My gals and I decided it had been too long since the last girls night and we decided to remedy that with dinner at Bocce Italian, the newest Italian restaurant in Bishops Arts. Bocce soft opened last week and the grand opening was on Friday. On paper, this restaurant boasted lovely pasta favorites, resided in a trendy neighborhood, and was BYOB. It ended up being the perfect pick.
I was really glad I made reservations. Walking in, the small and humble restaurant was so busy. I had no idea how much people had anticipated the opening of Bocce. The whole restaurant could probably fit about 30 people max and more people kept walking in.
It took a bit to really get us settled in, but seeing that it was opening weekend, we were really understanding. Even more understanding after the first bottles of wine were opened of course.
To divide and conquer the menu, the five of us ordered a different dish so we could really get a taste of the restaurant. I try to inject my blog agenda when opportunities like this come around. Teehee.
House Salad: I loved that the salad was lightly dressed, not drenched in a thick dressing. Sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan, this was actually a nice start to the meal. The pasta entrees all came with complimentary bread and salad. Total bang for your buck. The ingredients tasted fresh and light. A perfect start before digging into the heavier pastas.
Shrimp Bocce: You can’t go wrong with shrimp. The shrimp is sautéed in a garlic lemon butter sauce and has a nice kick to it. Here’s a fair warning to some of you, they don’t peel the entire shrimp. I had no problem eating the entire thing, crunchy shrimp skin and all, but for anyone who would prefer otherwise, I’m doing you a favor. Even with the zesty lemon and garlic flavors, you can still get that sweetness that always comes when you bite into the meat of it. The appetizer includes 8 shrimps for $12. You can get a half order for $8.
Vodka Diavolo Sauce with Penne Rigate and Meatballs- This dish was fabulous. It’s not the most visually appealing dish, but the flavors were all there. The vodka diavolo sauce was rich and creamy and it was one of those dishes you love even more, bite after bite. The homemade meatballs came with it’s own savory flavor profile that did not get lost in the complexity of the sauce. This was definitely a winner at the table and the owner himself said this was his favorite dish.
Linguini in Clam Sauce: Unfortunately, the linguini was probably my least favorite. I thought it was a little bland. The pasta was kinda dense. Reminded me of the noodles from Campbell’s canned soup. In theory, this sounded amazing. My friend enjoyed it, but I wanted more pizazz going on in my dish and in my mouth. This wasn’t a very memorable dish.
Pappardelle Bolognese: I love pappardelle pasta. This entree was also a winner. The sauce is meaty and zesty with a nice spicy undertone. Can’t go wrong with this one either.
Chicken Parmesan: Usually, I don’t like chicken parmesan. I know. I’m weird. Never been a fan of it, but this was actually a really good home made version of the popular chicken parmesan. I think I loved it because it wasn’t as heavy as I remember and wasn’t drowning in gooey marinara sauce. The spaghetti that accompanied it was surprising light and the chicken was nice and juicy… just the way I like it.
Nani’s Sunday Gravy with Pasta: If you want something hearty this is the dish to get. This is grandma’s recipe that the owner himself said all the kids grew up eating. Comes with at least 2 different meats (sausage and meatball) and pasta. The tomato sauce is heavier and meatier. So like I said, if you want hearty and homey, go for the Nani’s special.
While four out of five dishes were all tomato based, the flavors were not lost in a sea of red sauce. Each sauce was different in each entree and we all appreciated the different nuances in all the flavors. Zesty, meaty, spicy, sweet, savory, creamy. Each dish was its own and not a bastardized version of each other. Unlike some Italian restaurants, Bocce didn’t just use the same tomato sauce for all their dishes.
I’ve given my stamp of approval for the food at this new restaurant, but that’s not what made this particular evening so wonderful. Despite a pretty busy dinner rush, the owner Bob made time to stop by our table and share a glass of wine with us. It was a lovely evening and he was more than happy to elevate our experience there. Bocce is a family business. With his son running the kitchen and Bob and his wife tending to guests, Bocce is a wonderful addition to Bishop Arts and I believe a pretty good contender in the Italian/pasta category. There aren’t too many great pasta places in Dallas, but Bocce has surely won a place in my heart.
The only downside I can see would probably be the size of the restaurant. It’s too small and it’s only one room, much like Emporium Pies. Lines will go out the door. This makes it difficult for incoming guests to wait since they would just crowd around eating diners and I can see that bothering less understanding folks. I hope they figure out a way to manage the masses.
My last note about Bocce is that it doesn’t quite fit perfectly into the Bishop Arts scene, which I love. A lot of recent restaurant openings boast trendy (and pricey) concepts that sometimes don’t deliver despite all the hype. But Bocce was more my cup of tea. It offers a more homey, cozy atmosphere with a menu priced appropriately ($15ish bucks per entree) and efforts directed toward customers, not the decor.