A recent expansion means more tables and more room to move at Da Marco -- which is a welcome change, since the dining room was sometimes a little too intimate. But whatever the seating plan, Houston is lucky to have an Italian restaurant this good. Chef Marco Wiles has adapted Mario Batali's cutting-edge concepts to the ingredients and sensibilities of the Gulf Coast. We get fig compote and fig gelato when the local fruit is in season. And we get fresh area treats such as Gulf shrimp alongside rare imported ingredients like branzini, flown in from Italy. We also get a wine list with both big-dollar Barolos and inexpensive discoveries from Slovenia. It all adds up to a world-class restaurant experience. Even better, Da Marco practices true democracy at the reservations desk. The restaurant once refused to stay open late to accommodate Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. So you know that River Oaks riffraff waving fifties won't be seated before folks with legitimate reservations.