Chef and owner Marco Wiles is Houston's answer to Mario Batali. He loves to surprise you. He'll start you off with his own freshly cured anchovies served over a cream-injected fresh mozzarella called burrata. And while you're trying to figure that one out, he'll blindside you with something like cold poached lamb tongue served with the spicy mustard-brined fruits called mostardo. Forget about Gulf seafood -- he'd rather introduce you to some unusual varieties of fish like branzino (Italian sea bass), which he flies in from Italy. Da Marco's wine list is equally cutting-edge. Instead of offering the usual bunch of overpriced Barolos and Amarones, Da Marco's sommelier, Antonio Gianola, goes looking for great deals from off-the-beaten-track Italian regions like Puglia and the Slovenian border. But don't be intimidated: You'll also find some of the best pizza and pasta dishes in the city at this unassuming little Montrose cottage. Try the raviolo with ricotta, egg and truffle, for instance. It's a single, giant pillow made of two loose sheets of pasta filled with a gently poached egg and napped with truffle oil -- and it will alter your mind.
Readers' choice: Carrabba's