Piattello Italian restaurant stars in Fort Worth’s Waterside

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The patio as seen from “The Grove” at Piattello Italian.

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Yes, Mule Alley is shiny, and South Main Village now has both biscuits and pie.

But for four years now, dining out in Fort Worth has been all about bends, banks, forks and sides.

The WestBend, Left Bank, Clearfork and Waterside shopping centers are part of our daily lives, with some anchor restaurants now going into their fifth year.

They all have something worth trying. WestBend has a new Ascension Coffee. Left Bank draws crowds for Snooze. Clearfork shoiwcases steaks at B&B Butchers, biscuits at Fixe Southern House and casual French fare at Rise nº3 Soufflé.

Meanwhile, Waterside has a special-occasion Italian restaurant that has become an everyday Italian favorite.

A dining room re-do and a menu update make it worth taking another look at Piattello Italian Kitchen, 5924 Convair Drive off Bryant Irvin Road.

Piattello was named one of Texas’ 10 best new restaurants the year it opened, but lunchtime business never developed. The crowds have fluctuated along with Waterside’s.

(The first restaurant next door, Taco Diner, closed and will be replaced within days by chef Keith HicksThe Rim. Whole Foods Market’s traffic seems to have dwindled now that Amazon.com brings it to our doors.)

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Clockwise from top left: linguine scampi, a strawberry-beet salad, asparagus Milanese, linguine with mussels and pancetta, an octopus-farro salad, pasta with braised lamb and (center) crostini with crab. Anna Caplan Handout photo

On a recent weekend, Piattello’s crowd was the biggest and busiest in Waterside, filling the patio and bringing crowds to play in the common plaza area, the Grove.

“Restaurants take on their own personality, and a lot of it has to with who finds you — it turned out this is a great place for families,” said executive chef Marcus Paslay, also owner of Clay Pigeon and Provender Hall.

Children can eat pizza and play in the Grove while their parents share cacio e pepe, asparagus Milanese and a strawberry-beet salad.

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Ricotta pizza with asparagus and pesto at Piattello. Anna Caplan Handout photo

Paslay’s showcase Italian restaurant has become more of a neighborhood hangout.

He’s expanded the bar seating, brought in oversize plants and even changed the lighting to soften a dining room that had been stark and sprawling.

“It’s warmer and more cozy,” Paslay said.

Starting a fifth year, Piattello is “about family and community,” he said.

“It’s a nice little casual restaurant with great Italian food.”’

Chef Scott Lewis’ dishes are several notches up from your corner pasta cafe.

If you’ve been watching the CNN series “Searching for Italy,” you’ll find some of the same regional Italian cooking focused more on fresh pastas, with a light marinara or simple sauce.

This isn’t “red sauce Italian.”

“It’s the difference between Italian food and American Italian food,” Paslay said.

Order lots of appetizers for the table and a pasta dish or pizza.

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Lobster ravioli at Piattello Italian Kitchen. Handout photo

Try the asparagus Milanese ($14), the pork meatballs ($12) and fried calamari ($14) or a strawberry-beet salad ($14), and an order of eggplant parmigiana ($20), shrimp scampi ($20) or pasta with mussels and pancetta ($22).

The entrees run past $30 for grilled seafood or osso bucco, but the pizzas cost $17-$22.

Servers can help with the list of Italian wines.

New items include an octopus-farro salad, linguine scampi and an asparagus-pesto pizza with ricotta.

For dessert, there’s vanilla-bean panna cotta, tiramisu or a rich chocolate-hazlenut torte.

On Tuesdays only, Piattello serves lasagna. On Sundays, there’s “Sunday gravy,” a thick ragu.

The restaurant opens nightly for dinner; 817-349-0484, piattelloitaliankitchen.com.

Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 15 Texas Legislature sessions. Since 1985, he has also written more than 2,000 “Eats Beat” columns about Texas dining, restaurants and food.