Openings and Closings: Roma, Sorriso Open, Pax Americana Closes

Do pizza like the Romans do.
Do pizza like the Romans do. Photo by Jeremy Parzen

Roma, 2347 University, officially opened January 11. The new Roman-inspired trattoria takes the place of Shanon and Wende Scott's upscale ristorante, Sud Italia, which closed January 1 to make way for the Scotts' new more casual and affordable concept.

Described as an "ode to the foodways of Southern Italy", the new restaurant will focus on the capital city of Rome with traditional dishes like spaghetti carbonara and bucatini alla amatriciani. There is also a cacio e pepe, a simple pasta dish of cheese and pepper that has become on trend recently. The version at Roma will be made with cocoa infused fettuccine table side, so that diners can enjoy the dish as the pecorino romano first begins to melt into the pasta.
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Spaghetti Carbonara is eggy and porky and yummy.
Photo by Jeremy Parzen

Though the Roman influence will be seen in the deep dish pizza of the day and the traditional pasta offerings, there will also be ossobuco brasato, a braised veal shank dish, and Venetian risottos. Pasta alla Norma, a Sicilian pasta dish with eggplant, is on the menu as well. And for those seeking Italian comfort food, lasagna with meat sauce and mozzarella in corrozza will satisfy le anima.

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Chef Angelo Cuppone and owner Shanon Scott welcome you to Roma.
Photo by Al Torres Photography
Chef Angelo Cuppone, a native of the Adriatic coast of Italy, will head the kitchen. Cuppone was recently promoted from chef de cuisine at Sud Italia to executive chef, according to the Houston Chronicle, and continues that role at Roma.

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The garganelli tempts with truffles.
Photo by Rouse Photography
Sorriso Modern Italian Kitchen, 2 Waterway Square Place, opened January 9, in The Woodlands. For those who cannot make the drive out to Rice Village for Chef Cuppone's Italian cuisine, those on the north side of Houston now have a new Italian restaurant of their own with an acclaimed Italian chef at the helm.

Executive chef, Enzo Fargione was born in Turin and at the tender age of fourteen began his education at the Culinary Institute of Turin, where he finished at the top of his class. He then went on to become chef de cuisine at Roberto Donna's Washington D.C. restaurant Galileo, before becoming a culinary powerhouse in the nation's capital. A brief glimpse at his resume includes stints as chef and operating partner at Italian restaurants such as Barolo, Teatro Goldini and ELISIR. Esquire magazine named Fargione as "One of Four Chefs to Watch in 2008". He has also published a cookbook, Visual Eats.

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Chef Enzo Fargione is bringing his Italian cuisine to The Woodlands.
Photo by Rouse Photography
Now, Fargione has joined with the Howard Hughes Corporation to bring an authentic regional Italian restaurant to The Woodlands. Diners will be welcomed by a two-story glass entrance and an open-hearth display kitchen, where the chefs can be seen assembling meat and cheese dishes at the charcuterie bar and creating Neapolitan-style pizzas in the tiled brick oven.

Guests can begin with shareables like artisanal bread baskets with savory spreads and table snacks like Tuscan chicken liver pate. Charcuterie choices include a variety of Italian cheeses and meats like finocchiona, a Tuscan fennel sausage and prosciutto crudo Parma. There is even a gluten-free bread basket

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The bruschetta Gorganzola at Sorriso is more than a snack.
Photo by Rouse Photography
Diners can also enjoy the spectacular views of The Woodlands Waterway and Waterway Square while noshing on house-made pastas and seafood dishes like grilled branzino. Fargione will also serve his version of braised veal ossobuco, so you can compare Chef Fargione's to Chef Cuppone's at Roma. It will be an ossobuco showdown. We're pretty sure everyone wins, especially the diner.

MONA Fresh Italian Food, 800 Capitol, will open in Understory at Capitol Tower later this year. The build-your-own pasta concept opened its first location in Katy in July 2018. Owner/chef Sidney Degaine and his wife Maria previously operated Cafe Azur. The pasta and piadina restaurant features an indoor garden with basil and microgreens for customers to pick and the new location will have the same set-up as well.

MONA will join East Hampton Sandwich Co., Mama Ninfa's Tacos Y Tortas and Boomtown Coffee at the new community hub and culinary market being developed by Skanska USA, whose parent company, Skanska AB, is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden.

Understory will also have a thirty foot wide monumental staircase which will serve as a street level entrance to the underground tunnels of downtown Houston.

Photo by Troy Fields
Pax Americana, closed January 12, as first reported by CultureMap Houston. The critically acclaimed restaurant was hot when it opened in 2014, with chef Adam Dorris, sommelier Shepherd Ross and owner Dan Zimmerman leading the team. Over the past four years, the restaurant felt the effects of losing its staff and partners to other projects as so many restaurants do. Dorris left to open Presidio, Ross is now a partner at the upcoming Bravery Chef Hall and Zimmerman, who also owns Bar Victor, is currently dealing with the renovation of his family's boutique hotel La Columbe D'Or.

