Italian cuisine. So this not a goodbye but arrivederci! Grazie!"