Of all the joints in town that lay claim to the Neapolitan-style standards of pizza making – only a handful turn out pies as exceptional as Dough. Evidently, Guy Fieri agrees since he featured the restaurant's San Antonio sibling on Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Dough's pizzas are full of fresh ingredients, from mostly local farms-- and are perfectly charred to loveliness in the wood-fired oven that stands prominently in the rustic-chic dining area. The fontina cheese pizza with oak-roasted mushrooms and caramelized onions is outstanding. But if you really want to be in hog heaven, order Fieri's favorite: the Pork Love, loaded with house-made mozzarella, salami, sausage, pancetta and speck. As serious as they are about pizzas, the folks at Dough are equally fanatical about their house-made burrata, filled with the likes of truffle oil, ricotta and mascarpone cheese. Whatever you do, save space for the panna cotta, it's to die for.
Recommended for Italian because: Along with seriously good Neapolitan-style pizza, Dough churns out fabulous antipasti, charcuterie and house-made burrata.
Ilene's expert tip: Dough offers a host of regular specials, including $5 margherita pizzas on Mondays and 1/2 price bottles of wine on Tuesdays. Check out Dough on Twitter for other great deals.
Situated in the buzzing Sylvan-Thirty development, CiboDivino (which means divine food in Italian) is a venerable foodie festa for area Italophiles. The brainchild of longtime restaurateur and Sicilian born chef Daniele Puleo, this market-cum-café, resembling an industrialized farmhouse, takes its cue from Dean & DeLuca-- boasting delectable products from around the world, as well as doling out scrumptious prepared foods, homemade sandwiches, antipasti, pastries and killer Neapolitan style pizzas. The 4,400-square foot space also offers fresh Angus beef, free-roaming chicken breasts (both locally sourced) and in-house cured turkey, beef bacon and fish. There's craft beer (local, seasonal and limited release) and wine too--including around 350 carefully curated labels (some offered by the glass) from Italy and California. Should you decide to kick back for a while, you'll find a few tables inside, plus additional seating out on a wrap-around patio. Even better is a lush grassy area that's perfect for picnicking with the family.
Recommended for Italian because: CiboDivino is where to go for top-notch Italian food in a casual, come-as-you-are atmosphere.
Ilene's expert tip: Keep on the lookout, via Facebook, for wine and craft beer pairing dinners as well as cooking classes and other ongoing events.
Handmade pastas and wood-fired pizzas play a lead role at this neighborhood fave, nestled on the back corner of Preston Royal Shopping Center. It's an airy, polished-looking place that manages to feel both upscale and casually comfortable at the same time. The menu, which is quite affordable-- offers something for everyone. Starters range from fresh beet and crab salad with fresh figs and watermelon to black truffle tortellini fonduta and bruschette topped with fava bean puree. Pasta dishes such as wild boar gnocchi and orecchiette with housemade sausage and rapini prove popular here. As do main courses like grilled branzino and Chianti braised short ribs with chive gremolata. However, you'd be hard pressed to come here and not order one of the wood-fired pizzas, especially when they come topped with items like pancetta, figs and Gorgonzola cheese. Also, be sure not to skip out on dessert, the tiramisu, made with layers of chocolate cake and mascarpone cream-- will leave you wanting to lick the plate.
Recommended for Italian because: Princi Italia is a popular neighborhood spot for terrific homemade pastas and pizzas.
Ilene's expert tip: Sign up for the VIP Email Club on the website or on Facebook and receive a complimentary appetizer and special email promotions.
There's a general consensus that this charming pocket-sized pizzeria turns out the most deliciously addictive pies in town. In fact, these wood-fired orbs are so heavenly that Food Network star Rachael Ray declared them "The most incredible pizzas you'll ever eat." What makes the pizzas here so good are the stellar crusts, which come in a thin and chewy Neapolitan style or in an ultra thin and crispy Roman style. Regardless of which crust you choose, you can't go wrong with any of the house specialty pies. The gorgonzola pizza with pears and walnuts is sublime, as is the white truffle oil pizza with house-made mozzarella, cremini mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Along with pizza, Olivella's also whips up terrific pasta and rustic sandwiches on house-made bread. End with the Nutella mousse, it's guaranteed to have you swooning with delight.
Recommended for Italian because: Olivella's consistently dominates Dallas' pizza scene with its sublime Neapolitan and Roman style pizzas.
Ilene's expert tip: Olivella's has several great offers: Weekdays you can score two for one metro pizzas from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., as well as $10 pitchers of sangria with the purchase of any Metro pizza. And on Monday nights, selected bottles of wine are half-price.
If you're looking for a quiet, intimate restaurant in which to dine, then this is not the place–as it's always a roaring trade at this rustic Italian local–day in and day out. Plus, you can't book for anything smaller than a table for six. And yes, the lines out the door can get upwards of insane. But the place is massively popular for good reason: it's fairly priced, delicious and fun. The restaurant is part of a burgeoning empire helmed by long-time Dallas restaurateur Alberto Lombardi, who also has Toulouse Cafe next door and Bistro 31 in Highland Park Village. In keeping with its name, Taverna specializes in both risotto (offered up in six different variations) and wood-fired pizzas, which can even be made gluten-free. But the menu is also crammed with other tasty temptations such as first-class antipasto, a wide-ranging selection of small plates, housemade pastas and mains that cover everything from tenderloin to scaloppine and seafood. Try to grab one of the seats on the front or side patios for a bird's eye view of the action. For dessert, the tiramisu is always a good choice.
