First visit: December 2011
While browsing the main DFW page on Urbanspoon, a little blurb caught my eye from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram: "Homemade Italian sausage". The RJG is always on the lookout for good, high quality, homemade Italian sausage, whether from a restaurant or a local grocer. Unfortunately for us folks on the Ft. Worth side of the house, almost all of the great Italian sausage to be found is in Dallas. And even though it was the Startlegram that brought it to my attention, sure enough the restaurant is in Dallas. Preston Royal to be exact.
I spent a lot of my youth in the Preston Royal area. Not that I grew up here (I wish!), but many times my folks and I would "head east" for a weekend dinner out. While still in high school in the early 1980s, there was a great Italian restaurant called Rodolfo's Colosseo that we frequented often (anyone remember it?). He later dropped the Colosseo moniker, and I can recall my last meal being after college sometime in 1988. I suspect he closed shortly thereafter (there's a sushi place there now). In any case, I had some business to attend to in Dallas and figured the Mrs. and I could try Princi Italia. This would be my first meal to enjoy in the area for some 23 years.
So let's talk about Princi Italia shall we? Nice decor. Very nice decor. Too nice decor. Once in, we saw a large table of middle aged, nicely dressed and well-to-do ladies. Clearly a place for ladies who lunch - and have a spare coin or two. We were stuck in the corner so as to not intrude (not really. Well maybe...). Time to order. I went for the Penne Arrabbiata which they describe as a "spicy tomato sauce, garlic parmesan, basil & chilies." And given the premise for our visit, I asked for a side of sausage. I was informed that it was crumbled, rather than in a tube, which was disappointing to hear, but yes, please mix it in. Mrs. RJG settled on the Tagliatelle Bolognese described as thus: "Classic bolognese sauce, reggiano parmesan, basil". Mine arrived first, due to a mixup in the kitchen (no problem) and my wife immediately blurted out "that's a child's portion!" 'Tis true I'm afraid. The RJG agrees with many that most restaurants serve too much food (though we just take home what we can't eat ourselves). And because we workout everyday, we tend to eat like truckers. But I still prefer a normal portion. This was dinky. How about the food? I thought it was quite good, though terms like spicy and chilies are ridiculous to even consider. Their spicy won't fire up even the most tame of taste buds. But it was a very good light red sauce with basil and the added ground pork sausage was much needed to fill me up a tad anyway. The sausage was indeed very good, but it's sort of cheating. Personally I wouldn't call this homemade Italian sausage. For a great example of what I mean, head over to Pietro's on Lower Greenville (search the RJG, and you can read my love letter there). When Mrs. RJG's food arrives, it was greeted with a frown. She was already bumming about the portion, but when the bolognese came out in a brown gravy sauce, that pretty much soured her for good. There's nothing traditional at all about it. We've spent many weeks in Italy over the last 20+ years, and we never saw anything like this. She just flat out didn't like it. I thought it was good myself. It wasn't a bolognese, but I did like the interpretation. Nice blend of flavors. As well, the pasta was slightly undercooked in places. Tagliatelle is a thin flat noodle (like fettucine but not wavy), and it can clump easily if not stirred properly.
So how to rate Princi then? At the time of this writing Princi has a whopping 4 votes on Urbanspoon and a poor 25% approval rating. One is positive. The other 3 are not. And we're in that latter camp I'm afraid. The problem here, at least for me, is quite simply value. I rarely consider that when rating or evaluating a place, because I have a very large +/- error ratio on that front. But this was a pretty outrageous example. Mine was $10+$3 and hers was $12. For a VERY small portion of food. Ridiculously so. It wasn't an appetizer. The tossed salad was an additional $6, which was about $3 too much (I didn't mention the salad, but we did both enjoy it, and it featured a nice light red wine vinagraitte). I also had a Birra Moretti. That plus tax and tip: $44. And we were still starving when we left.
So it's with mixed emotions, we give Princi a thumbs down. I really wanted to like it. But honestly it looks like another mercurial chef-driven place that will be out of business within the next year. I'm sorry to say :-(