Frenchie's Italian Cuisine Is One of the Houston Area's Greatest Hidden Gems

NASA memorabilia lines the walls of Frenchie's.EXPAND
NASA memorabilia lines the walls of Frenchie's.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller

Many Clear Lake locals are familiar with a small Italian restaurant in a rickety one-story shopping strip on the corner of NASA Parkway and El Camino Real. But many newcomers to the area aren’t aware of this hidden gem with delicious authentic Italian food and tons of history. The Houston Press has decided to refresh the memories of folks who may have forgotten about this local treasure and also give those new to Clear Lake an inside look at one of the best Italian restaurants in Houston’s Bay Area.

A familiar landmark in the Clear Lake area.EXPAND
A familiar landmark in the Clear Lake area.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller

With the fairly new NASA bypass stretching over El Camino Real, the buried shopping strip behind the mega Chinese buffet restaurant is now even more obscure. If you’re new to the area, chances are you’ve driven right past it unless you’ve stopped to grab a scoop of ice cream from its next door neighbor, Baskin Robbins.

Diners dine surrounded by NASA history in one of the smaller dining rooms.EXPAND
Diners dine surrounded by NASA history in one of the smaller dining rooms.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller

Frenchie’s Italian Restaurant opened in 1979 and is family owned and run, from nephews working as servers to brother-in-law Mario as head chef. The family also owns Villa Capri located in Seabrook— however, locals agree, the food is better at Frenchie’s. One of the owners is Frankie Camera. Walk in and most likely you’ll hear his strong Italian accent either on the phone taking orders or cheerfully greeting guests by their first name.

Frenchie’s has been in the same location for over 40 years. The place could use a facelift and feels a tad cluttered, like sitting in your grandma’s sun room. Pots of devil’s ivy line the pony walls. There's an old sense of charm here mixed in with an '80s vibe. Autographed photos of astronauts, space shuttles, and other NASA memorabilia cover just about every space on the walls.

Frenchie’s was, of course, one of the popular hangouts for NASA astronauts and employees and continues to be for many. A few autographed photos of some famous folks who have had the pleasure of dining here are sprinkled in there too.

An enormous bowl of plump, homemade gnocchi in a creamy sauce satisfies carb lovers.EXPAND
An enormous bowl of plump, homemade gnocchi in a creamy sauce satisfies carb lovers.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller

Frenchie’s is open for lunch and dinner. Lunch is counter service, but during dinner hours, Frenchie’s is a full-service restaurant. Beer is available and there's a wine list for those who enjoy a glass of Chianti with their plate of spaghetti.

Start your meal off with an appetizer of garlicky escargot or a cup of minestrone and rice soup. Lunch specials are listed on a dry-erase board in the entry area. Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. order items like a fresh spinach and salmon salad, mahi mahipiccata, or an oversized dish of fresh-made gnocchi. Or treat yourself to a hot bubbling meatball casserole or eggplant parmesan served in a ceramic dish straight from the oven. For only $2, add a whole loaf of homemade Italian bread spread with warm melted butter, garlic, and fresh herbs. Soft and warm on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside, this is some of the best garlic bread around.

Plump shrimp and sliced fresh mushrooms over pasta are covered in a rich, creamy sauce in this dish of Shrimp Champagne.EXPAND
Plump shrimp and sliced fresh mushrooms over pasta are covered in a rich, creamy sauce in this dish of Shrimp Champagne.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller

If you’re planning to dine at Frenchie’s during dinner hours, you’re in for an even better treat. The dinner menu has a variety of tempting entrees. The portions are so generous, you could almost feed two people…. but you still won't want to share. Veal entrees range from Veal Sorrento topped with proscuitto and mozzarella to Veal Marsala with fresh mushrooms. Chicken and shrimp entrees include chicken supreme in a white wine cream sauce or shrimp champagne loaded with big shrimp, sliced mushrooms all in a rich, creamy sauce that perfectly coats everything your fork can hold. The linguine with lobster and scallops is another incredible entree well worth the $27 price tag that dangles alongside.

An oversized plate of Spaghetti Fisherman is filled with treasures from the sea.EXPAND
An oversized plate of Spaghetti Fisherman is filled with treasures from the sea.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller

For meat lovers, two grilled steak entrées are available, the fillet of beef Barolo with red wine sauce, and the filet mignon with French mustard sauce, guaranteed to satisfy your carnivorous cravings. For carb lovers, choose from a long list of pasta dishes like the traditional favorites of fettuccine alfredo, baked lasagna and manicotti as well as cannelloni stuffed with beef, spaghetti fisherman or spaghetti carbonara.

A simple salad with not-so-simple homemade dressings.EXPAND
A simple salad with not-so-simple homemade dressings.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller

A simple iceberg salad starts off your meal, and five desserts, all under $7, can round it out — tiramisu, chocolate mousse and zabaglione with strawberries, to name a few. Whatever you decide to sink your teeth into at Frenchie’s, know that you are not only enjoying fantastic Italian food, you're also experiencing a taste of local NASA history.

A mound of tiramisu is big enough for two.EXPAND
A mound of tiramisu is big enough for two.
Photo by Jennifer Fuller

Frenchie's is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., closed on Sunday. Located at 1041 East NASA Parkway, Houston, behind East Star Chinese Buffet on the corner of NASA Parkway and El Camino Real.

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Frenchie's Italian Restaurant

1041 NASA Parkway
Houston, TX 77058

281-486-7144


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