Chef Julian Barsotti opens two new restaurants in Dallas in fall 2021: Odelay and Bacari Tabu


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Julian Barsotti, chef and owner of four Italian restaurants in Dallas (Nonna, Sprezza, Carbone’s and Fachini), plans to open two new restaurants in fall 2021.

The big one, named Odelay, will be “a tribute to Dallas Tex-Mex,” he said. Barsotti is teaming up with Dallas businessman Mike Kerr for the restaurant, which is under construction in the space vacated by Cafe Express on Lovers Lane near Inwood Village.

The second restaurant, Bacari Tabu, will be next to Nonna and will offer pizzas and Venetian snacks. The restaurant’s name pays homage to an iconic former tenant of the space: Strictly Tabu, a jazz club known for its pizza, which enjoyed five decades ending in 1997.

Given Barsotti’s success with Italian restaurants, his foray into Tex-Mex is surprising at first glance. But the Dallas native says the pivot makes sense for him.

“I don’t do anything that is not completely personal. Tex-Mex is personal – it’s comfort food, and I grew up eating [it] like everyone [in Dallas]. When I moved, this is the food I wanted, ”he says.

Julian Barsotti launched Ritas & Queso during the pandemic.(Kelsey Wilson)

Tex-Mex actually became part of Barsotti’s professional repertoire in the midst of the pandemic. To generate another source of income while the restaurant is shutting down, Barsotti has teamed up with Glenn Collins, a friend of the marketing guru, on a new delivery concept: Tex-Mex meal and party kits. Marked as’ Ritas and Queso, there remains a permanent strand of barsottirestaurants.com, featuring stacked enchiladas, chili con carne tamales and guacamole, along with queso chips and jugs of margaritas.

“It really touched people. The demand was quite unexpected, ”says Barsotti. “It was the claim that it was Dallas comfort food.”

“The success of Ritas and Queso coincided with the availability of space at the Lovers Lane restaurant. “We didn’t expect the space to become available for a year,” Barsotti says. The possibility of renting it accelerated the development of the Tex-Mex concept, he says. The name Odelay stuck.

Odelay is a bastard phonetic spelling of the Mexican slang term, órale. This translates into English as a statement similar to “right on” or “yeah, man”. The name is also a nod to Beck’s 1996 album, Odelay.

Odelay’s menu will include “Dallas Tex-Mex’s greatest hits,” Barsotti says. Much like he uses handmade ingredients (like ricotta and pasta) in Italian-American dishes at Carbone and Fachini, Barsotti is planning ingredient improvements for Odelay versions of Tex-Mex.

“For example, ground beef: we are going to grind it internally and use an excellent [local] sources like Rosewood Ranches and A Bar N Ranch, ”he says. Homemade tortillas, thick “masa-forward” tortilla chips and strictly Gulf seafood are other examples he cites. Barsotti does not, however, aim to modify the DNA of Tex-Mex. “It’s not a major change from the original. I’m trying to improve on something that’s heartwarming and delicious. We will give the same respect, love and attention to detail to a seared taco as we do to a mole, ”he says.

The menu is inspired by Barsotti’s favorite dishes from Dallas Tex-Mex restaurants, as well as recipes from Mexican chefs who have worked in his restaurants. Gorditas, “naked” chili rellenos (not breaded) and cheese enchiladas topped with chili con carne will be among the house specials. “Texan” dishes will include breast tacos and chicken fried steak with queso and guacamole.

Restaurant veteran Sergio Pinto, who currently works at Fachini, will lead Odelay. “Sergio led Ojedas for four or five years. He was born in Ojedas; his grandfather founded it, and it now belongs to his mother and all his siblings, ”says Barsotti.

Barsotti believes Odelay’s atmosphere will be as appealing as the dining program. The 190-seat hacienda-style restaurant will have a 2,600-square-foot patio with 122 additional seats, framed by a wall of arched openings.

“Among the lessons learned from the pandemic is the importance of outdoor spaces,” Barsotti said. “We’ll have desert landscaping, string lights, Mexican pendants, Saltillo tile, and a great soundtrack,” on the patio, he says.

“The premise in general is not to try to be an authentic Tex-Mex restaurant,” explains Barsotti. (The name Odelay alludes to.) “The emphasis is on an environment full of energy and fun, with incredible outdoor space. As you walk in, you’ll feel engulfed in our version of a fun, Tex-Mex world.

Julian Barsotti's Sunday sauce.

Less than five kilometers from Odelay, Bacari Tabu will be a small bar-restaurant (30 seats), with a menu inspired by small Venetian plates called cicchetti – Venice’s answer to tapas. Bacari is the Venetian name for shotgun-style bars that serve cicchetti. Bacari Tabu’s menu will be guided by the wood-fired oven – for dishes like pizza – and the yakitori grill, for skewers of lamb meatballs and homemade binchotan sausage. Channeling its predecessor, Strictly Tabu, Bacari Tabu will have a stage for live music.

“We will have a large bar with all kinds of amaro liqueurs. And having the best Italian wine list in Texas is our goal, ”says Barsotti.

Tina Danze is a freelance writer from Dallas.

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