Restaurants

Loveria Caffe takes diners on a stylish journey through Emilia-Romagna fare

Lasagna alla Bolognese at Loveria Caffe in Colleyville.
Lasagna alla Bolognese at Loveria Caffe in Colleyville. jlmarshall@star-telegram.com

Loveria Caffe’s full sign reads: “Loveria Caffe – Taste of Italy.”

Well, that’s quite an understatement, as this month-old Italian restaurant-lounge-emporium delivers more than just a mere tidbit of Italy. Rather, it stages a bountiful feast for the eyes and taste buds in one of the area’s most architecturally enthralling and culinarily authentic settings.

Though Colleyville’s main water tower is visible from the cream-colored, palazzo-like façade of Loveria, this restaurant’s cooking and aura firmly plant it in the distinctive Italian region of Emilia-Romagna.

Loveria leans on Emilia-Romagna’s various cities, starting with its capital of Bologna, to inspire so many of its totemic Italian ingredients, from its “Bolognese” ragu-meat sauce and Bologna’s mortadella, to Modena’s balsamic vinegar, Parma’s prosciutto, and, of course, its emperor of all Italian cheeses, Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Loveria’s deep Italian roots are directly traced to three of its owners, all of whom hail from the Emilia-Romagna city of Ravenna, and for whom Loveria is their first restaurant venture. Andrea Matteucci and his wife of 25 years, Stefania Bertozzi, are career architects who asked longtime friend Michele Ragazzini, to join them as Loveria’s head chef.

Their joint philosophy is to create, as they put it, a “door towards Italy.” That portal opens from the moment I enter Loveria Caffe. It feels akin to a modern pocket gallery displaying examples of the latest in Italian food, art and design.

While a large screen TV scrolls through snapshots of daily Italian life, nearby shelves boast examples of genuine Italian imported food products — from Olitalia Toscano olive oil to Casa Visconti egg fettucine — that will play key roles in my upcoming meal.

Just past the entry is an inviting lounge area, bathed in copious sunshine pouring in from the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows. Loveria’s owners hope patrons will treat this sofa-accented area as a mini-refuge, tailored to an afternoon espresso, a slice of almond tarte or an early evening cocktail, while paging through an eclectic collection of books on fashion, architecture and, of course, food.

Taking six months, and investing $300,000 of their own money to convert a former kids’ gymnasium, Matteucci and Bertozzi trained their architectural eyes on Loveria’s 3,000 square feet of raw space — providing room for 65 diners inside, another 20 outside.

Loveria has a breathtaking, cathedral-high (at least 25 feet) ceiling. The owner-designers imported the finest in Italian oak for its nut-brown, plank flooring, along with the modern chairs tinted a cool gray, plus dangling, conical lamps, and banquettes done in pale-blue stitching.

The overall result is a cool-surfaced, midcentury-modern aesthetic that remains consistently cossetting.

There may be no Loveria dish more synonymous with Italy’s idolizing of grazing than its taglierino antipasti. Yes, it’s $19, but it’s easily shareable among two or three diners, and it’s the ultimate introductory plate to the meats and cheeses of Emilia-Romagna.

The prosciutto is one of its more restrained salty bites. Meanwhile, the mortadella carries a slightly earthier taste, with the real saline kick coming from the salami Milano.

I savor every minute and dry-tang of the 24-month-agedParmigiano-Reggiano while its Tuscan cheese partner, pecorino, brings a creamier mouth feel. Elevating the complexity is the inclusion of a pumpkin chutney bursting with contrasting notes of acidic (from the pumpkin marinated in balsamic vinegar), crunchy (butternut squash and red onion) and slight heat (from mustard seed and chilies). Completing the street-food quality to this starter is eight triangles of piadinathe flatbread of Emilia-Romagna.

I banish all cliched notions of a clumsy tower of pasta sheets with Loveria’s elegantly restrained lasagna alla Bolognese ($10/$16) — a dish born in Emilia-Romagna.

There is an understated taste dance between the three-layer-stack of spinach-flavored pasta, and a classically executed béchamel sauce, all melding with the beef-and-sausage, rosemary and bay leaf-powered ragu. It takes more than three hours to prepare and I taste every second of that care.

As for the garganelli al pesto ($9/$15), the penne-shaped pasta is lightly daubed by the basil-infused pesto. For those who feel the pasta veers too much towards “toothsome” al-dente, the slight crunchiness of this tubular pasta actually gives it a textural punch almost seldom found in your average Italian-American eatery.

For chef Ragazzini’s frequently appearing special of pork cutlet ($22), two healthy slabs of pork are pounded and then breaded as if preparing a veal scallopini. The peas are then added to the robust, tomato-based sauce, and they act as mini-green studs, stubbling the outside of the pork cutlet. The pork is pleasingly tender, perhaps owing to its having spent three hours in a marinade of egg, lemon, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The grandmother or “nonna’s” touch is all over the wedge-shaped crostata della nonna ($6) dessert, which combines short-crust pastry, ricotta cheese, dark chocolate chips, and raisin nubbins, interlacing its smooth interior. The ricotta imparts a tart zing, avoiding the pitfall of being cloyingly sweet. The overall result can only be described as a cheesecake with an uptown pedigree.

As I leave Loveria Caffe, it hits me that, as much as Emilia-Romagna is also famed for being home to such sleek and swift automobiles as Ferrari and Lamborghini, so too it’s food — especially as hand crafted at Loveria — travels in a sleek package, while delivering an exhilaratingly regional Italian experience.

Loveria Caffe

  • 5615 Colleyville Blvd., No. 410, Colleyville
  • 817-932-2771
  • www.loveriacaffe.com
  • Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Monday.
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