Life has changed for this food writer. As a brand-new mom, poppin’ bottles has taken on a slightly different meaning. But while I find myself seeking out diaper changing tables for the first time ever, I’m still on the hunt for all the awesome happy hours, exciting menus and H-town icons, both new and old. Only now, I’m bringing my baby, Quinn, along with me. This “Whining and Dining” series looks at dining out with a baby in the city (more specifically, In the Loop, because Quinn doesn’t like to travel too far from home just yet).
You know that line you see out the door at Coltivare on Friday and Saturday nights? Turns out, it’s not there on Wednesdays. That’s when my husband and I decided it was best to try out our favorite date spot for the first time with Quinn in tow. We arrived a little after 5 p.m. and were able to score both prime parking out front and our choice of seating. Since Quinn’s still cool in the stroller (for a little while, at least), we rolled her up to a back table on the covered patio next to the garden and settled in for some of our favorites.
It’d been a while since we dined here last, but two of our go-to staples were waiting for us: the arancini (fried risotto balls that you must try at least once, trust) and the fan-favorite black pepper spaghetti (aka cacio e pepe). We missed the winter seasonal oxtail casarecce pasta by a week (one week!), but were able to satisfy our cravings with the in-season tagliatelle bolognese. As Coltivare switches up its menu to incorporate garden fresh produce and flavors, there is usually something new to try. Tonight, the wood-roasted delicata squash piqued our interest.
First came the oh-so good arancini and the agrodolce squash, the surprise hit of the night thanks to a hit of smoke and punch of sweet and sour flavor. There was also a nice heat to it, balanced out by a pop of pomegranate freshness. Whenever it got too hot, I dragged a bite through the bright walnut gremolata that comes with the risotto balls. Quinn enjoyed some of the soft risotto, too, and we were off to a great start.
Dining early meant our pasta courses were out super fast, which worked in our favor tonight as Quinn was ready to join the party. I was able to sneak a few bites of the toothsome spaghetti (did they add herbs to it this time? Whatever they did, it was fantastic) and the silken tagliatelle, which cradled a thick, decadent veal and beef ragu. Shortly after, Quinn came out of her stroller and tried to knock over my glass of wine a few times as we pretty much licked our plates clean.
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We’d cork the wine and skip dessert this time…though the strawberry crostata just replaced apple on the menu, and I don’t plan on missing that by a week.
TL;DR: This seasonally inspired Italian kitchen is known to draw a crowd on the weekends (there is a no reservation policy, but you can enjoy a drink in the side garden as you wait for your table). Those dining with kids are best visiting early or weekday hours; and trying to snag a seat outside, as the covered patio offers a little more room and noise tolerance.
Kid-Friendly Dining Essentials
Seating: High-chairs available
Bathrooms: Private and unisex
Kids menu: No
Coltivare, 3320 White Oak, 713-637-4095