After 14 years managing Nana, sommelier and restaurateur Paul Pinnell ventures on a new quest: To open Dallas’ finest wine bar
By his own estimation, Paul Pinnell has worked at more of Dallas’ five-star restaurants than anyone in else in the business. But when choosing a place to meet for a talk, he picks Bread Winners Caf? on McKinney Avenue a friendly, unpretentious and moderately priced Uptown hangout. For Pinnell, elegance and luxury are great, but he’s all about value.
Although Pinnell’s new wine bar and restaurant, Dali which opens early next year in One Arts Plaza will of course feature rare and wonderful wines and seasonal artisan cuisine, he’s quick to point out that affordability will also be a primary concern.
“There is just a phenomenal amount of wine available to the Texas market that people are not taking advantage of I mean true, high-quality wines from Spain, Australia, Argentina and the U.S.,” Pinnell says.
And he wants to share his expertise, developed over 30 years in the business, with diners but on his terms.
As busy and thrilling as things are for Pinnell right now he’s also serving as a consultant for Little Katana, the Uptown Asian restaurant opening Dali came about almost by accident. Until last year, Pinnell was the legendary manager at Nana at the Anatole, but 14 years in the corporate world was beginning to take its toll. He’d previously run his own eatery, J. Pinnell’s on Maple Avenue, and wanted to be his own boss again.
“Nana is still one of the premiere restaurants in Dallas I could have stayed there the rest of my life,” he says. “But once you succeed as a restaurateur, the mystery is taken out of it. It stays in your blood.”
He had been toying around with three concepts for new restaurants, one a wine bar that also served exceptional cuisine, something he says Dallas has never really had. Then he received a call from Lucy Crow Billingsley, daughter of developer Trammell Crow. Would he be interested in a space available at One Arts Plaza, the anchor to the new Downtown Arts District? It only took a day for Pinnell to seal the deal. (His other two concepts, he says, are still in the works.)
Pinnell has quickly become the top cheerleader for the Arts District which, when completed in 2009, will become the largest urban development of its kind in the nation.
“In it’s full blossom, the Winspear Opera House and the Wyly Theatre will have 360 days of performances a year and eventually as many as 300 dates each,” he says. And so many arts patrons are bound to be hungry and thirsty. (Gay restaurateur Scott Jones will open his new concept, Screen Door, across the piazza from Dali.)
While the interior will be small (Pinnell expects about 70 seats), the design calls for “185 patio seats an absurd number,” he says. And everywhere in the bistro will have gorgeous views of downtown.
He named the restaurant after queer artist Salvador Dali, whom Pinnell says was not only obsessed with art but also food and wine (he even wrote and illustrated a cookbook and wine book which are now collector’s items). Pinnell himself is just as passionate about wine, and the theme seemed to fit with the Arts District.
Pinnell promises a design that will be almost as delicious as the wines. Although still under construction, it will feature a glass wine cellar that will hold as many as 3,000 bottles, with Dali-inspired details popping up in the d?cor, on the menu and even the food itself.
Rudy Mikula, whom Pinnell calls “probably the most gifted and knowledgeable sommelier I’ve ever worked with,” has signed on as his wine director. And in a unique move, anyone interested in seeing the restaurant’s wine inventory won’t have to wait until the Feb. 11 opening: Pinnell says the Web site will go online by the end of the year, and patrons will be able to buy bottles retail as well as on-site.
Pinnell is keeping mum about a few details. He has yet to announce the restaurant’s executive chef, but expects to do so within a few weeks. He promises “a noted Dallas chef doing very affordable, exciting Wine Country cuisine.”
Once again, Pinnell knows that luxury doesn’t have to be out of reach.
Dali Wine Bar & Cellar, 1722 Routh St. Daliwinebar.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 14, 2007