Recommended for Italian because: Taverna is a go-to spot for delicious and reasonably priced Italian fare, plus there's a slew of gluten-free dishes on the menu.
Ilene's expert tip: If you don't want to pay for valet you can park for free around the corner on Abbott Avenue. There's also a happy hour from 3-6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
By day, it's an Italian-American deli featuring salads, housemade pastas and a lineup of sumptuous sandwiches. But by night, Carbone's transforms into a cozy casual restaurant serving everything from grilled fish dishes to some of the best spaghetti & meatballs in town. There's nothing too fancy here, it's more about good food, good wine and great service, which is exactly what locals love about it. Another thing locals love is the Sunday dinner special, which for around $40, you can score three courses and a dessert. Speaking of dessert: Whatever you do, don't leave without tasting the cannoli. Prefer to get your Italian fix to go? No problem, Carbone's sells a small selection of from-scratch frozen dishes, Italian products and wine to take home as well.
Recommended for Italian because: Carbone's is the place to go for well-constructed American-Italian dishes in a laid-back, convivial atmosphere.
Ilene's expert tip: Bottles of wine are on offer for 1/2 off every Monday. The restaurant accepts reservations for parties of six or more.
Don't let its unassuming strip mall location fool you, this under-the-radar gem is serving up some magic in the kitchen in the form of delicious thin-crust pizzas, handmade pastas, and entrees like lobster cioppino. Not to mention, service is spot-on, portions are plentiful and prices are wallet friendly. You'll want to hit the beginning acts: The ribeye crostini with caramelized onions and Gorgonzola is a must. And wood-roasted anything is a good bet, so too are the seafood offerings. Save room for dessert–the pistachio mouse is phenomenal.
Recommended for Italian because: Along with top-notch pasta and pizzas, Osteria is the place to go for Italian-style seafood specialties.
Ilene's expert tip: Score flatbreads, crostinis, sliders, wine and sangria for $5 a piece, Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m.
Gnocchi with littleneck clams and lobster; duck stuffed casoncelli pasta; and short ribs with polenta–these are a few of the rotating Roman-inspired treasures found at Sprezza, a casually chic spot tucked into a craftsman-style house off Oak Lawn. It's the latest addition to Julian Barsotti's growing Italian empire (Nonna, Carbone's), and as with his other restaurants, this one does not disappoint. Not only is there an extensive menu of food that tastes straight out of Italy, but the pizza al taglio (Roman-style pizzas) might very well be some of the best in town. To wash everything down, the restaurant boasts an all-Italian wine list, Italian beers, and Italian-style cocktails. Most importantly, don't leave without having a piece of the tiramisu. Ditto for the chocolate bombolini.
Recommended for Italian because: Sprezza is one of the only Italian restaurants in Dallas offering Roman-inspired cuisine.
Ilene's expert tip: If you can't snag a table reservation, go early and eat at the bar.
With a serious reputation for homemade pasta, wood-fired specialties and wicked desserts, it's no surprise that locals consider this handsome pocket-sized trattoria to be one of the top restaurants in town. Just be prepared, getting a table in the intimate dining room is unlikely without a booking, but if you're lucky there may be a spare seat in the bar. Chef/owner Julian Barsotti whips up a seasonally inspired roster of modern Italian fare, which includes the likes of everything from tagliatelle with white truffles to Neapolitan style pizzas and a drool-worthy duck breast with fennel crema. However, it's Barsotti's lobster ravioli, featuring paper thin pasta pockets stuffed with Maine lobster, that clearly steals the show. A well thought out Italian wine list, and desserts--think persimmon cheese cake with caramel or praline nougatine semifreddo-- seal the deal.
Recommended for Italian because: When you're after world-class modern Italian cooking that will please every discerning foodie in the group, Nonna delivers.
Ilene's expert tip: The best way to score a table is to reserve through the website in advance.
If you ask any discerning foodie which is the hottest restaurant in town, they'll point you to David and Jennifer Uygur's rustically charming 36-seat Bishop Arts trattoria. But be warned, the place is so popular that you have to either book two months in advance or try your luck at scoring one of the counter seats saved for walk-ins. The focus is on Italian home cooking, with a rotating menu full of regional must-haves, ranging from house-cured meats and fresh crudo to handmade pastas, wild game and seafood. Expect to find selections like spaghetti with sea urchin butter and Wagyu beef with celery root and truffles. Be sure to order a few of the foie-gras-stuffed prunes to start. And for dessert-- the milk chocolate panna cotta with sanguinaccio and malt gelato-- is nothing short of genius.
Recommended for Italian because: Lucia is the place to go when you crave an authentic Italian experience but can't spare the time or dime to go to Italy.
Ilene's expert tip: Scoring a reservation has gotten easier with Lucia's new online reservation system. Now anxious diners can reserve up to 60 days in advance and even be put on a wait-list. The restaurant still offers bar seats and outside tables to walk-ins on a first come, first served basis.