Breakfast of Champs
Harried Houston hostesses already know all about the Ferrari Fresh Pasta outlets on West Gray, Rice and South Voss; they sneak out of them with steaming containers of lasagna, ravioli or orzo that they can empty into heirloom serving dishes and thus cleverly disguise as their own. But now they have another reason to stop by the Ferrari shop on Rice Boulevard: a new breakfast and lunch cubbyhole called Ava's Table.

Ava Pereira's airy bistro offers a short list of gourmet salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes for lunch, and her breakfast menu neatly fills the appetite gap between the lumberjack and the socialite with pancakes, omelets, whole-grain cereals and migas. Foot-weary shoppers will find respite at four tables on the narrow sidewalk, or at a dozen or so small red-laminated tables inside. (I recommend going for the outdoor seating, assuming the weather allows; if you sit inside, you may have to deal with a freezer case that sometimes emits an annoying drone.)

On a recent morning, I was pleased with Ava's "Texas Omelet" ($6.50). It was light and delicate, perfectly cooked, lined end-to-end with creamy Monterey Jack and topped with mild pico de gallo. Although guacamole was featured in the chalkboard description of the dish, I didn't find any on my plate, but didn't miss it. I did discover tasty, crisp strips of fried tortillas nestled in the omelet's folds, which added a pleasing crunch. Even better were the accompanying roasted potatoes -- deliciously browned chunks of potato with bits of onion and sprigs of rosemary that were quite an improvement on standard hash browns.

The whole-wheat pancakes ($5.95) are perhaps the most beautiful flapjacks in town. A stack is liberally sprinkled with fresh blueberries, blackberries and strawberries, crisscrossed with strips of apple-smoked bacon, then doused with fruit syrup and showered with a snowfall of confectioner's sugar. It's an astounding culinary vision. The pancakes themselves are thin and dense, closer to crepes than to the fluffy flaps I expected, but quite tasty nonetheless.

Ava's Table dishes out weekday breakfasts from 7 to 10 a.m., and lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Woe be unto you if you arrive between 10 and 11; you may get breakfast, you may get lunch or you may have to get by on just espresso and pastry.) Ava's recently added a "Sunday" brunch, too, except it's offered on Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

-- Margaret L. Briggs

Ferrari Fresh Pasta and Ava's Table, 2407 Rice Boulevard, 520-0230.


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