Megan O’Brien & Claire Holman
While the cafeteria serves some semblance of pasta, sometimes it’s nice to try something new – and authentic.
Located just a few blocks from McKinney Avenue, Taverna Pizzeria and Risottoria certainly meets those criteria, making it well worth the wander outside the UD bubble.
Going for an early dinner on Thursday, we received a table in minutes. Once we were settled, the waiter even unrolled our silverware and placed cloth napkins on our laps. Perhaps even more welcoming than the waiter was the aroma of basil and tomatoes, wafting into the dining room from the kitchen and drawing our curious eyes toward the cooks sliding pizzas in and out of the wood-fire oven.
The ambiance of this pizzeria is reminiscent of the classic one-room Italian restaurant, complete with its wood-fire oven, bar along one wall, and small tables scattered throughout. Vintage decorations line the walls, adding to an effortless Italian-style decor.
Though high ceilings don’t do much to dampen the noise, the overall ambiance provides a relaxing close to a busy day at work, a place where guests seem to come to relax and enjoy each other’s company. As a big Italian family a few tables over welcomed the arrival of their food with all due hand-gestures, couples at tables for two savored their wine.
For dinner, the one-page menu offers risottos, pastas and pizzas, as well as pan-seared meat and seafood. Each dish goes by its Italian name, adding both wonder and complexity when you try to pronounce your selection to the waiter.
We started off with the Taverna Focaccia appetizer, which was so good that we could have been satisfied with that alone (and it’s $3 cheaper than the average pizza). It was loaded with pine nuts, thinly sliced parmesan, red onions, sautéed mushrooms, and raw arugula. Many of the fresh ingredients toppled off as we picked up each slice – don’t be afraid to reclaim fallen toppings and pile them back on! Even Claire, who hates mushrooms and onions, admitted that these were delectable – subtly flavored and sautéed with olive oil. When we were done, barely two arugula leaves were left.
Soon after we wiped our mouths of focaccia, the waiter presented our entrées. We couldn’t wait for him to go away so we could dig in. We had chosen a traditional Italian dish: spaghetti carbonara. The sauce was heavy and full of flavor and the pieces of bacon tasted more like pancetta. There was no room for subtlety here, with each bite infused with bacon flavor.
Due to its intense flavoring, half this dish will likely satisfy your appetite for bacon. We’d recommend splitting it with a friend and sharing a second entree. It was a good accompaniment to the Taverna Focaccia but it would work with any of their pizzas.
We also tried Pizza al Gorgonzola, Pera e Arugula. The first bite brought an unexpected burst of flavor as the sweet pear complemented the savory gorgonzola and mozzarella. The arugula was lightly placed on top of melted cheese and small chunks of warm pears. With each bite, we wanted more and more.
The average entrée is around $15 and comes in generous portions. Treat yourself to the experience that is Taverna Pizzeria and Risotteria. We will certainly be returning to try the brunch and $1 bellinis.
Taverna Pizzeria and Risottoria is located in Uptown at 3210 Armstrong Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75025.