Neither does Yapa's fierce ambition radiate from this homey, countrified room. The selection at Ferrari is more limited, and more erratic: on any given day, there are liable to be just a few sauces, let alone the multitudinous relishes, dressings, soups and world-beat condiments that Yapa feels obliged to present. Maybe that particular filled pasta you had your heart set on will be available; maybe it won't. Even the lunches dispensed from Ferrari's corner counter seem catch-as-catch can, regardless of what the small chalkboard menu may say. A chicken-salad sandwich? Sorry, the chef hasn't made any more yet; one customer ordered two of them, so we ran out. How about that great-sounding slaw? Out of that, too.
When a sandwich of racily marinated Bolivian pork is produced, somehow its potential for greatness fizzles; housed on an Empire Baking Company onion roll, it comes off as too dry and undressed for its own good. Fine, locally made Candelari Italian sausage (also available, along with a sibling of the Bolivian pork, at Yapa) consorts with peppers and onion on a slab of Empire focaccia. Thanks to the doughy bread -- virtually the only thing Empire doesn't do well -- this sandwich has the heft of an unabridged dictionary.
The lunches, like Ferrari and Yapa themselves, appear to be in transition. A year from now, Ferrari may well be more itself and less a not-quite-Yapa, which is as it should be. And Yapa may have smoothed out to become the first-rate food mecca it so clearly wants to be. Meanwhile, I intend to enjoy the fact that Houston's upper-end takeout options have expanded beyond Whole Foods and Leibman's. It's about time.
Yapa, 3173 West Holcombe, 664-9272;
Ferrari Fresh Pasta, 1345 South Voss, 785-6337.
rotisserie squab with citrus pesto, $6.95;
grilled-vegetable ravioli, $6.95/lb.;
corn and red onion salsa, $3.95.
Southwestern lasagna, $7 and $12;
red-bean ravioli salad, $5.95/lb.