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Little Italy in Montrose

You'd think nothing in the eclectic Montrose area would surprise anymore, not even a fine Italian restaurant in a strip center. But Sorrento (415 Westheimer, 713-527-0609) does take your breath away. The arched ceilings, frescoed walls, wine racks, fireplace and circular polished-marble bar make you think of a white-tablecloth establishment in Tuscany, not something down the road from Southern Maid Donuts. And the food -- in particular, the veal osso buco with stone-ground, herbed white polenta ($26.50) -- lives up to the atmosphere. The dish is like a bowl of stew, with soft mounds of polenta and chunks of potatoes and okra swimming in a tomato-based broth tinged with pepper and spices. In the middle, there's a piece of veal cooked so slowly, the meat practically slides off the shank by itself. Weight watchers can just dip strips of veal into the broth and nibble. The more gluttonous will want to devour the entire bowl and mop up the remains with the fresh bread.

 
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