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Kevin D'Andrea adds his touch to La Villa.
Photo by Becca Wright

La Villa, 4315 Montrose, has a new chef and a shortened name. Originally La Villa Saint-Tropez, the French restaurant has dropped the Saint-Tropez and added a rising star chef to its staff. Kevin D'Andrea is a former Top Chef France winner who has worked with chefs like Alain Ducasse and Yannick Alleno, as well as owning his own restaurant in Paris for a while called Mensae. Marriage to an American has brought him stateside and the expanded menu will reflect the culinary heritage of D'Andrea's  native southwestern France. Dishes like Burgundy black truffle risotto, escargot ravioli and seared duck foie gras will satisfy your Gallic cravings.

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You can crepe your own way at Eight Turn Crepe.
Photo by Olga Miranova
Eight Turn Crepe, 23119 Colonial Parkway, has a hopeful projected opening date for the beginning of March 2019, according to co-owner Jennifer Bui. She and husband Huylong Nguyen are bringing the first Japanese crepe restaurant to Houston, at the Katy Asian Town development. The Japanese crepes first appeared in New York City six years ago. The crepes are made with gluten-free rice flour and customers can opt for various sweet and savory fillings.

Choices include turkey, egg white omelet, lox or salads like shrimp avocado and seaweed sesame. On the sweet side, there is lychee Valentine, Fuji apple and even New York Blueberry Cheesecake.

Shake Shack, 702 Main,is planned for the summer of 2019. The downtown location will offer a 3,242 square foot space with an outdoor patio. The construction will include recycled and sustainable materials.

First opened in New York City in 2004, the burger chain has expanded to nearly 200 stores across the United States. Besides its 100 percent Angus burgers, hand-spun shakes and crinkle-cut fries, the fast casual restaurant offers craft beer and wine. There are also frozen custard concretes and flat-top Vienna beef hot dogs. We expect this will make downtown workers happy. Very happy, indeed.

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The new cocktails will get all up in your grill at Reserve 101.
Photo by Sarah Garcia
Reserve 101, 1201 Caroline, is celebrating its 11th anniversary January 19 by rolling out a new cocktail menu. The classic whiskey bar will also feature an all day happy hour. The new cocktails will be $6 this Saturday and include creative concoctions like the Slane'n and Bangin' by Sarah Garcia, a drink of Slane Irish Whiskey, winter syrup and lemon juice, garnished with a "bit of Houston" in the form of a plastic half set of grillz, a tribute to Houston rapper Paul Wall. Though the cocktails lean to the whiskey side of the menu, there are also cocktails like Message in a Bottle, made with Ron Zacapa rum, Amaro Montenegro and cherry dark bitters.

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Jason Gould will be the executive chef at The Original Ninfa's Uptown Houston.
Photo by Julie Soefer
Legacy Restaurants has announced that Jason Gould will be the executive chef at The Original Ninfa's Uptown Houston, which is expected to open in May at 1700 Post Oak as an outpost of The Original Ninfa's. Gould, a native Australian, is the veteran of a number of great former Houston restaurants like Stella Sola, Gravitas and Aries. He also worked with British chef extraordinaire, Marco Pierre White, at Mirabelle in London. For the past eight years, Gould has been the corporate chef at Cyclone Anaya's, overseeing all of its locations.

Alex Padilla, who has been the executive chef at The Original Ninfa's since 2006 has been named Corporate Executive Chef and will oversee operations at both restaurants. Adan Vasquez, who has worked with Padilla for the past decade, will take on the role of chef de cuisine.

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Indianola's eggs Benedict goes south of the border for a flavor kick.
Photo by Carla Gomez
Indianola, 1201 St. Emanuel, is launching its brunch service January 19. The restaurant is part of a trio of recently opened concepts from Agricole Hospitality. The new menu includes delicious starts like buttermilk biscuits with fig jam and Morrocan sticky buns spiced with cardamom and saffron. More substantial plates like the Eggs Benedict reflect a global approach with Oaxcan pupusa topped with eggs, chorizo, salsa rojo with curtido (pickled cabbage) on the side.

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Weekends are made for a liquid brunch.
Photo by Carla Gomez

The brunch is kid-friendly with a kids menu that goes from buttermilk pancakes to cheeseburgers. It is also adult-friendly with brunch cocktails like carrot juice bloody Mary and the Badabing, made with bourbon, coffee liqueur, vermouth,rum, orange bitters, topped with whipped cream.

The fun lasts from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.