Tim Love — the prolific restaurateur behind popular Fort Worth staples like Lonesome Dove, Love Shack and The Woodshed — has been busy this year, opening Tex-Mex spot, Paloma Suerte, earlier in 2022, followed by the recent debut of Tannahill’s Tavern and Music Hall.
His latest project is Caterina’s, an Italian-American restaurant that opened at the end of July in Mule Alley in the heart of the Fort Worth Stockyards. The recently developed area is also home to Hotel Drover, several restaurants and shops, and a brewery.
Inside Caterina’s, the ground floor has a six-seat cocktail bar and 40-seat dining room, while the mezzanine level boasts a hidden, private dining room that can accommodate up to 14 guests.
The restaurant’s menu offers a selection of classic Italian flavors and techniques, fresh pastas, and an exclusively Italian wine list.
Most notably, Caterina’s is one of the few Fort Worth restaurants with a strict dress code. Jackets are required for men — any diner who enters without one will be offered a selection of options before they sit down.
That dress code extends to the staff too — Servers wear crisp white dress shirts and red vests, an homage to the classic Italian restaurants that once lined the streets of New York City. Select staff members don white tuxedo jackets, and bartenders sport classic black suspenders.
“Fort Worth doesn’t have many dress codes at all, and Caterina’s is such an intimate and special place, so I figured it would be the perfect place to get dressed up for,” Love said.
The restaurant also has a ‘no cell phones’ policy that requires guests to place their phones into a locked pouch, which remains with them during dinner. If someone must use their phone while at the restaurant, they can do so outside once a staff member has unlocked the pouch. It’s an intriguing idea in an age where free marketing is just a social media post away.
“Caterina’s is not a restaurant where there is an ‘Instagram moment’ everywhere you turn,” Love said. “It’s a place for amazing food and service experiences that will make you want to go home and tell the story rather than take a picture of it.”
Caterina’s isn’t Love’s only Italian restaurant. He also owns Gemelle, a whimsical and airy concept with a tree-covered patio that’s named for the chef’s twin daughters (“Gemelle” means twins in Italian).
Caterina’s takes a different approach. Named for his late sister, Kathleen, Love describes it as more mature and sophisticated. The restaurant’s dining room is steeped in Old World charm, with wraparound banquettes and brass-framed barstools. Walls vary between dark wood panels and exposed brick, and crystal light fixtures hang from the ceiling.
Upon entering, guests are greeted with a glass of prosecco rosé and might hear the dulcet tones of Louis Prima or Frank Sinatra filling the room.
Each meal begins with three varieties of focaccia and a platter of cured meats and aged Parmigiano Reggiano. The menu is overseen by chef de cuisine Lance Willis and broken into four sections: antipasti, zuppe e insalate, maccheroni and secondi. Fresh pastas like a bucatini cacio e pepe and rigatoni alla vodka are followed by larger plates like the veal chop, roasted chicken diavolo and branzino.
The wine list highlights Italian varietals and a rotating menu of cocktails, including classics like a Negroni and Americano. For an extra touch of service, cocktails are prepared tableside on a rolling bar cart and accompanied by a small bite meant to elevate the drink’s flavors.
While the experience feels like the perfect photo opportunity, Love is content to let guests bask in the moment, enjoying the show with their dining companions and not through the screen of their phones.
“It is an immersive experience that I want you to wholeheartedly invest in,” Love said. “You’ll be amazed at how good your conversations are not only with your friends and family but those next to you as well.”