Photography by Jessica Turner.

From the seasonal menu to the decor’s warm woods, hanging plants and stone-laid walls, Terra is simply earthy.

“Terra is really a chef’s dream restaurant,” Executive Chef of Eataly Dallas Jake Epstein says. “It’s a beautiful space, large, so you can have a lot of play on the menu we have.”

Eataly’s Terra, the rooftop restaurant focused on seasonal ingredients, wood-fired grilling and a traditional four-course, serves a cornucopia of Italian cuisine. Almost every item on the menu includes smoked elements using hickory or oak. The herbs, vegetables and meats hang over the grill.

The concept is high-quality ingredients cooked simply — lightly charred Texas quail, smoked ribeyes from local ranches or vegetables grilled for hours before being turned into a puree. 

The rotating menu was developed as a four-course meal broken up into antipasta, spiedini (grilled and skewered), fresh pasta from the market downstairs and wood-fired entrees featuring pork chops, wagyu, halibut and a three-day brined chicken. 

“Whatever’s seasonal, whatever’s local, whatever is a tradition from Italy, that’s what we want to bring here as well,” Epstein says. “The mixture of those three things makes Terra what it is. Mastering those three things and really understanding where everything fits is what we continue to try to do.”

The ​​mild, sometimes rainy winters and hot, usually dry summers of both Texas and Italy provide similar produce, allowing the restaurant to develop a traditional Italian menu. For instance, Caprese salads and tomato burrata make an appearance only during the summer to utilize the fresh tomatoes, but for fall, the burrata uses squash.

“And really, I got to play with seasonality and local ingredients, which is my bread and butter,” Epstein says.

Epstein, 29, worked at Craft Los Angeles, a restaurant known for using seasonal and local ingredients, for several years. After a brief stint running fried-chicken restaurant Birdies, Epstein got a call to work at Craft in New York City as a sous chef. He eventually made his way to three-Michelin star Eleven Madison Park.

Then he got another call. This time from Eataly Flatiron. 

“A lot of their manifesto really connected with my farm-to-table background at Craft,” he says.

He started as sous chef manager, overseeing projects around the flagship location before becoming ​​chef de cuisine at rooftop restaurant Serra, where he overhauled the menu and brought in a new staff. He eventually became executive sous chef just as the coronavirus slowed the restaurant business and as Eataly Dallas prepared to open.

Then another call. The second floor La Pizza & La Pasta needed to be developed. After completing that project, he moved on to Terra.

“It was very fun to use all this information that I have gained these years at a completely new environment with all of the bells and whistles that you could really want in a restaurant,” Epstein says. “And I love the process of openings.”

Epstein got his start after school in his own kitchen, making whatever he could find in the fridge. 

“And it turned into really like a five-day-a-week thing that I was doing, and going to school was never really my thing,” he says. “Just kind of popped into my head that this is something that I love doing that I wanted to pursue.”

The original Iron Chef, from Japan, was a favorite show. A close friend’s father was a restaurateur in Los Angeles, and he’d go out to eat with that family. His first restaurant job was at a Fresh Brothers Pizza, a quick-service Chicago-style restaurant. 

“It just became very much of like an embedded passion that I had,” Epstein says.

After working at full-service Pici Enoteca in Beverly Hills, he applied to the Culinary Institute of America in New York. 

“Probably one of the highlights of my life,” Epstein says. “And I learned more there in two years about what it means to be a chef and how wide that spectrum really is. It’s not just about cooking. It’s not just about being a good manager. But it’s also about being guest-focused.”

Guests can enjoy a build-your-own gin and tonic on Terra’s patio bar or have intimate conversations in one of the many enclaved tables. Made-to-order gelato from Mill-King Market & Creamery, complete with bourbon syrup and several toppings, are carted tableside. Brunch, which is not inherently Italian, features a colazione completa, a four-part meal of a shakshuka-style egg dish, fresh bread with butter and apricot jam, moka pot espresso, and meat and fingerling potatoes. 

“With everything that’s simple with Italian food, it’s about the quality of ingredients that you use,” Epstein says. “You can’t really make a bad decision here.”

Terra, 8687 N. Central Expy, 469.759.2800

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