Juliet Ristorante, a relatively new addition to the South Austin cohort of eateries, boasts a modern take on classic Italian fare.
Arriving at the restaurant, which sits adjacent to Thom’s Market on Barton Springs, I was struck by the simple elegance of the building’s exterior design, orchestrated by local architects and design firms. Its stark white and deep blue awnings, vintage script and flora surroundings combine high-end and casual.
Owners Neeca Leitao and Dan Wilkin opened the establishment in July 2015, and it has been enticing patrons ever since, with refreshing cocktails, sumptuous entrees and rich pastries that make you forget you reside in Texas.
European Flair Inside and Out
The vast outdoor patio leaves an impression of European flair with crisp white wooden patio tables and metal chairs, high patio covering, flourishing garden, and full bar. Upon strolling into the patio area, I noted that this is the perfect space for any meal, particularly lunch and happy hour, as you sip on one of the classic cocktails that rotate seasonally.
The indoor space provides a contrast to the airiness of the patio with walnut woodwork, unique brass accents composing the partitions and chandeliers, and leather booths. The likes of Sinatra and Nat King Cole will set the tone for an evening of relaxed conversation and a long meal. Each room encapsulates a distinct vibe of its own, particularly the lounge area and back room. The lounge’s teal walls, brass fixtures and red leather seating grant waiting customers a relaxing experience, while the back room features a more private space that can be utilized for events.
Juliet’s New Take on Italian Classics
Juliet’s menu is meant to whisk you away, as Executive Chef Jacob Weaver (formerly of Asti), Executive Pastry Chef Carly Rossmeissl (formerly of Easy Tiger) and Chef de Cuisine Brandon Fuller (formerly of Café Josie) present traditional, but refreshed, versions of Italian and Italian-American dishes.
Weaver makes a point to incorporate locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients, as well as authentic imports in order to amass the full, rich flavors of Italian cuisine and values. You can expect to see an expansive selection of pizze, insalate, salumi, antipasti and more.
One of my personal favorites is the arancini, which are taleggio-stuffed risotto balls paired with pear mostarda. With that first savory bite, I may have involuntary smiled and sang to the heavens. The Ceci Fritti, a dish of fried garbanzo beans with garlic, lemon zest and parsley, as well as the formaggi and salumi boards, are not to be missed. Try everything with house ciabatta and filone, and thank Rossmeissl for each slice of airy bread with delectable crust. If you subscribe to a gluten-free diet, there are plenty of dishes that can be altered upon request.
Rossmeissl’s dessert selections include dishes such as Torta di Ricotta, a ricotta cheesecake with ginger cookie, caramel apples, brandied cherries, and candied pecans, as well as Torta di Olio Oliva, which is an olive oil cake with goat cheese cream, fennel, blood orange and poppy seed tuile. The list expands for lovers of tiramisu, sorbet and gelato.
The bar features over 100 wines, mainly classic Italian favorites, along with local draft beers and Texas craft brewery limited editions. In addition, there are eight negronis available, with an option to try a flight of four cocktails per sampling. The Mezcal was cited as one of the standard favorites among the staff, particularly when combined with the house and classic cocktails.
Beverage Director Jeramy Campbell takes pride in each cocktail, liberally experimenting to widen his guests’ palates. While you will recognize most of the drink names, you’ll be surprised by the unique variety. During a spring tasting, I grasped at the opportunity to sample most of them, relishing spirits I typically don’t enjoy. Juliet’s whiskey-based drinks, made with a poison I never choose, are well-balanced and refreshing, suitably emulating the season of spring.
I recommend Golden Fiore, which is a scotch infused with green tea, milla chamomile grappa, dolin rouge and orange bitters. The subtle green tea flavor and bitters cut through the scotch to balance it perfectly. Kaya Kick, another crowd preference, is a take on the rum swizzle that hosts a twelve-year-old el dorado rum, lime, tarragon, homemade mango habanero shrub and bitters. It is beautiful and refreshing.
After sipping most of the beverages, I concluded that 20th Century won the contest over my taste buds. The drink consists of American gin, cocchi americano, creme de cacao and lemon. The note of chocolate gives a subtle sweetness, but it pairs well with the dry wine and citrus. Whichever decision you make, drink it outside and keep happy hour in mind.
Little Italy in Austin
Beginning today, Juliet will host “Little Italy in Austin” every Monday and Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., offering a three-course menu for $30. With generous portions of antipasti, principale and dolci that change weekly and feature items not typically found on the menu, you’ll want to experience this treat. The revolving menu will centralize on traditional Italian-American dishes brought over by immigrants, such as stuffed mushrooms, fried mozzarella curds, chicken parmigiana, spinach and ricotta manicotti with pomodoro, cannoli, and Italian cream cake.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What is your favorite food or drink item at Juliet?
Talena Ramnath lives in Austin, exploring the old and new in Central Texas. You can reach out to her through Twitter.
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