When people are talking shit about the Pearl, Fratelli is one of the examples (along with Andina, bluehour, and ten01) frequently raised in the district's defense—proof that good restaurants can and do thrive alongside Henry's Tavern and P.F. Chang's. And rightly so—the high-end Italian restaurant can be counted on for an elegant meal at a decent value, with a menu that's been based on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients since long before those were buzzwords. (Fratelli even features a regular dinner series, starting this Tuesday, August 28, and continuing through the end of September, based on ingredients from co-owner Tim Cuscaden's own garden.)
Recently and with little fanfare, Fratelli opened Bar Dué, an intimate bar space next door to the restaurant that maintains much of the sophisticated, moody vibe of Fratelli, with a more bar-food-oriented menu that focuses on something near and dear to my heart: pizza.
Now, I wasn't raised religious, but my East Coast-bred parents did manage to pass on some pretty militant ideas about pizza. My deeply ingrained preference is for a sloppy, New York-style slice that's gotta be folded in half to keep all the toppings from sliding right off.
Part of becoming an adult, though, is questioning the ideas you were raised with. I've come to love the pie at Dove Vivi, a new restaurant located in the former home of the not-at-all-missed Kustom Pizza, which serves deep dish, cornmeal-crust pizza with a rotating variety of seasonal toppings. I sometimes wake up craving their corn-topped pie despite the fact that it's laden with toppings and requires a knife and fork to consume. Sure, I don't quite think of it as "pizza," per se, but I've learned not to let the cognitive dissonance ruin a good meal.
It's the same deal with Bar Dué's wood-fired pizza: As long as I don't let fantasies about my archetypical pizza slice intrude, it's pretty enjoyable stuff. The pizza features a thin, crunchy crust with the predictable variety of high-end toppings that range from a traditional Margherita pie, with mozzarella and basil, to a more adventurous combo of pancetta, olives, ricotta, and salsa. At $12, each pie could comfortably serve two, though larger appetites might want to supplement it with other offerings from the bar menu, which features a variety of small plates lifted from the regular Fratelli menu. Prices range from $3-7.50 an item (with a couple bucks off during happy hour, which runs from 4:30-6 pm, and 9 pm-close daily), and it's easy to mix and match up a satisfying meal. With the exception of an insipid chicken terrine that begged the old "Is this worth the calories?" question, the food was uniformly satisfying: Try the roasted beet and Gorgonzola salad, or the excellent pancetta-wrapped summer squash.
Maybe the best thing about Bar Dué is that by adding additional bar space, and keeping the menu limited, it allows folks who couldn't afford to drop a hundred bucks on dinner to sample some of what Fratelli has to offer. And their pizza ain't bad, either.