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Family Fare and Hidden Gems at Cavatore

Cavatore: An unassuming neighborhood joint that manages a few surprises.

I found that repeated on a grainy and overdone bistecca alla fiorentina and on an otherwise presentable Snapper della casa (another staff recommendation), its well considered pricks of caper overshadowed by a lemon butter sauce that tasted alternately thinly sharp and greasy. There were a few spots where things had held together, the sauce light and luxurious, as it should have been. Taken with a forkful of bronzed mushrooms and some pleasantly dewy fish, it showed what might have been.

Dessert was sweet. That's about it, so if that's your thing, feel free. I wouldn't bother.

Lest you think this is all doom and gloom, though, let me assure you that we had a fine time. The place itself can't help but charm, and the waitstaff is affable, if a bit slow. If you're dining with a group, perhaps you might enjoy the "wine room," a narrow shotgun shack of a space set off by swinging doors, its close quarters perfect for a slightly noisy group that doesn't mind proximity. You can play a genially low-tech version of SongPop, seeing who can place the live pianist's versions of jazz standards and modern pop tunes most quickly. We caught Autumn Leaves, Linus and Lucy, Take Five, and what was either the Greatest American Hero theme song or Need You Now.

The tortellini is delicious, while the Caesar salad is made at your table.
Leonel Nerio
The tortellini is delicious, while the Caesar salad is made at your table.

Location Info

Map

Cavatore Italian Restaurant

2120 Ella Blvd.
Houston, TX 77008

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Heights

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Bocconcino di formaggio: $9
Tortellini con panna: $10
Calamari fritti: $11
Insalata di cesare (for two): $16
Lasagna al forno: $15
Manicotti freschi: $16
Ravioli con carne: $17
Snapper della casa: $25
Bistecca alla fiorentina: $23
Melanzane alla parmigiana: $19
Pollo alla parmigiana: $19
Saltimbocca alla romana: $24
Desserts: $7



Slideshow: Behind the Scenes at Cavatore


I'll go back, too. Next time, though, I've got a game plan. I haven't mentioned the table-side Caesar yet, and I'd be remiss if I didn't. It's an excellent specimen, with a savory current carried by cheese, Worcestershire and smashed anchovies. Perked up with a firm dollop of Dijon mustard and spiked with fresh garlic and just a bit of Tabasco sauce, it's about as fine a version as you'll get, with the added perk of theater. My kids were enthralled, so much so that they couldn't wait to snag a few bites, paste of tiny fish be damned. I even asked for a few of the filets on the side, the better to demonstrate their importance to the salad. The kids were apt pupils.

That salad is part of the game plan, as is the tortellini appetizer we talked about earlier. The salad splits nicely between two (or more), but you'll want your own pasta. With those two, I could make a light but satisfying supper, one for which I'd gladly return. While you'll most likely come to Cavatore because that's what you've always done, I'm coming back for those two. They're that good.

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21 comments
laurainhouston
laurainhouston

If anyone has the recipe for their table side Caesar salad, I would be grateful for it.

I really enjoyed eating this salad when I lived in the Heights. Too far away now to get the recipe myself. Can anyone help me locate their recipe? Thank you.

jcd8822
jcd8822

When I lived in Houston back in the 1980's and we dined at Cavatores there was another high end restaurant across the street.  I cannot remember the name of it.  I think it had a French name. 

Mai Pham
Mai Pham topcommenter

Nice review, Nick! I really enjoyed it.

ebattenfield
ebattenfield

Just dined in at Cavatores had Petti Pollo and aspargus. Awesome!!!! Nothing but the best. Margaritas to die for. love that Fredrico. What a nice guy. 

HTownChowDown
HTownChowDown

Nice review. I love their Caesar, and the other stuff I've had is best described as acceptable. 

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

But why did they get rid of their horrifically bad website? It was a national icon.

jpearson03
jpearson03

" I found the bocconcino di formaggio stodgy, the cheese not properly melted and the perfectly compacted form a troubling but expected indication of a denominazione di origine controllata somewhere near the freezer."

I lol'd. But let me say that those fried cheese, and most of the food served from this dump is from the freezer.. Garantita! 

I honestly believe  that for the dollar this is the worst restaurant in the city. Its awful Sysco-grade slop and wildly overpriced. But the author is right, my dad does like the place. In fact my wife and I had sworn it off but he wanted to go for his birthday. So the three of us go, and everything was exactly as before. Awful pasta. Inedible appetizers. Really good Cesar salad  that costs way too much, and a dreary, wretched, almost tomb-like atmosphere complete with a thick fingered pianist playing show tunes and awful renditions of pop.

The service is always decent, but really that and the Cesar are the only 2 semi-bright points at this uncharming relic. Someone put them out to pasture.

CamByars
CamByars

Hmmmm, maybe I'll give this place another try. I had a few underwhelming experiences there than the last time was so bad I swore I wouldn't go back.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

I'm not sure why the phrase "pricks of capers" just made me laugh out loud...

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Somebody was an English major, trust.

jcd8822
jcd8822

@laurainhouston Thanks, I had forgotten about them.  However, my better half says the original restaurant in that location had a French name.  It was VERY expensive.  I remember it, but do not remember the name.  I guess when I come home for Thanksgiving I will need to go the library downtown and look in the Houston City Directory for the 1980's and find the name.  The directory lists people and businesses.  I use old one a lot in my genealogy research to find where relatives lived.  The ones for Houston go back to the late 1800's.  Thanks a million for the reply.

Joseph

nhallfreelance
nhallfreelance

@MadMac That's kind of presumptive. Also, incorrect. 

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Apologies, Mr. Hall. I wouldn't argue with you. I've read your review and you certainly know presumptive.

 
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