A towering Stefano Ferrara pizza oven dominates the open kitchen at Jack’s Ranch, the massive Italian restaurant opening next week in Tysons Corner, while several equally domineering meat smokers sit perched out the door. They are all in service of a menu that aims to combine regional Italian cooking and smoked meat in ways that are both approachable and luxurious.
“We call it ‘luxe nouveau ranch’ because it defies conventional descriptions,” says owner Steve Roberts, who also runs Arlington’s popular barbecue joint Texas Jack’s.
The juxtaposing phrase fits: The menu ranges from a selection of made-to-order Neapolitan pizzas, to a foie gras gnocchi bomba served with a port wine reduction, to mussels and clams paired with Calabrian Nduja sausage.
Roberts, who honors American cowboy John B. Omohundro at Texas Jack’s, says the Italian cuisine in his latest venture is inspired by Omohundro’s wife, Josephine Morlacchi, a ballerina and actress from Milan, Italy.
Roberts tapped Declan Hogan, a finalist on Season 19 of Hell’s Kitchen and former executive chef at Irish kitchens Kirwan’s on the Wharf and Daniel O’Connell’s in Old Town, to lead as executive chef.
While diners at the 11,000-square-foot restaurant won’t find the pounds of smoked meats and classic Southern sides Texas Jack’s is known for, much of the menu features elements from barbecue-style cooking.
“What we’re doing here is focusing on bringing in the best of Italy, and complimenting them with amazing smoked meats,” Hogan says.
Diners can find a smoked Berkshire porchetta, a half-chicken roasted and stuffed with mushroom farce and truffles, and a beer burger served with house fries cooked in beef tallow. A whole flounder meets a smoking hot grill before it comes to the table alongside a charred lemon.
Classic Italian dishes arrive in the form of lasagna layered with braised beef shank, ricotta, Parmigiano, and pecorino; as well as a gorgonzola-stuffed gnocchi made in-house and served with crisped sage and wild mushroom cream sauce. There are also several risottos, including the seasonal risotto alla zucca made with pumpkin and pancetta and served with roasted pumpkin seeds.
The chef’s ties to Hell’s Kitchen emerge on the drinks menu, where a selection of wines are available from Paso Robles’s DAOU Vineyards, where the show’s maître d’hôtel Marino Monferrato also serves as the vice president of hospitality operations.
It’s also the only domestic wine at Jack’s Ranch, with nearly all other wines sourced from across Italy. Draft beers include local pours from Devil’s Backbone and Atlas Brew Works, and a cocktail menu features cocktails ranging from “Ranch Acqua” made from Patron Silver, a Berry Truly hard seltzer, and mint to an trendy espresso martini served with chocolate-covered espresso beans.
Originally slated for a fall opening, like most new restaurants these days, Jack’s Ranch faced its share of supply-chain issues. Nevertheless, Hogan, who was known on Hell’s Kitchen for his no-excuses, can-do attitude, says everything he’s learned from the show has prepared him for this moment.
“The show taught me you always gotta roll with the punches, be ready to bounce back no matter what, and if you get knocked down, always get back and re-focus.”
Jack’s Ranch is located on the ground floor of the Lumen apartments at 1755 Tysons Central Street. Opening hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with lunch served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m and dinner starting at 5 p.m. A full-service wrap-around bar keeps pouring until midnight.
Update (November 18, 2021): This was updated to reflect a new opening date after a permit delay. It was originally slated to open November 18, 2021.