Food & Drink

Park Cities' newest Italian job

Smart restaurants tailor new locations to their surroundings -- even proudly uniform McDonald's has a Wall Street franchise that employs a classical pianist, entertaining the cultured banking crowd with the pleasant strains of McDebussy. Tailoring their new spot to its high-end 'hood, the folks behind Ristorante Nicola, open Friday

Shorter-named sister to Nicola's Ristorante Italiano (in the Shops at Legacy), Nicola's is at once statelier and boozier, with stained-mesquite flooring, mahogany-toned leather dining seats, a U-shaped granite-top bar, hulking black Murano glass chandeliers, and a pair of private dining rooms with dedicated kitchens (they swore a solemn oath never to become bathrooms). The partially open kitchen's helmed by a Rome native whose centuries-old recipes start with the likes of mussels & calamari in spicy tomato broth, and a sauteed shroom-abetted carpaccio; then move on to pastas like vodka-sauced, roasted chicken & spinach-stuffed rigatoni, and tomato sauced, smoked pancetta-flecked "hollow spaghetti", all method actor Kevin Bacon would eat during the filming of a certain empty-audienced movie. Mains range from pan-seared veal medallions (w/ 'shrooms and Gorgonzola polenta) to slow-roasted pork shank in a rosemary reduction; meanwhile, nightly rotating pizzas are fired using hickory & mesquite, imparting a Texas flavor to your cheese, just like Dallas Divas & Daughters.

To top off dinner/irresponsible lunch (coming), there's an Ital-heavy 120+ wine list ($32 2008 Tramin Chard to $350 2006 Sassicaia Toscana), several ports & grappas (Graham's Six Grapes, 2005 Far Niente Dolce), and signature mixes like the Ginger Knob "New Fashioned" with bourbon, ginger liqueur/puree, orange, cherry, and bitters -- a reminder of how you feel, knowing that some McDs get live piano, while you're stuck McBussing your own tray.