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Grana Padano

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Word to the wise: If Francesco Farris asks you to dinner at his 1940s Bluffview bungalow, say yes, cancel everything and get there as fast as you can.
When it comes to entertaining, Mr. Farris, executive chef at Arcodoro & Pomodoro in Dallas, does not cut corners. His impromptu, everyday dinners are legendary. And on a perfect Monday night in early spring, with birds in the trees and the temperature hitting 80 degrees, Mr. Farris, a native Sardinian, lit his cigarette, let it dangle from his mouth and began cooking for his handful of guests.


The menu this night? Nothing short of a masterpiece: penne pasta with mushrooms sautéed with basil and rosemary; tender, grilled Berkshire pork chops; New Zealand snapper grilled inside a shell of sea salt; a caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella; and, of course, his pizza, prepared with a secret Farris sauce and homemade dough, and fired with mesquite and oak woods inside his handmade brick Renato Oven. The oven was made by Italian craftsman Renato Riccio in Garland, and it's the same brand of oven that is used at the restaurant. The oven can reach 700 F and, at that heat, it only takes a few minutes for the pizza to reach perfection: slightly charred on the bottom, but still soft and gooey on top.

It is Mr. Farris' pride and joy, this oven."Renato built the shell but everything else is with my hands," Mr. Farris says of his concrete and mud oven stand, the centerpiece of his back yard. "I mixed the mud together with some gold -- that's real gold by the way, real gold paint," he says with a laugh. But if you think Mr. Farris is just putting on a show for guests, you're wrong, says Matt Ruibal, who owns Ruibal's Plants of Texas and who is one of Mr. Farris' guests this evening.
"I'll come out to landscape and he'll have opened a bottle of wine and then later it's 'now it's time to eat,' and he'll have pasta and steaks. And if you try to leave he says, 'No, one more [glass], stay, stay, stay,' " Mr. Ruibal says. No wonder Mr. Farris has such an affinity for his friend the gardener, for Mr. Farris grows his own artichokes, sunflowers and tomatoes along with marjoram, rosemary and thyme. But his favorite is the myrtle he grows; he takes the berries and leaves and creates a traditional Sardinian after-dinner liqueur called mirto. Myrtle is a very important herb in the Mediterranean, he explains. For Mr. Farris, casual after-work dinners with five-star menus come naturally. "I don't work because I have to work, I work because I like to work," he says. With the laid-back atmosphere at a Farris party, there's only one rule of the house: Absolutely no one may touch or taste the food before it is finished and ready to be served, which is really no problem since guests usually gather at the outdoor tables, smoke, laugh and drink copious amounts of vino. If it sounds like a grand life, it is. Mr. Farris believes this is what he was born to do -- host and cook and make people happy. In fact, he says, it's a matter of genetics."You don't become a chef, you're born a chef," he says.

By Paige Phelps