- These tiles will adorn the wood fired oven that will serve as a focal point for the dining room.
- The future wine/private dining room.
- A look towards the future kitchen.
- The entry way and future bar are straight ahead. A separate door will provide guests with direct access to the bar.
- The view from the front door looking in.
- The current exterior.
Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar [Photos: Ellie Sharp/EHOU]
A new Italian getaway is preparing to sweep Houstonians off their feet only this one won't require airplanes or passports. The menu is personal, the ingredients are exceptionally fresh, and the inspiration is years in the making. The place is Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar, chef/owner Giancarlo Ferrara's forthcoming new restaurant set to open this summer in the Galleria area. Bringing together his respect for superb ingredients and a rich history originating on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, Ferrara is developing a one-of-a-kind dining experience to share the flavors, scents, and emotions of his native land. Guests will enjoy a menu emphasizing fresh seafood, citrus, olive oil, and herbs in a dining room designed to reflect Amalfi's coastal colors: the changing blues of the ocean and the white houses clustered on its shores. In short, Ferrara will provide a dining experience to rival vacationing on the stunning Amalfi Coast - at a fraction of the price.
Born the youngest of seven in Salerno, Italy, Ferrara was practically raised in the kitchen aiding his mother with the cooking and helping in the family's vegetable garden. Now these experiences fuel his passion for thoughtful food founded on quality ingredients. He says items on his menu are inspired by his childhood, "I still remember the taste of tomatoes or the peach in the summer time. It's something that really stays in your mind forever. And you're always chasing this kind of taste during all these years." He plans to bring these tastes to diners through elevated versions of the dishes his mother would make such as Frittelle di Alghe e Fiori di Zucca, (frittelle of seaweed & zucchini blossom) and Raviolo di Provola Affumicata alla Maggiorana (homemade ravioli with smoked buffalo mozzarella). Additional menu highlights include fresh, homemade pastas (including ravioli, fettuccine, & pappardelle), cheese from his family's fourth-generation cheese making business (including buffalo mozzarella, smoked buffalo mozzarella, pecorino, & ricottas from sheep and buffalo milks), and both a suckling pig and whole lamb roasted in the wood fired oven on a weekly basis. Other pork and steak options will be available but Ferrrara reiterates again and again that this restaurant is about celebrating and respecting the coastal heritage of Amalfi. Rounding out the menu are fresh homemade breads â€" focaccia, stretch bread, and taralli to name a few, so you can soak up every last drop of fragrant olive oil once your meal is complete.
A whopping 70% of the menu will focus on seafood: a fresh Carpaccio bar serving daily selections of citrus cured seafood finished with fresh herbs and olive oil will set the tone. Expect to see Gulf shrimp, amberjack, red snapper, speckled trout, and soft-shelled crab â€" when in season â€" alongside cold-water oysters and mussels. However, Ferrara isn't stopping at the US border; additional ingredients will come from Spain, Italy, and Greece. Vegetables and fruits will be sourced from local markets along with honey from Mark Anderson of Bellaire Honey Company, thus furthering his commitment to sustainable and genuine culinary connections. "[I] really believe in [the] farm-to-table experience. It's very important," he says. Preparations will be pure, honest, and flavorful: "Citrus [such as] lemon, orange, and bergamot, will be always present in every single dish because it is a signature of the Amalfi cuisine." Beyond simple preparations the promise at Amalfi is to let the food speak for itself without a lot of fanfare. "When you have a great ingredient you don't need to manipulate it at all. The more you manipulate it the more you lose the flavor. Respect the food and the way it is and protect the taste," says Ferrara.
The liquid-based selections at Amalfi are sure to please every palate. A full bar will ensure each meal is a celebration and includes craft beer, a grappa bar with infused variations plus Poli, Nardini, and Marolo, limoncello, and Italian aperitivos including Negroni, Aperol, and Campari. Smaller plate versions of the food menu will also be available at the bar for those looking for a more informal dining experience. An extensive wine list with glass and bottle choices focused on the Campania region includes Prosecco and Franciacorta. The latter offering is Italian Champagne hailing from the northern Lombardy region of Italy whose name Ferrara translates to "Short French" because of its short proximity to Champagne, France. Falanghina, Greco Di Tufo, Taurasi, and Lacrima Cristi are just a few of the white and red wines, respectively, that guests can sip while indulging in the warm and friendly atmosphere Ferrara hopes to deliver.
After spending a fulfilling 11 years at Arcodoro, Ferrara is excited about starting this new chapter of his life and pursuing his dream of running his own restaurant. "I want to give people the experience to try something here in Houston even if [they] are unable to travel to the Amalfi Coast. I'm very proud to represent this part of the region of Campania because as simple as the food is, it's exceptional. When you respect ingredients, when you know that the ingredient is a prime, and you know how to touch, and cure, and cook [it], you can really give the best to your customers."