The Humble Deli Sandwich

Houston's top 10 versions.

2. Prego

Prego and its longtime chef, John Watt, have been serving solid Italian food in Rice Village for well over a decade, and yet the menu at this mahogany-accented trattoria never seems stale. Watt keeps it fresh with seasonal changes and daily specials such as pumpkin-seed-crusted red snapper or Peroni-braised heirloom Berkshire pork belly, while new pastry chef Matthew Zoch seems poised to keep the dessert menu fresh, too. (Look for Zoch's caramel apple crumble with bourbon ice cream this fall.) Along with a beautiful, well-stocked bar, some of the most affable bartenders in town and a terrific wine list from sommelier Rafael Espinal, it's also one of the few Italian restaurants in the city to offer a substantial gluten-free menu. Yes, even gluten-free pasta. And although the gluten-free stuff isn't made in-house, the rest of the delicious pasta (and bread) is.

1. benjy's

The Fiddler on the Roof at Kenny & Ziggy's is actually one of the deli's smaller sandwiches.
Katharine Shilcutt
The Fiddler on the Roof at Kenny & Ziggy's is actually one of the deli's smaller sandwiches.
The Italian hoagie at Paulie's won't make you feel like a blimp.
Katharine Shilcutt
The Italian hoagie at Paulie's won't make you feel like a blimp.

Benjy Levit and Dylan Murray have been serving some of the most creative modern American cuisine in the city since 1995 — although you'd be hard-pressed to know that benjy's has been open that long, so current is the menu and recently revamped decor. The kitchen under executive chef Joseph Stayshich never seems to fail, and dishes rotate on a seasonal basis. (An excellent happy hour and busy brunch are year-round attractions, however.) Small plates like the Texas crab cakes with green goddess dressing are usually big enough to share, although you won't want to. Pizzas from the wood-burning oven are usually a good bet, but it's the seasonal entrées such as ricotta dumplings with wild mushrooms and Swiss chard or the Moroccan-spiced duck with red wine farro and beets that make benjy's the restaurant to beat in Rice Village. Katharine Shilcutt

Restaurant News

Openings & Closings
Coastal Crossing crosses over.

Two of our favorite late-night destinations have been split apart from one another thanks to the sale of the strip center at Westheimer and Locke Lee Lane: Genji and Friends Pizzeria. Genji moved a few weeks back to a new location at 11124 Westheimer (near Wilcrest) and is still the destination for Japanese karaoke and omelets covered in ketchup.

Friends Pizzeria, reports B4-U-Eat, is moving to 2825 South Kirkwood (between Richmond and Westheimer) and is changing its name. The newly christened Copacabana Pizzeria will still serve owner Ronaldo Gomes's excellent Brazilian burgers and pizzas but will now have a full bar and table service.

In other news, lots of new chain locations are descending upon the city...

Zoe's Kitchen is opening its 70th location across 12 states in Houston. The new River Oaks spot at 3838 Westheimer will open its doors on November 1.

Grimaldi's Pizzeria is continuing its expansion into Texas and will open its third Houston location in La Centerra at Cinco Ranch. The coal-fired pizza place will feature 3,600 square feet of indoor dining and patio space.

And finally, Smashburger celebrated the opening of its 13th Houston location (and the third inside the Loop) when the new Heights location at 174 Yale Street opened this week.

And in closings, sad news from Alvin, where Coastal Crossing Grill has already shut its doors after replacing the Barbed Rose Steakhouse in July. We never got to try those Creole grilled oysters, and for that we are bummed. At least Gordon Street Tavern — from the same Alvin restaurant group — remains open. Katharine Shilcutt

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