Pasta and Java
Fans of chef Marcus Paslay’s handmade pasta specialties at Clay Pigeon Food and Drink will be happy to know he’s opened a dedicated Italian restaurant. Piatello Italian Kitchen debuted last month in Fort Worth’s Waterside development, serving antipasti, soups, salads, pizzas and more scratch-made pastas. Meaning “plate” in Italian, Piatello also doubles as a coffee bar offering beverages made from Avoca Coffee beans, as well as muffins, pastries and grab-and-go breakfast items. Paslay’s culinary team includes executive chef Scott Lewis (Nonna, Carbone’s and Sprezza in Dallas) and Jen Williams (Magnolia Cheese Co., Sera Dining & Wine). The restaurant is already generating buzz for dishes that genuinely evoke those of Italy. Think spaghetti with San Marzano tomatoes and ricotta with sea salt, olive oil and sourdough. The 5,300-square-foot space is outfitted with concrete floors, metal-framed windows and has a casual, modern vibe. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 5924 Convair Drive, Suite 412, Fort Worth, 817-349-0484, http://piattelloitaliankitchen.com.
A Passion for Pie
Nothing says “made with love” quite like a fresh-from-scratch pie. That’s why Judy Balunda, a retired Grapevine schoolteacher, last fall decided to open JudyPie, serving her homemade sweet and savory pies at the request of friends and family. “Most normal people sit down and read novels,” says Balunda, who completed a pie-making course at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. “A novel doesn’t hold my attention. I read cookbooks and I have hundreds. My passion is going to estate sales and finding old cookbooks.” But most of Balunda’s pie recipes, which include coconut cream, pecan, lemon meringue, chess and cherry, came from her mother and grandmother. Chicken potpie, shepherd’s pie, hand pies, breads, scones, and cinnamon rolls were Balunda’s own additions to her pie shop menu — along with strawberry-rhubarb pie. Balunda says the sweet and tart pie is a runaway customer favorite and perfect for Valentine’s Day dessert. 520 S. Main St., Grapevine, 817-400-7437, www.judypie.com.
Two Scoops of Love
Skip the dessert course during Valentine’s Day dinner and head to Gypsy Scoops to share a sweet treat made for two. The ice cream parlor is taking reservations now for what it’s calling “freakshakes” — made-to-order, over-the-top sundaes with gargantuan toppings like red velvet cake, moon pies, cotton candy and more. Patrons can customize their own or choose from a menu of options, including the “Elvis” — made with banana pudding ice cream and a peanut butter waffle — or the “Valentine’s,” topped with chocolate-covered strawberries. Those with reservations will be guaranteed seating (complete with tablecloth and a pretty centerpiece) and priority in ordering. Shakes are $15 and reservations will be taken for 12:30-8 p.m. 2905 Race St., Fort Worth, 817-357-6730, www.gypsyscoops.com.
Out with the Zodiac, in with the New
When Neiman Marcus moves into its dazzling new two-story, 90,000-square-foot location in the Shops at Clearfork on Feb. 10 , a new NM Cafe with expanded hours will come with it. Executive chef Kathryn Johnston, who grew up in Fort Worth and frequented Neiman Marcus’ Hedges restaurant with her grandmother as a child, will continue to lead the kitchen. The menu is still being finalized, but favorite dishes like pecan-crusted chicken salad, tortilla soup and hot popovers with strawberry butter will make the move, even if the name “Zodiac” will not. In addition to a new bar with cocktail service, the NM Cafe — which will be on the upper level with views of the shopping center — also will serve Sunday brunch. Hours will be 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday. 5200 Monahans Ave., Fort Worth, 817-738-3581, www.neimanmarcus.com.
Cozy in Colleyville
New in the Village at Colleyville shopping center is Village Cafe & Bakery, a cozy spot for breakfast, lunch and early dinner that’s been busy with patrons since opening in December. Offering counter service and seating for about two dozen customers, the eatery specializes in house-baked pastries like muffins, cakes, cookies and gluten-free fruit tarts, as well as sandwiches, panini, salads and a daily soup special. Custom wedding and birthday cakes will soon be available. While coffee and lattes dominate the beverage menu, various Harney & Sons teas are also available. The cafe is open 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 85 Village Lane, Suite 125, Colleyville, 682-325-4080, www.facebook.com/VillageCafeandBakery.
Happier Hours at La Perla
Shifting its menu focus from larger lunch and dinner entrees to more bar-centric, shareable small plates, La Perla has both a new chef and new dining hours. Now open at 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday with a kitchen led by Josh Rangel (who has tenure at The Dive Oyster Bar and Waters Fine Coastal Cuisine), the downtown Fort Worth bar and restaurant has forgone lunch service to target the drinks-after-work crowd. Co-owner Immy Khan, who also owns Black Rooster Bakery and The Lunch Box (which he plans to merge in concept in the coming weeks), says he wants to position La Perla as less of a date spot and more a place to have fun with friends. A la carte tacos, empanadas and sliders will soon have a spot on the new menu, as will vegetarian dishes. Chef specials will include tuna poke tostadas, chimichurri meatballs and various ceviches for which La Perla first became popular. Regulars will be happy to note the extensive mescal menu is still intact, and the complimentary popcorn is back — but only during happy hour. 910 Houston St., Fort Worth, 817-882-8108, www.laperlafw.com.
A Place to Gather
New in north Fort Worth, Gather Cafe & Coffee opened quietly last month, serving a diverse menu of beautifully presented comfort-food favorites. Owned by husband-and-wife duo Scott and Morgan Gonzales, the spacious setting features wooden floors, tables and ceiling beams, bright interiors and lots of window light. Menu items range from black-eye pea hummus and a goat cheese and fig parfait to brioche French toast and chicken-fried New York strip served with fried okra. Coffee offerings include cappuccinos, cortados and Chemex pour-overs. Featured desserts are bread pudding, espresso ice cream and a daily pie. Gather opens at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. 12420 Timberland Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-379-2915, www.gathertx.com.
