A longtime Italian restaurant dating back to the '90s is bidding us alla prossima: Nicola's Ristorante Italiano, which has been doing authentic northern Italian food at the Shops at Legacy since 2005, will close at the end of August.
According to spokesman David Wood, the restaurant's lease is about to end, and they decided to call it a day.
Nicola started out in the '90s at the Dallas Galleria, where it served house-made pastas and other Italian classics. It was one of the first places in Dallas to offer gelato and one of the first to import a wood-burning oven for pizza.
In 2005, the restaurant relocated to Plano's Shops at Legacy, where it prevailed with its sweeping staircase, open kitchen, chandeliers, hand-painted ceiling dome, and wall of windows looking out onto the Angelika.
Their closure follows two other high-profile departures at the Shops at Legacy: Jasper's, which closed in late 2018, and Henry's Tavern, which closed in June 2019, as its parent company declared bankruptcy.
Nicola was from Richard Gussoni, who also owns Culinaire, the food and beverage corporation that services entities such as country clubs, botanical gardens, retirement communities, and museums.
The restaurant made its own pasta before such a thing was common in Dallas, doing unusual shapes such as lasagnetta. Non-pasta dishes included baked fish, zucchini fritti, calamari, and focaccia.
During its lifespan, Nicola's employed F&B pros such as manager Max Heidenreich and chef Luigi Iannuario, who helped open Da Mario in Frisco and recently joined the team at Wicked Butcher, the new steakhouse at the Sinclair Hotel in Fort Worth.
It also tried Dallas a second time, opening at 8111 Preston Rd., before closing in 2012.
"Our lease is up on August 31, and we're not renewing it," Wood says. "We had a good run. In the restaurant world, I feel like 15 years is pretty good."
Beyond the lease situation, Culinaire's stake in the museum world has expanded significantly. Wood says they're now doing restaurants at 14 museums, such as the Ford Carnegie in Pittsburg and their latest, the Denver Art Museum, where they'll open a concept in 2020.
"Museums have changed their priorities — they want their restaurant or cafe experience to be an extension of the museum," he says. "We're culinarily-focused and nimble."
Nicola's was their little jewel.
"We made our own sauces and pastas. The only thing we had in the freezer was gelato," he says. "It was as much like a little Italian restaurant as you could hope for at the Shops at Legacy."