Rustic Tuscan at Lombardi’s Newest Restaurant

Inside an expansive, 100 year-old church turned restaurant Uptown, something extraordinary is cooking in the kitchen. Considering La Fiorentina is the newest in culinary juggernaut Albero Lombardi’s arsenal, it’s no wonder buzz has already begun about this rustic Tuscan-style steakhouse.

This week was the grand opening of La Fiorentina, and I was lucky enough to nab a seat with PR mogul Bill Armstrong as they did their trial dinner for friends and family. Strolling past Lombardi’s other famed eatery Taverna, I approached his newest restaurant on Cole and Armstrong, a two-story, cabin-like space with a stained glass window above the entrance reading “Lombardi’s,” from the original location which burned down in the 80s.

Inside La Fiorentina you will find an exhibition kitchen, containing Executive Chef Marcelo Gallegos and his crew of experts hard at work. The adjoining room attached to the main dining area is the only extension to the original building (the city wouldn’t allow Lombardi to seat guests in the upstairs space), but it is composed of the same wood and stained glass as the rest.

The drink menu boasts a good wine selection and some exciting specialty cocktails, such as the Americano, a classic concoction comprised of sweet vermouth, Aperol and orange. Moving from aperitif to appetite, the revolving menu selections are fresh, healthily portioned dishes inspired by Lombardi’s trips to Italy. For an appetizer, I would start with the carpaccio, reasonably priced and perfectly structured, or the Iceberg Wedge Salad, an experience in texture and flavor with Bartlett Pears and polenta croutons.

The main courses range from filets, ribeyes and porterhouses to lamp chops, veal, whole roasted fish and baked Nigerian colossal shrimp (possibly the biggest shrimp you’ll see, served lobster-style in the shells). You’ll definitely want to save room for dessert, specifically for the seasonal cheese plate and the meringue cake with Chantilly cream.

Some advice on visiting La Fiorentina from one foodie to another: Remember, you want the belt to buckle, not the chair.

La Fiorentina, 4501 Cole Avenue, 972.528.6170,