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100 layer lasagna at fachini dallas highland park dallas copyright michael hiller

Here’s what you need to know about Fachini and The Charles, two new Dallas Italian restaurants


fachini dallas highland park dallas copyright michael hillerfachini dallas highland park dallas copyright michael hillerfachini dallas highland park dallas copyright michael hillerfachini dallas highland park dallas copyright michael hillerfachini dallas highland park dallas copyright michael hiller

If you’re looking for something dark and Italian for dinner tonight, two Dallas newcomers are ready to dance. The first, called Fachini, (photos above) is chef and restaurateur Julian Barsotti’s new place. It occupies a catbird seat in tony Highland Park Village, adjacent to the movie theater and above Nick Badovinus’ new Perfect Union Pizza joint.  The second, called The Charles, takes its name and conviviality from owner and longtime Dallas restaurant front-of-house guy Charles Martin.

Don’t know Charles? That’s ok, few people do. But you probably know Chas Martin, once a well-regarded manager at Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse and F+B director at Hotel Zaza. Same guy, and The Charles is Chas’ place, with money and design work from his two partners in the venture, brothers Corbin and Ross See. Don’t think you know Barsotti? Sure you do. He owns Nonna, Carbone’s and Sprezza, three of the top Italian-inspired restaurants in Dallas, and securing a table at two of the three (Nonna and Sprezza) can be maddeningly difficult; Fachini will be, too.

Both The Charles and Fachini specialize in stylized American-Italian cuisine, so while you’ll find lasagna in Bologna, Italy, you sure won’t find any constructed 100 layers tall, cut into thick slices and seared under the salamander, as you will at Fachini – or as you once found at the NYC restaurant that invented the dish, Del Posto (which retired the lasagna when the restaurant changed chefs and menus).

And at The Charles, whose chef, J. Chastain, spent a few weeks in Italy and NYC learning some authentic Italian and Italianesque techniques, you’re more likely to find crisp-fried pate a choux orbs flavored with cheese and pepper than true cacio e pepe, the classic Roman dish of tonnarelli pasta, Pecorino cheese and pepper.

But that doesn’t mean you won’t find plenty to like at The Charles or Fachini, because you will.

At The Charles (photos below), order the “ancient grain risotto,” with its creamy, fluffy farro, quinoa, and kamut grains cooked in the style of risotto then enhanced with okra, speck and breadcrumbs; the excellent slow-cooked-then-grilled beef short ribs dressed with chimichurri and pickled fresno chilies; and the chocolate budino for dessert. Looking for a pasta? There are only three on the current menu, so pasta’s not exactly The Charles’ forte.

the charles dallas copyright michael hiller-15the charles dallas copyright michael hiller-the charles dallas copyright michael hiller-the charles dallas copyright michael hiller-the charles dallas copyright michael hiller-15the charles dallas copyright michael hiller-the charles dallas copyright michael hiller-the charles dallas copyright michael hiller-the charles dallas copyright michael hiller-the charles dallas copyright michael hiller-15

At Fachini, on the other hand, everybody at every table will be ordering the 100-layer lasagna, so don’t even try to resist. Get one for the table so you can shoot a few iPhone pics, talk about it all night, then tell your friends about it the next day. Suzie in Accounting will gush over the photos you post on Instagram and Bill in Marketing will try to snag a reservation for dinner the following night (he probably won’t get one.)

Fachini’s tuxedo-clad waiters, royal blue Venetian plaster walls and open kitchen — crowded with a blazing wood oven and set high above the dining room as if it were a culinary pulpit — telegraphs that Fachini and its all-Italian wine list is a serious restaurant. It’s not. It’s fun and playful and pretty and delicious because no one knows what Dallas wants in an Italian restaurant better than Barsotti.

photos: copyright Michael Hiller

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