Italy à la Houston
|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.
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