Last visit: July 2013
Rating: Strong Buy
The RJG goes from our favorite Denver Italian restaurant, to our second favorite Dallas area Italian restaurant. As many of you all know, Pietro's is our favorite Italian in DFW, and remains the RJG's all-time favorite restaurant. But for close to 30 years, Prego has been right there behind them, providing hearty competition. And like Pietro's, we're infrequent visitors to Dallas anymore, so it's a rare treat indeed when we do dine here. We may have been only a couple of times since I started this blog, so this week's visit gave us the opportunity to finally blog about it. One major difference between Pietro's and Prego, is that the latter is open for lunch. And it's just that opening that allows me to choose Prego when in the area at that time. Mrs. RJG and I were in Dallas for an emergency weekday errand, and we had a bit of downtime right around lunch. Of course we first had to visit Northpark (guess who was behind that decision?) - and then I took control of lunch. 5 minutes later we're at Prego.
According to Prego's website, the restaurant has been open since 1982 (with a building owned by the family since 1951). And that's roughly two years before we started frequenting. I was in college at Texas Tech then, which tells me that we must've first dine there while home for the summer. If truth be told, both my parents liked Prego probably more than any restaurant - including my beloved Pietro's. For a number of years, they had a new location up in Far North Dallas (Tollway and Trinity Mills) that just happened to be pretty close to where I had an office in 2003 and 2004. They had great lunch specials, and I tried to go at least once a month, if not more. Unfortunately that location closed a few years ago. But the original is where most of my dining memories of Prego occurred. It's a single room restaurant, that can get very loud when crowded (which it often is - particularly for dinner). It's hard to imagine today, but Prego, like every restaurant of the time, allowed smoking. And my Old Man made sure everyone got cigarette smoke with their dinner. Not every law the government passes is a turkey. They got that one right! As an aside, valet parking is compulsory (it's free - but with tip of course). I noticed on this visit, they tore down the building next door. Maybe they can finally get their own parking spaces?
So what's so great about Prego? Old school Italian. Done perfectly - every time. If you like a thick and smooth red sauce, with the perfect blend of seasonings, then you'll love Prego. They make their own Italian sausage. Their salad is basic but delicious (a vinaigrette with garlic and onion tops, an olive and hot pepper). Pasta is always al dente. Meat sauce is made from their homemade meatballs. Their pizza will remind you of Campisi's. I'm not a heavy cream sauce guy, but I'll bet their Alfredo is delicious. Italian food doesn't have to be fancy to be good. It's amazing to me how very few really good Italian restaurants there are. Most of the simple restaurants use too much sauce, or can't even cook pasta right. The elaborate ones are so focused on decoration and off-the-wall recipes, they can't get even put together a decent salad. Prego reminds me of everything I like about old school Italian. It's a can't miss proposition. Prego, as mention earlier, is usually very crowded for dinner. And who eats there? Lots of squeaky clean, good looking families from nearby University Park. Regular folks, but regular folks who have way more money to blow than the rest of us. And know a good value when they experience it. As for the RJG - I've been going for 30 years now, and I still look forward to dining here. If any of the above sounds appealing, then Prego is a must.