A New Name
To clear up any possible confusion, let it be known that the restaurant formerly known as Achille's Italian Cuisine [14120 Memorial, (281)558-0615] is now called Il Mio Ristorante Italiano, and, rest assured, it's still under the guidance of chef/owner Achille Epifani. In September, the restaurant closed for renovation; in mid-October, it reopened with the new name, a larger kitchen and a revamped menu.

Epifani dishes up "lots of pasta, but no pizza" to his west-Memorial clientele; so far, the regulars favor his grilled portobello mushrooms, osso buco Milanese and capelli pescatore. The piano bar, alas, is history, moved out to make way for more seating.

So why did the name change? "Well," explains Epifani, "just for the heck of it."

And an Old One
The name of Frank Triola's new Azzarelli's Italian Restaurant [1420 Eldridge Parkway, (281)497-5948] should ring a few bells for longtime Houstonians: His grandfather opened the city's first Italian restaurant in 1949. Called Azzarelli's Spaghetti House, it was located amid okra fields on a (then) dirt road called Post Oak. (The site is now occupied by First Baptist Church.) And, in fact, when Highway 610 first opened for traffic, locals dubbed it the "Spaghetti Loop."

To customers who complain of traveling so far to the latest Azzarelli's incarnation, Triola is quick to point out that his grandfather's clientele considered the old Post Oak site way out west, too.

And the Energy Corridor location has proven a boon to business. Triola reports being "busy since the day we opened" back in September. He's already expanding, adding a wine room to his 87-seat restaurant, and plans to open a second location downtown, with a third possibly slated for West University or the Galleria area.

His grandfather's recipes form the core of Azzarelli's menu, but Triola adds a spicier, Southwestern sort of twist to the Italian basics. "I'll stack my eggplant Parmesan or lasagna up against anyone else's in town," he boasts. "And I'll win!"

Triola himself has traveled long and hard through many Texas restaurants. He worked at the Grotto from 1988 to 1991, spent six months at Romero's on Mid Lane, moved to Dallas to open six Sfuzzis, and sojourned at the Four Seasons Hotel and the Sierra Grill -- which, coincidentally, occupies another old-time Azzarelli location.

-- Margaret L. Briggs


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