This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.
The entire name for this dish is actually involtini di melanzane alla parmigiana -- which, like most items at Lynette Hawkins's exceptional Italian restaurant, is given a full and proper Italian name -- although it's a bit too long to roll off the tongue. It's easier to just say "eggplant involtini" when you're ordering the $6 dish at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino, and the server will know exactly what you're talking about.
The "alla parmigiana" portion of the dish's name refers to the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that tops the completed involtini, but there's more to it than just the salty, hard Italian cheese. You'll find mozzarella and ricotta stuffed inside the thin strips of sauteed eggplant, which are rolled up like cannoli and baked in a creamy tomato sauce and topped with bright shreds of torn basil leaves.
The eggplant used in this involtini dish is the perfect answer to heavier meat-based involtini as well as carb-laden pasta dishes. Sure, it's filled with all manner of cheese -- but you still come away from it feeling somehow lighter than if you'd eaten fat tubes of cannelloni filled with ricotta instead.
Of course, if you are in the mood for some serious profusion of pasta, there's always Giacomo's equally good spaghetti alla carbonara (seen above). Topped with crispy, fatty guanciale and plenty of cracked black pepper, it's as authentic as you'll get in Houston.
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The list so far:
No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F. No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La No. 64: Soft-shell crabs at Banana Leaf No. 63: Macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse No. 62: Torta burger at El Gran Malo No. 61: Black bean burger at Ziggy's No. 60: Parillada at Pampa Grill No. 59: Peanut butter and jalapeño jelly burger at Wicked Whisk