14795 Memorial Dr., Houston, TX 77079
281.531.0696 | www.carmelosrestaurant.com
West Houston residents will surely remember Carmelo’s Restaurant as a neighborhood staple of the Memorial district for the past 30 years. When founder Carmelo Mauro announced last year that he was shutting the doors of his Italian classic after so many years, long-time customers and area residents were crushed. Soon after, however, restaurateur Benjamin Berg swooped in to save the day and bought the old ristorante with intentions to renovate and relaunch. Berg, famous for launching Houston’s hottest and potentially outright best steakhouse, B&B Butchers, knows a little something about the highend dining business. He quickly recruited his famed brother Daniel Berg, an Italian trained chef who has spent the last 12 years opening successful restaurants in New York, to be his head chef. Together, the Bergs have designed a new menu of authentic Italian dishes that is sure to spin heads, and have relaunched Carmelo’s under the new name, Carmelo’s Cucina Italiana.
The first thing the Bergs did right was introduce fresh pasta. The kitchen is decked out with a brand-new pasta maker that is pressing fresh dough all day, every day, making the pappardelle Bolognese one of the best pasta dishes I have ever tasted in any city. Backing up a little, the blended ricotta appetizer, as well as the wagyu beef carpaccio, are absolutely out of this world. Still, the hand’s down most impressive dish on the new Carmelo’s menu is the bone-in veal parmesan. A truly enormous veal chop, bone-in and breaded, baked with a crunchy layer of parmesan, doused in marinara, and served over a side of fresh spaghetti, it’s up there with the best dishes in all of Houston.
New Italian restaurants can be a little uninspiring, especially in a city with so many culinary options. But enjoying truly authentic Italian cuisine remains one of life’s most satisfying and comforting experiences. Carmelo’s relaunches with an inspired new menu that will make anyone feel Italian, if only for the night.
I’ve said it before and I will proudly say it again: There is nothing you can’t eat in Houston. This city is a tour de force of worldly cuisines. The most recent addition to our city’s repertoire of culinary delights is crepes. Sweet Paris in Rice Village was among the first local eateries to introduce both savory and sweet crepes to their menu, and certainly the first to be crepe-centric through and through. What started as a quaint French cafe has exploded into an empire with locations opening in nearly every corner of Houston, and beyond.
The most recent Sweet Paris opening is in Katy’s La Centerra shopping and residential district. Other locations include the original Rice Village store, a City Centre location and soon to open storefronts in The Woodlands, Highland Village and College Station. The Sweet Paris origin story is one of cravings and inspiration. When founders Allison Young Chavez and her husband Ivan went out for crepes one afternoon, they were disappointed to find that an authentic creperie had not made its way into the Houston food scene. Their disappointment quickly turned to excitement at the obvious opportunity this presented. After first developing some recipes at home, and later working with world-class chefs, Allison and Ivan introduced a menu of affordable and inspiring crepe creations that come in Texas-sized portions.
My wife and I had the enviable pleasure of tasting more crepes than any two people should ever taste in one sitting. From the Chicken Carbonara to the Prosciutto with mozzarella and basil, it’s near impossible to pick a favorite.
The Chicken Enchilada is a friendly tip of the hat to their Southwest clientele, and an especially delicious fusion idea. Dessert was another marathon, with classics like Nutella Banana and Dulce de Leche, as well as experimental new delights like the S’mores and the all vegan Berry Agave. If Sweet Paris’ crave-inducing menu was not enough, the founders have also partnered with the Houston Food Bank to donate 33 cents from select crepe sales towards helping the Food Bank in its mission to end hunger in the city.
POSTINO WINE CAFE
CUISINE: MEDITERRANEAN 642 Yale St, Houston, TX 77007
346.223.1111 | www.postinowinecafe.com
Last November, Heights Mercantile market district opened on 7th Street in the once empty lot between Yale and Heights. The hyper-chic boutique shopping center and public space brings a dose of SoCal color to what is already Houston’s trendiest neighborhood. This April, the marketplace welcomed its most buzzed-about new opening since the launch of the district itself – Postino Wine Cafe.
Postino in the Heights is the first Texas location of the booming wine bistro concept out of Phoenix, Arizona. “Postino,” in Italian, means postman, an homage to their first location in a renovated 1940’s post office. Postino specializes in two things: serving outstanding wines and creating inspired bruschetta recipes. They happen to be amazing at both. While the full menu includes an array of appetizers and entrées, the bruschetta list alone is a thing of beauty. Twelve varieties, each more incredible than the last, and your choice of four per order. From brie and apples with fig spread to smoked salmon with pesto, this is bruschetta like you’ve never experienced before. My personal favorite is the rich and decadently creamy ricotta with dates and pistachios.
Although a revelation on its own, Postino’s bruschetta menu serves a higher purpose – pairing with your wine. If you feel slightly overwhelmed by the prospect of matching such a sophisticated array of light fare with an even more impressive list of worldly and celebrated wines, simply ask Sommelier Brent Karlicek for a suggestion. After all, the Advanced Sommelier handpicked the incredible wine program himself. Highlighting the best from Europe, from Tuscan reds to crisp German Riesling, Karlicek’s program also spans the gamut of new world grapes from Chile to the American Northwest. The 2016 Washington Merlot is a fine choice for easy drinking and heavy bruschetta consumption.