Italian in the ’Burbs 

Cordova and Bartlett add new Italian restaurants to offerings.

Cafe Fontana in Cordova, home to contemporary Italian cuisine

courtesy of Michael Allen Photography

Cafe Fontana in Cordova, home to contemporary Italian cuisine

The Italian restaurant Pasta Italia started in Biloxi, Mississippi, moved to Collierville after Hurricane Katrina, and spent a year-long stint in Chattanooga. Now, owners Michele Doto and Laura Derrick are bringing their restaurant back to the area, this time to Cordova near Germantown Parkway and Macon Road.

Owned by Italian transplants — Doto is from Modena, Derrick is from Venice — Pasta Italia serves what the owners call authentic Northern Italian.

"We try to bring everything from Italy and do an authentic Northern Italian cuisine," Doto says. "We import most of the cold cuts, cheeses, extra virgin olive oils, and specialty items directly from Italy."

Pasta Italia is set to open in Cordova sometime in mid-February, and fans from the restaurant's days on the Collierville Town Square will find the menu little changed, except for a few new items Chef Doto has up his sleeve.

Diners can expect homemade pasta: ravioli, baked pastas, and rosette di pasta, sheets of pasta layered with prosciutto, mascarpone, fontina, and bechamel and rolled into the shape of a rose. The menu also features Italian favorites like veal shank osso bucco, lesser-known items like baked rock salt red snapper, and traditional desserts such as tiramisu.

Pasta Italia will have a full wine list with primarily Italian wines and will be open Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Lunch will be served Wednesday and Thursday only, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. A lunch special is served for around $12. Dinner entrées range from $18 to $28.

Pasta Italia, 8130 Macon Station, Cordova (751-0009)

In July, Bruno Russell opened Evergreen Grill on Overton Park Avenue in the heart of the Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood. Five months later, Russell took on a second restaurant: the revival of his Bruno's Italian Restaurant, which closed its Madison Avenue location in 2009. "An opportunity fell into my lap," Russell says. "It's a great location. As soon as I walked in the door, I knew it was right. I was ready to get the Bruno's name back out there."

Russell and his cousin Marvin Mims opened the new Bruno's in the former Pig 'n' Whistle in Bartlett. Russell carries over menu items from the location on Madison, such as lasagna, eggplant Parmesan, and beef ravioli. Some items from the Evergreen Grill menu also made the cut, such as Evergreen Chicken over asparagus and orzo, topped with garlic cream sauce. Russell's mother, Justine, makes the restaurant's cannoli cake, a white cake layered with ricotta, marsala wine, chocolate chips, orange zest, and chocolate ganache.

Bruno's has a full wine and beer menu and is open every day at 11 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 8 p.m. on Sunday. Dinner entrées range from $12 to $16.

Bruno's Italian Restaurant, 2740 Bartlett (474-7596)

The historic Farley House, former location of Fresh Slices in Cordova, is now home to Cafe Fontana, a contemporary Italian restaurant.

"We love traditional Italian. That's just not what we do," says Valerie Schranz, who owns Cafe Fontana with her husband, Chef Thomas Schranz.

Instead, Chef Thomas, formerly of Cafe 1912 and La Tourelle, serves an eclectic mix of Italian-inspired dishes, everything from a torta di formaggio with mascarpone, pesto, and sundried tomatoes to a shrimp and grits. Valerie says the idea is to be upscale but not pretentious, so that grouper al forno with grits and greens can exist on the same menu as a pizza cheeseburger without sending anyone's world into a tailspin.

"There's something for everyone," Valerie says. "We want people to feel they can come in in their blue jeans and a T-shirt and not spend a fortune but still have a really good dinner."

To that end, Cafe Fontana offers a variety of sandwiches, even on the dinner menu, and half portions of the pastas — linguini with clams to penne with Bolognese. Prices range from $9 to $25 for dinner entrées, and most wines on the menu run from $24 to $29 per bottle. And, Valerie adds, everything is made from scratch.

"There is no microwave here," she says.

Cafe Fontana is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday and a champagne Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner is served Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m.

Cafe Fontana, 8556 Macon (529-7526)

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