Restaurant News

Openings & Closings: Surfing Cowboys and Plenty of Pizza

Last week's roundup was heavy on the closings, but not this week. Although there were some high-profile places that shuttered, this week features mostly good news. But in the grand tradition of breaking news to people, let's go ahead and start with the bad.

First is that Tintos, the tapas joint in River Oaks which featured one of my 100 Favorite Dishes of 2012, is closing. Owner Alberto Alfonzo told Eater Houston that Tintos would close on December 31, but plans to reopen as PESCA: World Seafood one week later.

"PESCA will feature seafood preparations from Mexico, Asia, Spain, Italy and the Caribbean that Alfonzo has learned in his 16 year career," wrote Eater Houston editor Eric Sandler. Interestingly, Alfonzo also told Sandler that he felt Houstonians had a difficult time embracing the concept of tapas -- yet wants to reopen Tintos at a later date and in a different spot in 2013. If it does reopen, those esparragos gratinados had better be on the menu.

That Pizza Place on Ella has closed, and -- like Tintos -- will be reopening as a new concept, albeit under new ownership. "Eater has learned that BRC/Liberty Kitchen chef and co-owner Lance Fegen will be opening a new restaurant called Surfing Cowboys," wrote Eric Sandler, who had all the good scoop this week at Eater Houston. It will be the second surfing-inspired restaurant Fegen has operated, after Glass Wall (which he left in October 2010 to open BRC Gastropub).

That Pizza Place was a promising new addition to the Oak Forest/Garden Oaks area when it opened this past year, offering a huge tap lineup of craft beers, fun specialty pizzas, old-school arcade games and a patio with live music. But the reviews that started rolling in after our own showed a restaurant which quickly slumped under the pressure of so many people crowding in for its evening buffets and beer selection.

In openings, two Houston restaurants have new locations. Luigi's Pizzeria just opened its second location at 4505 Bissonnet in Bellaire. Writes our excited tipster: "Already packing them in. Best pizza in town!!" (We're big fans of Luigi's too -- especially the chicken wings.) Meanwhile, Tradicao Brazilian Steakhouse has a new location near Sugar Land on the Southwest Freeway between Wilcrest and West Airport.

Also open this week: Brooklyn Athletic Club from Lance Fegen's former partner at Glass Wall, Shepard Ross, and the former chef at BRC Gastropub, Jeff Axline.

And in upcoming openings, look for Volare Original Pizzeria to open soon at 2017 S. Shepherd near Welch. The much-anticipated spot promises to contribute to the rise of great pizzas across Houston. Owner Cara Cox teamed up with chef Ara Malekian -- who helped Wolfgang Puck create his own line of pizzas -- to create pizzas that aren't quite Neopolitan and aren't quite NYC-style, but something in between.

"The Volare concept is based on Cara's favorite pizzerias in New York City, but designed with Houstonians' palates in mind," said Malekian in a press release. Expect toppings such as brussels sprouts with house-smoked pork belly, or local venison sausage with wild mushrooms.

In a welcome move, Volare is interested in supporting both local food purveyors as well as bringing in the best ingredients for its pizzas -- local cheeses from the Houston Dairymaids will mingle with San Marzano tomatoes and prosciutto di parma from Italy. Volare also plans to make its own burrata, mozzarella and bread. "Cooking is about respecting ingredients, and Volare's menu items will reflect that," said Malekian.

The 1600-square-foot restaurant will seat 36 indoors and 24 in the outdoor beer garden, situated behind the restaurant. Volare will be open daily, with all day service from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The full-service restaurant, which will feature pizzas, paninis, crostinis, local craft beer and a list of boutique wines created by noted sommelier Antonio Gianola, is slated to open in January 2013.

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Katharine Shilcutt