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The Food at Coltivare Is Almost Worth the Wait

New Heights restaurant has a gardens but doesn't have reservations.

The Food at Coltivare Is Almost Worth the Wait
Troy Fields
Coltivare's pepperoni pizza is like a cross between your delivery pizza guilty pleasure and a wood-fired Neapolitan pie. Go behind the scenes of this week's review in our slideshow, "Coltivare: A Closer Look."

The wise philosopher Will Smith once said, "When you create art, the world has to wait." Nowhere in Houston is that more true than at Coltivare, the four-month-old restaurant from Morgan Weber and Ryan Pera of Revival Market.

Much has been written already about Coltivare's hip no-reservations policy, which at times has led to waits of two hours or more for one of the 60 indoor seats and 30 patio seats in the small but bustling restaurant. Even though it's been open since January, people still line up outside the door at 4:45, braving the elements and the traffic whizzing down White Oak to get a table right when the doors open at 5.

I've never been one of those people huddling on the narrow sidewalk as tantalizing smells spill out of the brick building. I'm not that smart. I'm also not smart enough to call right when the restaurant opens to put my name on the waiting list. Instead, when I eat at Coltivare, I show up around 6:30 or 7 and put my name on the list in person before fighting my way through the crowd and into the fresh night air. And then I wonder what the hell to do with myself for the next hour and a half in a largely residential neighborhood devoid of nearby places to hang out and pass the time.

Coltivare has a 3,000-square-foot garden in the back where much of the seasonal produce used in the restaurant's dishes is grown.
Troy Fields
Coltivare has a 3,000-square-foot garden in the back where much of the seasonal produce used in the restaurant's dishes is grown.
Chef Ryan Pera worked his way up in the Houston food scene, eventually opening Revival Market and now Coltivare, where his love of charcuterie and fresh, local ingredients is on display.
Troy Fields
Chef Ryan Pera worked his way up in the Houston food scene, eventually opening Revival Market and now Coltivare, where his love of charcuterie and fresh, local ingredients is on display.

Location Info

Map

Coltivare Pizza & Garden

3320 White Oak Drive
Houston, TX 77007

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Heights

Details

Hours: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday, 5 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.; closed Tuesday.

Leek salad $9
Sautéed backyard greens $6
Mussels $10
Pepperoni pizza $14
Yukon potato pizza $14
Spaghetti $12
Fettuccine $14
Whole roasted fish $34
Pork roast $30



Go behind the scenes of this week's review in our slideshow, "Coltivare: A Closer Look."


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The long lines remain a bit of a mystery to me, since I've found that not everything on the menu is a surefire hit. True to its name — "Coltivare" means "to cultivate" or "to grow" in Italian — the new space still has some growing to do, some maturing, some ripening. But more often than not, I find my wait is worth it.

I continue to be drawn in by the divine simplicity of Coltivare's spaghetti with cracked black pepper, aromatic and rich olive oil, and a generous serving of finely grated parmigiano that melts and combines with the oil and bit of water in which the pasta was boiled to create a sauce so clean yet so pungent. The fresh noodles have just the right amount of chewiness, and the cheese coats each strand entirely, making the pop of pepper between your teeth all the more surprising as the subtle heat floods your nostrils.

I keep coming back for sautéed backyard greens — lettuces that are indeed grown right in Coltivare's backyard — seasoned with salty cured anchovies and topped with toasted bread crumbs. The bitter greens, which I believe were chard when I first tasted them but which change based on seasonality, take on a mildly fishy flavor that's mitigated slightly by the crunchy bread crumbs and rich olive oil from the sauté pan. The dish is exquisite in its modesty.

My stomach rumbles as I relive my first bite of Coltivare's pepperoni pizza, a dish that almost didn't make it on the menu save for a friend of the owners suggesting that the menu was lacking "a guilty pleasure, take-out-style pizza that you want to eat when you're drunk." I will delight in that pizza drunk or sober, thanks to the crisp, spicy pepperoni from Revival Market and the thick, doughy crust that is, indeed, reminiscent of a delivery pizza, only baked in a wood-burning oven and composed of higher-quality ingredients.

