Italian for Two, $15.95
Fabio's Bar and Grill (212 Westheimer) is hands down the best value in Italian dining in the city. Fabio is famous for making his own pastas, and this little joint is rocking the same pasta you find in Houston's most famous dining institutions. That's because Fabio makes the pasta for those fancy-pants restaurants. The fresh noodles can be eaten on their own, dry.
Parking can be a pain, but the paint shop next to Fabio's closes at five and can be used for additional parking. If you are around the 'Trose around 5:30 p.m., head over and order a split plate of chicken parmigiana with handmade jalapeño-cilantro pasta. Served with garlic bread, the split plate is just the right portion for an exceptional dinner for two for under $20.
There's definitely something to be said for creating pasta in-house. Chewy, botanical aromatics with a slight spicy kick make the fettuccine a religious experience. I barely remembered the thinly sliced and lightly breaded chicken breast after taking the first bite of the jalapeño-and-cilantro goodness that was the fettuccine alfredo. When the plate was empty, my fork was still scraping for more. Making things fresh seems to have that effect.
Robb Walsh wrote a great story on Fabio's pasta genius back in 2001. Go there, and help Houston keep one of the greatest pasta makers in business.