For more than four decades, native Houstonian Nash D’Amico has been an active part of the Greater Houston restaurant scene. A member of one of the city’s most successful restaurant families, D’Amico was on the forefront of introducing the area to the wider world of Italian cuisine. From the 1970s and continuing today, restaurant guides and dining directories list a Nash D’Amico-owned property, be it D’Amico’s Ristorante Italiano, Nash D’Amico’s Pasta & Clam Bar or D’Amico’s Italian Market Cafe. The Sam Houston College marketing graduate began his career in the restaurant business in Huntsville, Texas, with his cousins, Tony and Damian Mandola. Currently, he runs, with his daughter Brina, D’Amico’s Italian Market Cafe, a combination full-service cozy eatery and to-go restaurant, still specializing in authentic Northern and Southern Sicilian cuisine but combined with an Italian deli and imported food market.
How’d you learn to cook?
Just consider the number of chefs and restaurateurs from my extended family, and you can figure that being involved in fixing food wasn’t an optional thing as we were all growing up. As far as what shaped how I fix and prepare food, that comes from both watching and assisting both of my grandmothers and, of course, my mother.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a builder/developer, so maybe that’s why I so enjoy designing and building restaurants. I’ve done it 12 times in 42 years….and I’m not done yet. A lot of people don’t know I’ve also designed some homes, including my own.
What ingredient can you not live without in the kitchen
Flour. There are all kinds of substitutes for herbs, salt, pepper and even olive oil, but without flour you can’t have pasta or bread. What kind of Italian meal doesn’t have pasta or bread in some form?
What utensil can you not live without?
No one can live without a sharp knife. Chop, chop! The bigger the knife, the more you look like you’re in charge!
Favorite affordable wine?
A crisp Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris or a good Sauvignon Blanc. Italian, of course. All three really complement different aspects of
Is there a food you won’t eat?
There’s nothing I can think of I refuse to eat. I love food and new experiences too much. On the other hand, I don’t eat much Indian food, but only because I’ve never really explored that cuisine.
What is your comfort food?
Spaghetti & meatballs because it reminds me of our Sunday noon family gatherings with all the cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents. I was recently asked what I thought the most underrated pasta was in today’s culinary scene, and I immediately said spaghetti. It does everything pasta is supposed to do. One other is my own Sicilian-stuffed artichoke. I don’t make it often enough.
What do you see as the next food trend?
For years now, I’ve seen chefs combining ingredients we would. have been shocked at it even being suggested when I started. It’s interesting, and some good dishes have come out of it, but it came at the cost of good solid traditional dishes losing favor. I see that changing and truly hope to see us go back to traditional dishes.
Who are your favorite chef, restaurant and dish?
I think Damian Mandola is my all-time best chef. I marvel at what he can do and he taught me a lot early on. For overall best restaurant, I’d say Mediterranean Mario Batali. There are still so many more to try!
What would people be surprised to find in your
For a snack, I like a variety of hummus with pita chips. I know. I know.
You have 10 bucks until payday. What impressive meal could you make with it?
Hands down it would be my grandma’s Sicilian peasant food – pasta and peas. I could sell it for $20 and not have to wait until payday.