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'Ugly' new Italian restaurant brings beautiful Neapolitan pizza to East Austin

'Ugly' new Italian restaurant brings Neapolitan pizza to East Austin

Il Brutto ATX margherita pizza
Neapolitan pizzas will be fired up in a wood-burning oven. Photo by Travis Hallmark
Il Brutto ATX Bitter Party cocktail
The Bitter Party of One cocktail doesn't just have to be enjoyed alone. Photo by Travis Hallmark
Il Brutto ATX margherita pizza
Il Brutto ATX Bitter Party cocktail

One of spring's most anticipated new restaurants finally has an opening date. Il Brutto, from hospitality group New Waterloo, will bring contemporary Italian cuisine to The Arnold building at 1601 E. Sixth St. starting March 12, according to a release.

The eatery will be helmed by executive chef Erind Halilaj, formerly of Obicà Mozzarella Bar, and New Waterloo’s corporate executive pastry chef, Amanda Rockman. The centerpiece of the operation will be Neapolitan pizza in varieties such as anchovy with capers, mozzarella, oregano, and San Marzano tomatoes; mushroom with taleggio and black pepper; and burrata with ’nduja and basil. Diners will be able to experience the process from the open kitchen, with a wood-burning oven and dough room in full view.

The rest of the menu takes a traditional, but decidedly non-regional approach. Starters include cheese and salumi boards; antipasti such as amberjack crudo, sauteed clams and mussels, and Sicilian caponata; and simple salads like classic caprese and roasted beets with red chicory, goat cheese, dill, hazelnuts, and raisins. Antipasti ranges from fresh amberjack crudo with citrus, celery skin, and marjoram to sautéed clams and mussels in a minimal preparation of garlic, lemon, and parsley.

House pasta includes cacio e pepe tonnarelli (think square spaghetti); ravioli with sheep ricotta and curly kale; pici (thick, hand-rolled tubes) with shiitake and thyme; lasagne alla bolognese; and pappardelle in a lamb ragu. Mains offer plenty of variety, too. Beef tenderloin is served with white polenta, juniper, and raspberries, while red snapper features cherry tomatoes, black Taggiasche olives, turnip, and fava beans.

Rockman’s desserts reinvent rich Italian classics like tiramisu served with a cinnamon chocolate streusel. A ricotta semifreddo veers from tradition with kiwi, pickled strawberry, a crepe dentelle (crispy rolled cookies), and tomato. Gelato and sorbetto will also be available in rotating seasonal flavors.

The beverage program features Texas and Italian beer, and an all-Italian wine list, save for a few sneaky French varietals. Cocktails make use of Italian spirits, and classic concoctions like Negronis and Aperol Spritzes sit alongside more contemporary drinks like Bitter Party of One (gin, Cynar, Luxardo, sweet vermouth, grapefruit, lemon, egg white) and Sangue e Sabbia (scotch, amaro, cherry heering, orange bitters).

The name, translated as “the ugly,” was inspired by the 1966 Sergio Leone film The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Fittingly, Clayton & Little Architects (Mattie’s at Green Pastures, Jeffrey’s, San Antonio's Southerleigh Brewhouse) designed with spaghetti Westerns in mind, fusing elements of the American West and Italy. Melanie Raines, New Waterloo’s director of design, says the restaurant will also play a selection of ‘70s and ’80s psychedelic rock in keeping with the theme.

Initially, Il Brutto will only be open for dinner only Sunday-Wednesday, 5-10 pm, and Thursday-Saturday, 5-11 pm. The restaurant plans to introduce a lunch service and brunch in April.