With their "handshake and hello" attitude, Preston Lancaster and Tony Smith want Taverna Rossa to be the go-to spot in Plano's Lakeside Market.
The Cheers vibe at Taverna is by design with their friendly atmosphere, local craft beer on tap and authentic and fresh ingredients in its food. Lancaster and Smith said they are just two Southern guys who have a passion for good pizza, good beer and great local music.
"We believed from the beginning that if we can fulfill a menu that we would enjoy, our customers would like it too. And that's been our process," said Smith. "We want music that we are going to listen to. If we aren't going to listen to it, we don't expect our guests to listen to it either."
A little more than 18 months since the opening Taverna in Plano, Lancaster and Smith are no strangers to the restaurant business, putting in multiple tours in the industry, ranging from pizza joints to country clubs and fine-dining establishments. The pair teamed up 10 years ago to open Palio's Pizza Cafe in Little Elm and took over Cadillac Pizza Pub a few years later in historic downtown McKinney.
The Bee's Knees ($15) is Taverna Rossa’s newest creation. The pizza features all-natural spicy red sauce, hot sopressata, fresh mozzarella and local Texas honey.[/caption]
"We wanted to take the bones of Cadillac and create something on a larger scale," Lancaster said.
Lancaster and Smith said by honing their skills and steadily improving from each experience, they were able to marry the idea of white tablecloth standards with a laid-back, kick-your-feet-up environment.
"From the details of the light bulbs to the tables and chairs to the plates that we serve our food on, we are so detail-oriented, and we take great pride in that," Smith said. "We want that to shine through to our guests."
The attitude is evident in Taverna Rossa's menu. This pizza restaurant offers queso served with Fritos, an appetizer both men said proves they "like to think outside of the box with a menu that is hearty and approachable."
"We are expanding our Southern roots and Southern flare," Smith said, referring to the restaurant's food. "[Taverna Rossa is] Italian by birth but Texan by choice."
Indulging the inner Texan: In addition to pizza, Taverna Rossa has also become popular for simpler creations like queso served with Fritos, a family recipe made with local sausage and house-pickled jalapeno ($7, cup/ $10, bowl).[/caption]
This Texas twist on Italian favorites shows up with the restaurant's spin on old classics such as the Texas Lasagna ($14), which is served with slow-cooked brisket, or the Kona Fire Pie ($14), a pizza topped with pineapple, turkey Canadian bacon, house-pickled jalapenos and cashews.
"You won't find [traditional] veal parmesan, but of course we do have the classic homemade meatballs. So we really do keep it focused, but with taking the risk that we can stretch on certain things," Smith said.
Lancaster and Smith said their experience has given them the confidence to take the concept up a notch with Taverna Rossa, and they already have plans for another location.
"It's going to be really fun to replicate," Lancaster said.
4005 Preston Road Ste. 512, 972-403-3321, Hours: Mon.–Thu.: 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–midnight., Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.,<a href="https://www.tavernarossa.com ">www.tavernarossa.com