Dinner at Fratelli's

Categories: On the Menu

Fratelli's Calamari.JPG
Joanna O'Leary
Calamari Fritti
When I lived in Boston, the proximity of the North End to my apartment meant I ate Italian food fairly regularly. I gnoshed on arancini during street festivals, savored truffled risotto at some high-end joints, and devoured slices loaded with sausage and peppers at Pizzeria Regina. But finding decent Italian cuisine has been a bit trickier in Houston. Granted, I've been distracted by my new-found love of Tex-Mex, and have not yet visited some of the city's more famous Italian establishments. And when I have, the food has unfortunately been often underwhelming.

Not so much at Fratelli's, thank God (who, according to my Grandma, is half-Italian, half-Irish). I got over the fact that it's located outside the loop (just a wee bit) and in a strip mall soon after I passed through the door. The white and salmon-colored table linens and sunshine walls evoked a certain relaxed classiness, while the colorful local artwork made the restaurant elegant but fun.

I started off with an order of the calamari fritti. A common feature at many Italian restaurants, calamari is nevertheless tricky to master: I've found it's often served soggy and encased in a flavorless batter. At Fratelli's, the coating was crisp and peppery, the squid supple, and the accompanying marinara sauce just a bit spicy.

Fratelli Gnocchi.JPG
Joanna O'Leary
Porcini Gnocchi
I was tempted to eat every last piece of calamari, but I was determined to save the majority of my stomach space for the pasta, particularly the gnocchi. Chef and owner Teresa Wittman makes all of Fratelli's pasta from scratch and, as a hearty eater, I was tickled pink that she cuts her gnocchi a little larger than most chefs. The dumplings were soft, just a bit chewy in the center (not tough like freeze-dried supermarket crap), and bathed in a fragrant porcini cream sauce flecked with thyme. My friend generously let me finish off the gnocchi, which were pleasantly lightly despite the rich dressing and dense starch content. In return, I promised her the lion's share of the tagliatelle con ragu bolognese.

Fratelli Tagliatelle.JPG
Joanna O'Leary
Eight-hour tagliatelle
Chef Teresa makes the sauce for the tagliatelle the old-fashioned way, by which I mean simmering, stirring, more simmering, more stirring...for eight hours. Great pasta sauce can certainly be made in far less time with some fresh, simple ingredients, but the drawn-out process has its benefits. This ragu had a more complex meat flavor than others I've tried, no doubt resulting from multiple sources (veal, beef) and subtle nutty and acidic notes from the red wine and onions. We tried to make the dish last eight minutes and failed.

A nice complement to the tagliatelle was the risotto ai frutti di mare: light arborio rice bloated with seafood stock and studded with clams, squid and shrimp. A dusting of parmesan cheese enhanced the overall creaminess and brought out some of the briny flavors of the fish.

Fratelli's Risotto.JPG
Joanna O'Leary
Risotto ai Frutti di Mare
Although I had been saving room for dessert, I forgot, in my gastric capacity calculations, to leave space for the costolette di maile ripieni, large, rather intimidating pork chop bursting with gorgonzola and spinach and topped with a marsala sauce. It's a crying shame I could only muster one or two bites of the succulent white meat and just a forkful of the decadent filling, because they both were wonderful.

The pork chop put me over the edge. I slipped into somnolence while my friend (who showed more restraint) enjoyed her tiramisu.

After this meal, I know this much is true:

1) I'm a sassy (not, idiotic, thank you) Italian girl, but I could never be a mafiosa. No way would I have the energy to whack people after eating such fare. I'd rather take a nap.

2) It's worth leaving the loop for Fratelli's. My eight minutes of extra driving garnered me a terrific, relaxing meal and reminded me of my love of gnocchi.



Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

Location Info

Fratelli's Authentic Italian Cuisine Restaurant - CLOSED

10989 NW Freeway, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
18 comments
lawreviewed
lawreviewed

Christ - here we go again. - another  "loop snob." If nothing exists outside the loop worth visiting, then why does the press distribute in the Woodlands and Katy, etc. etc. I was born and raised "deep inside the loop" ( less than 2 miles from downtown) before it was over run my culturemap tools and "new urbanism." Joanna if you think for one second that most people live in the loop you are sorely mistaken. You arrogant Yankee transplant, if you are from Houston it's probably from outside the loop. Days like these I wish Houston Press had not pushed Public News out of business so many years ago.

Dor1249
Dor1249

Don't be such a LOOP Snob!  Good food exist all over Houston--even in the burbs!My husband and I have gone to Fratelli's ever since she opened.  The food has alwaysbeen good, fresh, and tasteful.  Partake of her Wine Diners and especially the New Year's EveDinners for a great time at bargain prices for a metro city.

crimped pimped
crimped pimped

this all looks and sounds really good, but I question a dusting of parm on seafood risotto

Laurie
Laurie

Heaven forbid! Outside the Loop! Joanna get over it. It is all of 5 min outside the Loop. A majority of Houston lives outside the Loop. Should we only be able to eat at shitty chain restaurants like Olive Garden?

Dundle
Dundle

They serve beer and wine.

Bruce R
Bruce R

Do they serve wine or is it BYOB?

Doc
Doc

Oh shut the fuck up you cranky dick.

Joanna
Joanna

Please tell me where in this article I said I believe and/or assumed most people live inside the loop. I have no such impression. As a relative newcomer to Houston, however, I have certainly noticed a certain reluctance among transplants (myself included) to venture outside the loop. In my case, it derives from not having regularly driven a car for ten years prior to coming to Texas.

raison
raison

Wow, this is clearly the Southern hospitality we are known for...

Atade2000
Atade2000

OMG just enjoy the food!!!!!!!! if youdont like cheese dont eat it!!

Parmela
Parmela

Please don't start with the silly seafood/cheese nonsense.

Atadeo2000
Atadeo2000

They serve wine.you can take your own bottle but there is a cork fee

lawreviewed
lawreviewed

Your assumption is implied. 1) You write a food editorial, at least in part, to appeal to your readers. 2) The statement "It's worth leaving the loop for Fratelli's. My eight minutes of extra driving garnered me a terrific, relaxing meal and reminded me of my love of gnocchi."

Explanation: "It's", the contraction of 'It Is'. "Worth," used as a preposition here, meaning 'good or important enough to justify.' The rest is generally easy enough to comprehend.

"Loop Snob" is a term used to refer to those who are "transplants." Transplants are those that participated in the gentrification of classical Houston neighborhoods at the cost of historical architecture and minorities. These transplants who now snub those that have since moved out of the loop because of rising costs. They consider themselves elevated when they only have heard fabled tales of Westheimer street Festival and have no idea there was once a really cool diner called One's-A-Meal at Shepherd and W. Gray. -

If you seek to appeal to most of your readers, then for a destination to be worth the drive, that happens to be outside the loop, presents a strong implication that most people live inside the loop.

I am left with the conclusion that either 1) you are a loop snob; or 2) you are not very good at appealing to your readers.

lawreviewed
lawreviewed

We are very hospitable in the south. Until Carpet Bagging Yankees try and come here take our jobs, tell us how to live, and complain about the heat. Good day sir.

crimped pimped
crimped pimped

silly? yes, "rules" are made to be broken, but most Italians would frown at the idea of sprinkling parm on a seafood dish. the flavor of seafood is obliterated by a dry, salty cheese such as this.

Joanna
Joanna

"If you seek to appeal to most of your readers, then for a destination to be worth the drive, that happens to be outside the loop, presents a strong implication that most people live inside the loop."

Wrong again. It just implies that at that point in the text, I am reaching out to "loop snobs," not that I assume the majority of my readers fall into that category. A food editorial can target multiple groups at different textual moments.

Thanks for all the word meanings and syntax help. Especially the contractions. I'm getting my PhD in English, but I didn't know any of that stuff.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...