Fort Worth darling Tim Love, known for bold takes on Southwestern cuisine at his signature Lonesome Dove Western Bistro and elsewhere, has opened a New York–style Italian joint in the Stockyards, the lively Western entertainment district where visitors can shop, dine and witness a cattle drive all in an afternoon.
Caterina’s doubles down on Love’s commitment to Italian food, following the 2019 opening of Gemelle, which leans Italian but makes room for pizzas topped with pickled jalapeños, rabbit-rattlesnake sausage and other distinctly Texas fare. No rattlesnake to be found at Caterina’s, where the compact menu is strictly Italian—the name Caterina means “pure,” according to the restaurant’s website. Dishes include classics such as beef carpaccio Piedmontese, cacio e pepe, rigatoni alla vodka, linguine alle vongole and veal chop parmesan.
Likewise, the streamlined wine list hews to established regions and names from Italy, with the bulk of offerings comprised of reds from Piedmont (Ceretto, Bruno Giacosa and Paolo Scavino make appearances) and Tuscany (Sassicaia, Tignanello and Ornellaia compete with a number of Brunellos for diners’ attention). That said, there are some nice surprises from Sardinia, Friuli, the Veneto and beyond. Eleven by-the-glass offerings join a thoughtful cocktail menu, perfect for before-dinner libations or a quick drink at the bar, which is open to walk-ins.
Blake DeWater, the general manager at Love’s restaurant Queenies, in nearby Denton, designed the wine program in collaboration with Love and Caterina’s general manager Fausto Belloli, who grew up in northern Italy. DeWater described the list to Wine Spectator as “eclectic, stylish and refined selections that complement the flavors of Caterina’s timeless cuisine.” He’s glad to “pay tribute to the culture [of Italy] by helping create a list that is not only dominated by Italian selections, but completely free of the ‘usual suspects’ from Sonoma and Napa that, due to their familiarity, can sometimes overshadow amazing Italian wines on a small list.”
The absence of Napa Cabernet isn’t the only thing that sets Caterina’s apart. The restaurant has generated buzz for its traditionalist house policies: Staff wear crisp white dress shirts, bow ties and red vests, and jackets are required for gentlemen diners. In order to preserve the Sinatra-infused, intimate atmosphere, guests are required to (gasp!) place their cell phones in a pouch, provided upon arrival by the server, for the duration of the meal. Those seeking an Instagram-worthy selfie or a place to text during the meal may wish to look elsewhere. But for anyone craving an uninterrupted, genuine taste of old-school Little Italy—increasingly hard to find, even in New York City—Caterina’s is worth seeking out.—K.M.
For years, wine professional James O’Brien worked at Danny Meyer and Union Square Hospitality Group’s Maialino at its original, now-closed Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning location, eventually becoming a manager. In summer 2017, O’Brien co-founded a restaurant of his own with fellow Maialino alumnus, chef Chris McDade: Popina, a Southern Italy–focused establishment in Brooklyn’s Columbia Street Waterfront District. This past August, O’Brien and McDade premiered their next concept in Carroll Gardens, Gus’s Chop House, where wine and meat are the stars.
“When the space came up, we really jumped on it,” O’Brien told Wine Spectator via email. “It was important for [the former owner] to pass the restaurant onto people who were neighborhood-centric, because he was there for a while and built a great community.”
The meat-friendly, 300-wine program is largely seasonal, as are Gus’s by-the-glass and cocktail lists. France is central, with plenty from the Rhône Valley and Bordeaux, and there’s even more from California, Chile, South Africa, Italy, Spain and Germany, among other regions. Fans of Burgundy can enjoy bottles from domaines like Mugneret-Gibourg and Roulot, while a selection of grower Champagnes include names like Jacques Selosse. Still, the list offers many value wines, with more than 110 bottles priced less than $100.
“The ethos behind the list is like [that at] Popina: producers doing the right thing,” O’Brien explained. “I think of the producers more as farmers versus winemakers, people who are making the right decisions in the vineyard and making wines with little intervention.” O’Brien notes that the wine list will evolve over time, influenced by local preferences and wider movements in the wine market.
McDade weaves multiple influences into Gus’s menu: traditional chop-house dining, European cuisine and regional produce. “Everyone has their idea of what a steak or side of potatoes should taste like,” the chef said. “It’s our job to deliver the nostalgia while considering how we might do a dish in a different way or with ingredients that might be unexpected. Restraint plays a large role in our process.” The results are dishes like hash browns and smoked trout roe, mackerel with peanuts, caraflex cabbage in a soubise and chicken with French onion jus. There are, of course, cuts of lamb, pork and beef to choose from, including a pork porterhouse and a dry-aged New York strip.
Inspired by bistros and chop houses in Europe, Gus’s team has worked with local designers and artisans to conceive the restaurant’s interior, from the cherry-wood bartop to the weighty tables. Outdoor seating will be available on the restaurant’s deck in the future. Guests can also expect wine events; before opening officially, the restaurant hosted a dinner spotlighting Jean-Louis Chave’s wines, and there are plans for similar dinners going forward.
“We”re creating the restaurant we want to eat at, and we hope others feel the same way,” said O’Brien. “The food is simple, but delicious. The wine list has something for everyone. And the vibe is fun.”—C.D.