Hidden Gem: Adriatic Cafe in Tomball

The new Tomball location is welcoming.EXPAND
The new Tomball location is welcoming.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
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My family has had its fill of Mexican restaurants lately, so we decided to try something different and opted for the new location of Adriatic Cafe. The original location in Jersey Village is in an austere strip center along Highway 290. We make the trip for their garlic knots, basic pasta dishes, and pizza. Their happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, offers $3 house wines and half-price appetizers. Unlike many restaurant happy hours, Adriatic offers theirs in the dining room as well as the bar, which makes it a good deal for families as well as bar patrons.

Recently, we headed to the new location which opened along Highway 249 this past April. Set back from the freeway, it’s difficult to see. The parking lot was packed and my husband started to groan, but I wanted to give the new location a try. I gave my name and was told it would be a 15-minute wait. As young teens went by with mums and ties, I realized that not only was it Veteran’s Day, but homecoming as well. Fifteen minutes seemed a bit optimistic.

We waited outside on the benches, admiring the newly built structure of Texas limestone. It gives a definite Mediterranean feel. Much more appealing than the Jersey Village strip center location.

After 20 minutes, we noticed that folks who had been waiting with us were all being seated. I asked the hostess about our table and she said we were next. Ten minutes later, people who had arrived after us were called. With my husband giving me the “see I told you” face, I made the trek back to the hostess stand. Unfortunately, they had crossed my name out thinking we had already been seated. Their teenage eyes were round as saucers, expecting me to lose my mind. I am not that kind of person. They were very apologetic and sat us immediately in an area by a stone wall filled with wine bottles.

A carbo-phile's dream.EXPAND
A carbo-phile's dream.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

The tables were fairly close together and each one was filled. Personally, I like the vibe of a busy restaurant. My husband could only think about how long it would take to get our food.

A smiling young woman came to our table and we ordered a bottle of Chianti. She soon returned to tell us they were out of that particular wine and suggested ‘Dreaming Tree’ Cabernet, a wine produced by musician Dave Matthews. I’m easy, so we said that was fine, though I should have considered the alcohol content and sweetness. It was a pleasantly smooth wine, but a little jammy for Italian food. It was served at a slightly cool room temperature, something you don’t always find with red wine served in casual Houston restaurants.

A bread basket containing several braids of buttery garlic bread was dropped on our table. We are carbo-holics, which goes unnoticed on my teenagers, but my husband and I have no such luck. Still, we dug in, knowing full well that we were ordering pizza. Like I said, it’s a problem.

Our server, Kimberly, was attentive despite being slammed with a number of tables. I watched as she made her way around the room, stopping at each table, giving her full attention to the customer she was talking with, never giving any indication that she was in a rush. The manager was also going from table to table and we complimented our server to him.

The brick interior is inviting and warm. Heeding comments from customers, the owners recently put in acoustic ceiling clouds in the dining room to help with the noise. The blue forms are actually quite stylish.

My husband and son ordered a pizza with half mushrooms and half hamburger, while I ordered a Greek salad and a calzone. I cook a lot of pasta at home, so we weren’t in the mood for more. I have tried several pasta dishes at the Jersey Village location and they have always been pretty good, with tasty, homemade sauces, but often over-cheesed. I should have remembered that.

It may not be authentic, but the Greek salad is hearty.EXPAND
It may not be authentic, but the Greek salad is hearty.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

I received my Greek salad quickly and as usual, the small order( $4.50) was still very generous. I don’t care what an authentic Greek salad is supposed to be comprised of, I love Adriatic’s version. How often do you see shredded carrots on a Greek salad? I think they add a great texture. With plenty of Feta cheese, sliced black and green olives, and a mix of spring lettuces and iceberg, it was enough for my husband and me to split. I declined the green peppers, because I am not a fan and I know how generous Adriatic Cafe can be with the ingredients.

My husband was relaxed now, wine in one hand, bread in the other. I finally removed the bread basket away from my hollow-legged son and reminded him that he was about to eat even more carbs for his meal.

The pizza and calzone came out quickly considering the packed restaurant. The crust on the pizza had a nice chew and a good balance of sauce. This isn’t artisanal pizza and there was altogether too much mozzarella, but they aren’t stingy with the toppings either.

My calzone was a shiny golden color. I am used to most calzones having a floury exterior, but this one had been brushed with olive oil and the crust had a smattering of herbs in it. I really liked the flavor of the crust, but I was disappointed in the cheesy interior. There was plenty of mozzarella, but the ricotta was almost non-existent. I love ricotta. My first calzone was in a pizza joint in New York across from the Majestic Theatre in 1991. That’s when I fell in love with the combination of ricotta and mozzarella in a folded, charred crust. Few in Texas have come close. Adriatic’s version gets points for the delicious exterior. It just needs, as my Connecticut Italian in-laws would say, “more reegot”.

The marinara served on the side was a little sweet, but it was also lighter than some tomato sauces served in Italian-American style restaurants.

With the heaviness of the cheese and the pre-dinner bread, we had plenty leftovers to take home, enough for a cheesy, carb-loaded lunch the next day.

Our server delivered the bill. My husband, by now happily content, turned into Daddy Warbucks. Great service and good food make the wait worthwhile.

Kids like over-the-top cheese.EXPAND
Kids like over-the-top cheese.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Adriatic Cafe, 19004 Windsor Pointe, Tomball
Lunch specials: $6.99-$7.99
Dinner: $9.99- $18.99
Kids meals: $5.99

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