Tarantino’s Cicchetti Bar and Record Lounge is the latest addition to a handful of restaurants and bars along Parry Avenue just across from the DART station. There’s Craft and Growler on one end, Tarantino’s and Las Almas Rotas all bookended by Expo Park Pizza Lounge. Around the corner is Eight Bells Alehouse, Whiskey’s, Noble Coyote Coffee Roasters and the live music venue Sandaga 813. And during daylight hours, there are also several opportunities for photographs in front of murals around the block.
Peter Tarantino has been in the local restaurant scene for decades. He grew up in an Italian family where Sunday meant pasta and gravy. His two brothers are also chefs. In the ’90s he had Tarantino’s in Deep Ellum and in Expo Park. Last year, writer Douglas Davies wrote about his long history in the Dallas dining scene as well as what Tarantino envisions for this newest spot.
Since that chat a year ago, Tarantino more recently explained that opening during the pandemic “was a bear.” Certificates and inspections were constantly delayed, leading him to “bottom out” at one point. He got new investors and over the last month or so has been slowly opening.
At the front of the house, there’s a DJ set backed by stacks of vinyl. A retro living room set sits across from the space with side tables and vintage lamps. There are a few more divans and chairs opposite a long bar that leads to the dining room. They plan to host various DJs on different nights. On the night we visited it was a mix of blues and rock including John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones.
There’s also an artistic element to the space. Local muralist Isaac Davies (@iZkart) is one of the partners and will display different work throughout the year.
As for the food and name, cicchetti are small plates, the Italian version of tapas. So you might order a few different dishes, along with a glass or bottle of wine. For now the menu is copied on paper and titled “Tonight’s Specials” with things like salads, lentil soup, pasta, lasagna, pan seared shrimp and chicken Parmesan. Chef James Pettus, who spent eight years at Urban Crust, leads the kitchen and works with Tarantino to develop dishes.
In addition to the small plates, there are also larger plates, so if you need to need to dive headfirst into a plate of spaghetti and meatballs you’re covered. A 14-ounce grilled boneless rib-eye was the most expensive item on the menu at $35.
Our plate of goat cheese stuffed spinach agnolotti came with a velvety rich pesto cream sauce ($12). An order of the daily special, a poblano lasagna in a white sauce, on a nearby table looked scandalous. And we overheard another table praise the from-scratch minestrone soup. We got an order of the $20 spaghetti and meatballs to go and it was quickly devoured without complaint.
Focaccinas are a unique item on the menu. Tarantino says these are popular street food in southern Italy. These small sandwiches are about the size of an English muffin. The bread, which is made there daily, is a tad bit crispy on the outside, soft inside and a bit more sturdy than a roll. We tried a warm pimento cheese made with Mrs. Deese Pimento Cheese, a local supplier. The cheese packs some heat and was quite remarkable. Next visit we’d go for the roast beef or Italian sausage focaccina. Actually, we could work our way through the entire menu of them (six total).
Tarantino says he’s still tweaking the menu a bit, working on different recipes. He also intends to expand the wine and bar offerings soon, but even for now, there are ample options of beer, wine and mixed drinks. Watch their Facebook page for updates on DJs and other news.
Tarantino’s Cicchetti Bar and Record Lounge, 3611 Parry Ave., 5-10 p.m. Tuesday – Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; Closed on Sunday and Monday.