Of Gas Tanks and Tacos
Further proving filling stations can become tourist attractions in their own right, Dallas-based Fuel City is now open just off Airport Freeway in Haltom City — and it’s generating crowds. Maybe it’s for the highly-praised tacos, made with barbacoa, chicken fajita or ground beef, which come in a plastic-foam box and have been lauded across the state. Or maybe it’s for the flagship location of The Original Fried Pie Shop, whose menu includes savory options like chicken potpie and bacon, egg and cheese in fried-pie form, along with dessert pies such as coconut, apricot and blackberry. But it might be for the outdoor wildlife, including longhorn cattle, a donkey, a zebra, and a donkey-zebra hybrid. All this and fuel and car wash services, too. Regardless of the reason for visiting, the quirky pit stop promises it’s “where dreams come true.” 1715 Haltom Road, Haltom City, 817-484-0712, www.fuelcity.com.
Tribute to The Big Easy
Connoisseurs of New Orleans cuisine will appreciate the sincere homage to the Crescent City at Tributary Cafe, now open in the up-and-coming River East district just east of downtown Fort Worth. Owner Cindy Wheeler, who managed Nonna Tata and owned Creola Cafe in Waxahachie, has delighted neighborhood patrons with seafood gumbo, shrimp remoulade and fried green tomatoes. But dishes like the buttery peel-and-eat barbecue shrimp (reminiscent of the signature dish at Mr. B’s Bistro on Bourbon Street) and the sweetly spiced bread pudding hark back to the Big Easy in a heartfelt way, as does the pistolette — a creamy shrimp or crawfish-filled baguette — and the crawfish etouffee. New Orleans-style jazz plays from a speaker behind the full bar, where a build-your-own bloody mary station is staged during weekend brunch. Wheeler is in talks with the city about hosting an outdoor event (perhaps even a parade) to celebrate Mardi Gras later this month. 2813 Race St., Fort Worth, 817-744-8255.
The Fifth Annual Lake Grapevine Valentine’s Cruise will take place Feb. 10-14 at Silver Lake Marina on Lake Grapevine. Each two-hour cruise includes a table for two, a three-course dinner, live music and a comedy performance. Multiple cruise times are available. $149 per couple. (Overnight stays at the Gaylord Texan Resort or DFW Embassy Suites by Hilton can be arranged.) 972-514-4319, www.arispop.com.
Chef Tim Love will host the second installment of his pop-up test kitchen dinner series Feb. 15-18 at the Love Style Inc. headquarters, 713 North Main St., Fort Worth. Seatings are available from 6 to 9 p.m. for the event, which includes a five-course dinner, cocktail, wine and coffee. The theme will be revealed before the event. For reservations, $95 per person, call 817-624-9712.
Bird Café will host a four-course Valentine’s Day dinner Feb. 14 featuring multiple menu options. Dishes include blue point oysters with champagne mignonette, lobster bisque, herb-crusted lamb rack and a bourbon-glazed bacon brownie. Reservations start at 5 p.m. $90 per person exclusive of gratuity. Wine flight available for $30. 155 E. Fourth St., Fort Worth, 817-332-2473, www.birdinthe.net.
Sugar Bee Sweets Bakery, which specializes in couture wedding and special-events cakes, is moving to the Urban Union development in downtown Arlington. The new location will be alongside Legal Draft Beer Company, and a new breakfast pastry menu is in the works. In addition to cakes, the bakery offers cupcakes, cake balls, pies and cookies. 201 N. East St., Arlington, 817-903-8661, www.sugarbeesweets.com.
Blue Sushi Sake Grill has launched an updated sushi menu featuring new seaweed-wrapped maki and cone-shaped hand roll options. Rolls include the vegan “prince roll” with eggplant tempura, the “iguana” with crab, shrimp tempura and fresh water eel, and the “Amazon” with snapper, smoked salmon, crab and chimichurri. A new kids’ bento box is also available. 3131 W. Seventh St., Fort Worth, 817-332-2583, www.bluesushisakegrill.com.
The Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival will host its Centerstage event 6-9:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at Bass Hall. A caviar and champagne reception in the Grand Lobby will precede a multi-course dinner paired with wines on stage, as well as a live performance. $250 per person or $2,000 for a table of eight. www.fortworthfoodandwinefestival.com
Foodie Philanthropy, a Fort Worth-based nonprofit, will host its next dining event, benefiting the Women’s Center of Tarrant County, Feb. 25. More than 30 Fort Worth restaurants, including Cannon Chinese Kitchen, Clay Pigeon and Ellerbe Fine Foods, will participate in the one-night event. Seats range from $75 to $250 for dinner at each venue, including a minimum of three courses paired with wines. Seat purchase also includes admission to an after-party at a location to be determined. After-party-only tickets are $25 at the door. www.foodiephilanthropy.org.
Urban Yoga in Fort Worth will host The Yoga of Beer Retreat, April 27- May 1, in Santa Fe, N.M. Led by instructor Carly Taylor, who tends bar and teaches yoga classes at The Collective Brewing Project brewery in Fort Worth, the four-night trip includes lodging, daily yoga and meditation, a yoga workshop, beer yoga classes at local breweries and taprooms, brewery tours and most meals, including two multi-course beer dinners. Prices start at $1,354 for single occupancy. Register by Feb. 23; http://urbanyogafw.com/.