Partenope Ristorante is now open in downtown, serving pizzas and pastas. (Photo by Emily Loving)
The main dining room has an enchanting ambiance. (Photo by Emily Loving)
You can watch pizzas being made in this hand-tiled pizza oven. (Photo by Emily Loving)
Husband and wife owners, Dino & Megan Santonicola. (Photo by Emily Loving)
Vegetables on the Caprese di Zucca get changed out seasonally. (Photo by Emily Loving)
The Gennarino pizza comes with mozzarella, tomato sauce, soppressata, and basil. (Photo by Emily Loving)
Fusilli al Pesto comes with pistachios. (Photo by Emily Loving)
Dino's family recipe, the tiramisu is a must-try dessert. (Photo by Emily Loving)
Tucked away on the corner of Main and N. St. Paul Streets, downtown Dallas has a new Southern Italian escape. As soon as I approached the inconspicuous entrance of Partenope Ristorante, I was mesmerized. The face of Partenope, the siren which the restaurant is named for, is the sole lighting above the door, almost as if it’s tempting you to enter.
Walking into the space in the historic Titche-Goettinger Building was even more of a delight. Dark blues and blacks encompass the dining room, with hints of white and gold lighting accents. Photographs from owner and chef Dino Santonicola‘s family and childhood line the walls. A hand-painted tile pizza oven is on display in the open-concept kitchen, where you see Santonicola baking Neapolitan pies.
The Partenope Ristorante restaurant space is absolutely enchanting, but it’s the food that transports you to Naples, Italy. My guest and I started off by sharing the Caprese di zucca, a twist on a classic Caprese with seasonal squash instead of tomato. With a choice of mozzarella or burrata cheese, we chose the burrata. Topped with basil, balsamic reduction and pesto, the antipasti was great. Paired with some house-made foccacia bread, it was a struggle to pace myself for the meal ahead.
But I reluctantly put down the bread when I saw the Montanara pizza coming towards me. Santonicola won the gold medal at the pizza olympics in Naples for this recipe, and getting just one whiff of the flash fried then baked crust, I could tell that this pizza was special. Topped with mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil, it’s a must-try in the Dallas pizza scene.
Next came the rigatoni alla genovese. Recommended by Santonicola, the beef ragu is cooked for eight hours before being combined with rigatoni and braised onion. This also proved difficult to stop eating. The fusilli al pesto with cherry tomato, pesto and pistachio was tempting to order, as I’m attracted to all things pesto and pistachio, but I knew I couldn’t leave without trying Partenope Ristorante’s tiramisu so I tabled it for another day.
And this was a good choice, as Dino’s family recipe for tiramisu, which comes in a small jar but ends up being way more of the delicious, creamy mixture than you think it’s gonna be, was completely worth it.