Ristorante Cavour Tacks on Another Room, But It’s Anything But Tacky

Ristorante Cavour, the Houston Press’s Best Of Houston 2008 pick for Best Italian Restaurant, has added on another room, despite the fears of some connoisseurs of its almost surreally private atmosphere that somehow the real specialness of the place would be lost if too many people came in at the same time.

Everyone can relax. No army mess hall, the extra room still seems comfortably cozy, despite significantly adding seating to the restaurant located in the Hotel Granduca (1080 Uptown Park Boulevard, 713-418-1000). The noise level is low, the service exemplary and the food is just terrific.

Photos by Margaret Downing

Recently we were there for a special occasion, a dinner built around mushrooms, put together by Executive Chef David Denis. The first course of black truffle and aged parmesan risotto with quail was impressively displayed – a lineup of three separate quail servings each topping a cylindrical serving of rice. The risotta was the standout flavor in this dish.

Next up was my favorite of the night: a fricassee of chanterelle and morel mushrooms served on a tartalette with morel port wine reduction. The sauce added zing to the whole dish and the tartalette was crispy and light.

The main course was pan seared veal medallion served on a celery root puree with porcini mushroom sauce. Again, the porcini mushroom sauce took this dish out of the realm of the ordinary.

“Each course was accompanied by a different wine. Food and Beverage Director Brane Poledica chose only red wines, of increasing weight, for the first three courses because he said he wanted to counter what could be the sometime strong taste of the mushrooms. That did little for the man at the next table who drank only Pellegrino and commented throughout the meal that it was a wonderful vintage.

The one deviation was in the dessert course – Poledica paired a sweet pink dessert wine with the panna cotta and pistachio. He suggested cutting the dessert wine with Pellegrino if we found it too sweet. I’m not a fan of sweet wines, no matter how appropriate to the moment, and this one didn’t change my mind --but the dessert was light, fluffy and delicious and my daughter ate all of hers and more than half of mine. – Margaret Downing

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