By the time I've carefully considered every dish I want to order, the wait for a table is usually over. A text from the hostess alerts me that there's an opening, and it never takes quite as long as her initial estimate to be seated with a drink in front of me. In spite of the fact that I've spent the past 45 minutes or so dreaming of specific dishes I must order again, every time I glance at the menu anew, I find something different I'm dying to try.

Go behind the scenes of this week's review in our slideshow, "Coltivare: A Closer Look."

The defining feature of Coltivare isn't the wait. Or, at least, it shouldn't be. What makes Coltivare so special to me is the 3,000-square-foot backyard garden that provides much of the produce for the restaurant and the link to Revival Market, where most of the meat on the menu is cured.

When I first visited Coltivare back in January before it opened, the planters in the back were just starting to sprout. Tiny bright-green leaves were just bursting forth from the rich black dirt, and dining there at that time felt like a promise of spring. Now that the unexpected freezes and cold fronts seem to be behind us, the garden is in full bloom, spilling over the fence along White Oak, tempting passersby to pick a sprig of mint as they walk to their cars.

This mint — some of the loveliest I've ever seen — finds its way into a number of cocktails at Coltivare, which opened as a BYOB establishment but now skirts the Heights's designation as a dry neighborhood by offering diners a "club membership." Essentially, you provide your ID, sign a piece of paper and you're good to go. ­Weber created the cocktail program with an emphasis on aperitivos and digestivos, including an entire section devoted to Fernet, a bitter, licorice-laced liqueur beloved by those in the bar and restaurant industry. In my mind, this is Weber's way of paying it forward to his buddies, many of whom populate the bar on their off nights.

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11 comments
NoTimeforWhining
NoTimeforWhining

I have never waited more than a half hour. You people do not have enough to do. celebrate creativity and small business or just sit in your own bitter bile. 

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

The spaghetti dish is correctly called "cacio y pepe."  Did they really not call it this on the menu?

lisaitsyourbday
lisaitsyourbday

"And then I wonder what the hell to do with myself for the next hour and a half in a largely residential neighborhood devoid of nearby places to hang out and pass the time."


Are you unable to walk 1 block down the street? Onion Creek, City Oven, Christian's, BB's, Woodrow's??? You're in The Heights, not the burbs.

adambevo
adambevo

Bored? On White Oak? Seriously? What an ignorant statement.


Walk 3 minutes to get to Onion Creek.  Go about 3 minutes further than that to get to Christian's, City Oven, Public House, Jimmy's Ice House, BBs, and Little Woodrow's.  This is why I don't mind the long wait at Coltivare; I just take a 5-minute stroll to go grab a drink.

beingmarkh
beingmarkh

"Largely residential neighborhood devoid of places to hang out"?  Did you not notice Onion Creek, the Public House, Christian's Tailgate, BB's, or Little Woodrow's?  It's White Oak, for cryin' out loud, home of the White Linen Night and the first street to participate in the Open Streets initiative. There are nothing *but* places to hang out there.


Go have your cocktails at any of the bars listed above, and Coltivare will text you to let you know when your table's ready, and wait for you to arrive.  (They'll wait longer if you text them back to say you're on your way.)  If you do that, you won't feel as if you've waited at all.


But honestly...nowhere to hang out on White Oak?  Really?

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Sounds precisely like Revival Market, when they first opened things were very good now it's gotten mediocre to downright lousy, which is a shame used to be my favorite spot for a BLT or for some local sweet corn. Prices are through the roof and the quality has fallen off tremendously, clearly they have a problem with consistency.

 I have thus far ignored the hype after the bad taste and several ruined/downright bad lunches which I my took chef buddy to at Revival (leaving me looking like a fool for ever having faith in them). Wrote them about my experiences, and it fell on deaf ears no response whatsoever. So needless to say I won't be a customer of theirs, clearly success went to their heads. 

 
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