I Fratelli ~ Irving, Texas

First published November 28, 2008 and updated with a recent visit.

When I wrote the review in 2008, that represented our first visit. Since then, I Fratelli has become my go to place for local business in the area. Since all of my DFW co-workers are based in the Plano-Richardson-Garland region, while I'm here in Northeast Tarrant - we needed a meeting place that is halfway. I Fratelli is about 30 minutes away for each of us. As well, the DFW airport location makes it ideal when we meet with partners, vendors, and clients. I Fratelli is absolutely perfect for business: It's local; popular; has a nice bar; easy to get to; plenty of parking; and most importantly - great food. Everyone from out of town asks if we can meet there again.

Food: Like many locals in the DFW area, we first discovered I Fratelli via one of their many pizza to-go portals throughout the area. I Fratelli makes what I'd call "Dallas styled Italian pizza". It's a cracker thin crust, cut in tiny bite sized pieces, and served via an oval plate. Closer to the St. Louis style of Imo's (though no provel cheese) than the thick gooey, but crispy, New York variety. In effect, I Fratelli is the equivalent of the Dallas based Campisi's, which we covered earlier in the RJG. And like Campisi's, the pizza outlets are an extension of the anchor store as it were.

The I Fratelli restaurant on MacArthur is their Campisi's Egyptian. The menu, old and crinkly, also points to an earlier era (darn - they updated it recently!). And they're quick to point out that everything is homemade. That's music to my ears. Homemade meatballs, sausage, sauces, and salad dressing. No reheating what they bought off the Lisanti truck. They bring out a bowl of parmesan cheese, and actually leave it there. "Go ahead and dump the whole thing on your plate, that's fine". How many times does the RJG have to wait around and ask for cheese, and after they put one tiny teaspoon on, they seem irritated you might actually want more? Regular readers of the RJG know that I like my food spicy. At best, you might get the shaker with crushed red pepper (usually the wrong shaker, with holes meant for cheese, rather than the slat top for red pepper). And the kind of filtered, tame red pepper flakes you can buy at the grocery store. I Fratelli provides freshly ground red pepper, that will light you up. And they leave a bowl of that too. "Go ahead, dump the whole thing on your plate - we'll call 911 for you".

The house salad is delicious - pre-tossed and mixed with just the right amount of oil, vinegar, and Italian spices. Reminds me of the salad at Prego, also written about on this blog. As for the main course, many of the dishes are slathered in an old fashioned red sauce which is thick and smooth, with a unique recipe that goes beyond the usual flavors. The meatballs are delicious. Old school all the way, thick, meaty, and spicy. I had the chicken parm, again superb, though not quite as crispy as I like (update: On recent visits, the chicken parm is indeed crispy!). Honestly, I want to try everything on the menu, though I keep finding myself going back to the chicken parm. And it's good value on the lunch menu. I've seen my friends devour everything in sight with glee, whether it's Lasagna, Fettuccine Alfredo, or anything else.

Drink: Full bar with a couple of local craft brews usually on tap, plus a real Belgian once in awhile.

Location: I Fratelli is in a fine stand alone building that once housed Jack Astor's, a Canadian chain that has since exited the market. It sits on the west side of MacArthur between 161 and I-635, in front of a massive strip mall, and has its own street light to enter to and from. As you enter, it becomes apparent this is going to be a trip back to the 1960s and 70s. Open the door and you get a darkened waiting room (sans chairs) with a handful of plaques containing various newspaper clipping and other accolades. Facing you is another door. Open it up and there's the hostess table. Looking around, the restaurant is dark, with candlelit tables, dark woods and the air of spirited conversation. A welcoming place to be sure, and besides, everyone looks good. The RJG has long complained about restaurants that look like supermarkets with bright overhead lights. Save that for the fast food takeout joints. When I'm dining, I want to focus on food, drink and conversation, rather than noticing scars, wrinkles and spider veins for the first time - my own, that is... In general, I prefer the bar area, which has full table service, and is actually more comfortable than the restaurant proper.

Notes: In 1987, the Cole brothers first opened up I Fratelli just north of where they are located now (note comment and correction from Mervis - their first restaurant was not far from Jimboy's Tacos actually!). At that time, if you wanted Campisi's, one had to go to Dallas. Why not open a similar restaurant near the DFW airport? It was a hit, and the restaurant is enormously popular throughout the area, as evidenced by the proliferation of I Fratelli pizza stores that dot the landscape. This location, however, remains their sole restaurant.

Rating: 5.0. It rarely gets better than this!




Hours: Sunday - Thursday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

i Fratelli Ristorante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Mervis said…
FYI - The first sit down restaurant was at Belt Line and Northgate in the Tom Thumb shopping center. The first takeout was on MacArthur across from the high school and the Irving Arts Performing Center.

I believe the Cole brothers are "cousins" to the Campisis.

Good to see you back blogging again in 2015.
RJG said…
Ah - thanks for the correction and info! And appreciate the sentiment. More to come!

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