Sunday, July 17, 2016

La dolce vita with North Italian comfort foods: Houston now blessed with a Risotteria

A simple Google search for trattoria turns up about 33,200,000 results, taverna yields about 23,000,000, but for risotteria it's a bare 219,000. That's a comparatively rare species of an Italian eatery, and Houston now boasts one, along with Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth

TAVERNA Risotteria (Pizzeria, too) 

Pizzeria Taverna Risotteria at River Oaks District (ROD) in Houston
La dolce vita più bella: With Northern comfort foods and delights at Taverna 
The new restaurant, a Lombardi Family Concept that is already well established in other markets, opened about a month ago at River Oaks District, in the good company of other Gulf Coast newcomers, such as Steak 48, Toulouse, and Hopdoddy Burger Bar. See ROD's omnibus menu of fine district dining establishments here. The location is posh and the rent no doubt hefty, which translates into respectable pricing at the guest-check level; -- and higher than neighborhood pizza-joint expectations by customers. 
Taverna - Westheimer frontage - Old Amegy Bank tower in the distance 
The new TAVERNA sits in a prime location, and even has visibility toward Westheimer, and a limited amount of self-parking out front. The two dozen-or-so Yelp reviews (so far) are all over the place, though, including one by a native Italian who "literally felt at home". Others hailing from closer-by, bemoaning a less than stellar dining experience, promise they won't be back as there are many other fine options for Italian cuisine in H-Town. While it is true that you can live la dolce vita without leaving Texas, at least food-wine-and-gelati-wise, none of those other places are designated risotterias! Not even sub-titled ones. The Lombardi company describes its offerings as northern Italian delights, from simple comforts such as pan seared sea bass to delicate pasta and fabulous risotto, - its "flagship dish". A bit of explaining and brand-marking is in order indeed, lest the name be misunderstood. TAVERNA is neither a Greek cafe, nor a simple tavern. The meaning of Risotteria is easily decoded, to be sure. Alas it's a mere suffix on the storefront signage, and barely decipherable for passing motorist on Westheimer heading to or from Highland Village or The Galleria.  

In other Innerloop restaurant news in the Italian column, Pepino's, an "under the radar" eatery on Richmond Ave next to El Pueblito on Mandell Park has closed, while west of Mandell, something new with drive-through is opening at the former Lucky Burger spot. Probably not Italian.

Pepino's signage remains in place along with the OUTPOST, his neighbor
Pepino's space is already posted "FOR LEASE"
Archival pic of Pepino's at 1421 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77006

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