100 Favorite Dishes

100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 78, Oxtail Francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana

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.

At Aldo's Cucina Italiana in The Woodlands, Egyptian-born and Italian-bred chef Aldo el Sharif still makes all his pastas by hand -- just as he's done in and around Houston for the last 20 years. And although it's a bit of a trek up I-45 to get there, his namesake restaurant just south of Shenandoah can hold its own with some of Houston's best Italian joints.

Part of that is the handmade pasta, and part of that is the charming, smart service. And then there are old favorites like the oxtail-stuffed francobolli that have been part of el Sharif's repertoire for years, and with good reason. The silky pockets of pasta hide a heart of fatty, unctuous beef that's offset by the bright tang of homemade marinara sauce that's sharpened up with plenty of garlic.

If an entire plate of oxtail francobolli seems like too much (what is wrong with you?! But I digress...), you can usually find it on a trio sampler of Aldo's best pastas each night at dinner. A recent visit found the francobolli in good company with goat cheese-stuffed tortelloni and crab-stuffed ravioli, but -- as usual -- it was the oxtail that shone the brightest.

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

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Katharine Shilcutt