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Continental Texas

Slap bang in the epicentre of Texan culture, amongst saloon doors and brewery taverns lives a displaced slice of Europe. A Mediterranean extravaganza that pertains to similar levels of European originality as a Hawaiian pizza does to Polynesian culture.

Fort Worth Stockyards – plunge back into the old west, home to the John Wayne Museum and the cattle drive. A place steeped in foregone American heritage, where cowboys thrive in eminence, and the tiger lives in Africa – according to the local gift shop. With each step along the brick-paved streets, you feel yourself descending deeper into American history.

As the sound of lonesome guitars and borderline bearable heat grips the air, you find yourself mistaking the modern roads for dusty trails. Horse-and-carts laboriously trot past – cowboys on horseback lassoing and whipping the Texan air, swarmed by out-of-town folk. Almost too big to be contained, Longhorns reside on the pavements, ready to be received in awe. A 3100 Chevrolet parked on the corner of this once-effluent street is the final stroke of this Drover masterpiece.

As you look beyond the spiralling iron spurs and blue-washed Levi’s, you’ll find a contumaciously daring Italian restaurant. Claiming the utmost sophistication while soliciting all locals to abide by a new culture. A culture that no one asked for and one that just doesn’t fit. Do not worry, people of Fort Worth, TX; this is not an attempt at a second European invasion but rather an American adaptation.

Tucked between a leather store and a steakhouse is Catalina’s. Before passing the threshold, you’d presume to wonder what lies ahead; a coat rack displaying a myriad of different-sized dinner jackets, from a thirty-six regular to a seventy-two long, they have it. A maître d’ with a vendetta against fun welcomes you by confiscating your phone. According to this gentleman, smiling is prohibited, but over-gelled hair is encouraged. He’ll seat you after barely engaging with your existence before handing over all responsibility to a timorous sweetheart whose first day has just begun. The nerves struggle to stay at bay. And through the shaking and stammering comes the recommended wine and specials.

The menu includes Italian hits like arancini, rigatoni, and potato frico. You’d be a fool to assume that the menu finished there, though, as we left the paramount cuisine of Bologna and returned to the US Nation – pork chops and steaks – in true Texan fashion.

As I bid my sweet farewells to cowboy Italia and returned to the warm cactus-sharp breeze of Texas, an undertone of appreciation started to stew. I appreciated the effort. At first, I thought it a concoction of ignorance, stubbornness and old ways, but after a short-lived moment of disappointment, I understood this was the opposite. It was an opportunity to expand and grow the culture of the Stock Yards. For now, it won’t just resemble the American tradition – I mean, it will always primarily be to do with American tradition – but now gilded with something else – a foreign taste; je ne sais quoi.

It was an American interpretation of Italian fine dining. The food proportions weren’t adequate, and the aesthetics carried a waft of little exposure to Italian culture. But it was a place of difference and variety, and, without sounding overly cliché, that made the night fantastic. We came together to explore this newly formed imbalance that festered in the Stock Yards, and we did so with benevolence and reverence.

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