A TASTE OF TUSCANY
LUSCIOUS WINES AND ITALIAN CUISINE LURE GOURMANDS TO IL SOLE.
Byline: Holly Haber
Wine lovers, start your engines. Steer toward Il Sole Restaurant and Wine Bar, where guests may sample premium vintages by the half glass from an award-winning wine list. Better yet, diners may indulge in the chef’s weekly tasting menu of four courses, each paired with a complementary wine, a bargain at about $80.
Secluded on the second level of Travis Walk overlooking Travis Street, Il Sole has imported an Italian flavor to this popular neighborhood of restaurants and shops off Knox Street.
“We really wanted to draw from our travels through Tuscany and put together a place with an unassuming yet timeless feel,” says Brian Black, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Sonia. “We look to do a nice twist on classic Italian fare, using great product from Italy, like balsamic vinegar and cheeses, plus local ingredients like redfish, venison or quail.”
The Blacks have a blue-blood pedigree in Big D’s competitive restaurant field: They both held corporate management positions for years at Cobb Restaurant Group, helping run popular Mi Piacci in the suburb of Addison. And Brian can’t get the business out of his genes: His mother is restaurant entrepreneur Janet Cobb, a partner in Cobb Restaurant Group. Now, Il Sole battles for diners against his mother’s eateries, Mi Piacci and Salve.
“It’s healthy competition, but we all support each other and do what we can to help,” says Black.
Open a little more than a year for lunch and dinner, Il Sole frequently changes its menu depending on what’s available.
“We get whatever is good and fresh,” says Black. “We have a specialty group out of New York that gets us truffles, so we had black truffle risotto for a couple of weeks. And we get lots of great stuff from Oregon, like mushrooms.”
In winter, check out the superb prosciutto di parma salad with Mission figs, arugula, balsamic vinaigrette and pearl onion confit ($10 at dinner). A staple dish, and one of its most photographed, is the Frico salad: organic greens in balsamic vinaigrette overflowing from an edible basket of griddled aged Montasio cheese ($7). The best-selling appetizer is the pan-fried calamari in red chile sauce and cilantro oil ($8).
“It’s strips of calamari from the top of the squid instead of those ringlets,” explains Black.
This is also a spot for real mozzarella di bufala salad with tomatoes, arugula and grilled onions ($10).
Main-event entrees: killer Black Angus filet steak ($32), tamarind-glazed Chilean bass ($29) or seared scallops with short-rib ragout ($24). Many customers opt for the chef’s selection, a four-course dinner for $50 that changes every week. Wines to complement may be added for another $25 to $30.
With selections from Italy, California and France, Il Sole’s wine list was recognized last fall by “Wine Spectator” magazine as one of the best in Texas.
Executive chef Jeffery Hobbs learned from the best; he was sous chef under David Holben at both Wynnewood Special Events and the Riviera. The latter has long been considered one of the top restaurants in the city.