Italy à la Houston

Categories: Food Nation

Photo by Christina Uticone
You might need to share this hefty pasta dish from Paulie's.

After you unload your groceries, you've probably worked up an appetite. And that's good timing, because lunch is the biggest meal of the day. Some of the best trattorias I found in Italy were tucked in the tiny side streets away from any tourist attractions. The peacefulness of the quiet environment made the meal that much better.

If you're spending your day in Italy on a weekday and have some time to kill, head to Patrenella's for a comforting and filling lunch complete with an antipasti of fried Mozzarella or eggplant involtini, followed by a primi of papardelle veal bolognese, linguine and clams, or a spicy pomodor and mushroom spaghetti with shrimp. Then, feast on veal in olive sauce or light seared scallops served with basil risotto for the secondi.

On the weekend, head to Paulie's for a hearty pasta dish. Try Kaitlin Steinberg's No. 40 favorite dish, canestri alla funghi. It's a giant plate filled with homemade canestri and bucatini pasta tossed in a garlic cream sauce with crimini and shiitake mushrooms.

For a lighter meal, stroll around the Rice Village Shopping Center and stop by D'Amico's Italian Market Cafe to enjoy the popular wild mushroom and walnut tortellini, or nosh on a classic Italian panini, such as the Siciliano panini with prosciutto, Mozzarella and tomato; vegetarians can enjoy the Milano panini with grilled eggplant, sauteed mushrooms, bell peppers, tomato and provolone. Or how about a margherita pizza? Even better, walk up to the pizza window at Coppa Osteria in Rice Village and enjoy your pie on-the-go.

There are also other traditional Italian restaurants such as Ciao Bello, Papa Mio Italian Cafe, Trevisio, Nino's, Prego and La Griglia serving up classic dishes for every course.

Photo by Molly Dunn
Don't leave Drew's Pastry Place without ordering a cannoli.

If you're searching for something sweet, make a trip to Drew's Pastry Place on Louetta Road near Vintage Park where you can satisfy that sweet tooth with scrumptious and sweet pignoli and rainbow cookies. Enjoy a cannoli or one of his cannoli cupcakes while you're there, too.

Or, perhaps you want something cool to eat. Just as you can find a coffee shop on every street corner in Italy, you can also find a shop selling gelato (sometimes inside the coffee shops). Gelato is a light, sweet and refreshing treat during the afternoon or even late at night; not to mention the flavors in the display case are beautiful. Check out Cafe Dolce Gelato in the Galleria area, SweetCup Gelato on Montrose or Paciugo Italian Gelato Caffe on Buffalo Speedway.

Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
End your night with vin santo and cantuccini from Giacomo's.

For dinner head to Giacomo's Cibo e Vino for light aperitivos or a plate of pasta, and don't forget about your dolce and vino. Pair a bottle of Chianti Classico, Prosecco or Pecorino (all from Italy) with crostini topped with Tuscan liver pate, mushroom olive pesto or the classic tomato, basil, garlic and olive oil. You can't go wrong with a pasta dish, such as the tortellini al sugo rosa (stuffed pasta with a tomato cream sauce). Delight yourself with an affogato or chocolate hazelnut mousse. Or better yet, order a glass of vin santo with cantuccini (essentially a biscotti) imported from Italy; you'll love the sweet amber-colored dessert wine produced from dried grapes.

Stay late at Giacomo's and share a bottle of wine with friends and family, or head back to Rice Village for an evening stroll and make a pit-stop at Coppa Osteria for zeppole (fried donuts), cannoli, panna cotta or classic tiramisu, and pair each with the suggested wine or spirit for the perfect nightcap.

Location Info

Fellini Caffe

5211 Kelvin Drive, Houston, TX

Category: General

Urban Harvest Eastside Farmer's Market

3000 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX

Category: General

Patrenella's Italian Restaurant

813 Jackson Hill, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


1834 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

D'Amico's Italian Market Cafe

5510 Morningside, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Coppa Osteria

5210 Morningside Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Ciao Bello

5161 San Felipe St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Papa Mio Italian Cafe

2006 Lexington St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Trevisio Restaurant

6550 Bertner St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


2817 W. Dallas St, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


2520 Amherst, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

La Griglia

2002 W. Gray, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Drew's Pastry Place

10300 Louetta Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Cafe Dolce Gelato

5135 W. Alabama, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Giacomo's Cibo e Vino

3215 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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My Voice Nation Help

I am Italian and I leave in Houston. I have to say that although Fellini Café is trying really hard to be the real Italian bar (i.e. café), it is really far from it. 

If I have to mention a real Italian restaurant, that is Piola, Louisiana Street!

Moreover, the typical Italian breakfast is just coffee (with or without milk) or tea and carbohydrates such as cereals or cookies or croissants and fruit (fresh or squeezed), and not hard-boiled eggs with cheese or bread and prosciutto...


No mention of Nundini Chef's Table on Shepherd? For shame! They make awesome homemade gelato and have a deli, full service restaurant, and small import grocery market all in one place. I also spend a lot of time in Italy and have found it to be the most authentic Italian in Houston. The pizza, risotto, and fettucini with sage cream sauce and italian sausage all make me feel like I'm back in italy, and the place is surprisingly cozy and charming inside given the ugly warehouse exterior. 


Can't believe Fratelli's is not mentioned anywhere in this article, maybe people don't know that it opened back up already.


@costanzaallegra  Piola....a real Italian place run by folks who loved Italy so much...they moved to Brazil!


Stop BS. Piola Houston is owned and run by Italians, go check yourself

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