Houston is home to an impressive roster of restaurants serving solid Italian fare and lucky for us it's now home to one more in the form of North Italia, which opened this week at BLVD Place Phase II near the corner of Post Oak and San Felipe. The team, led by General Manager Jennifer Winney and Executive Chef Jonathan Wills, combines skilled kitchen talent with impeccable service in an atmosphere of "contemporary comfort" that is sure to please.
Though Houston's outpost marks the seventh location of restaurateur Sam Fox's culinary vision, Wills stresses that diners shouldn't expect a cookie cutter experience - far from it. Because though the brand sets the general framework for the menu, the rest is up to Wills to ensure everything - and everyone - that comes out of the kitchen meets exacting standards for quality and service while utilizing as many local ingredients as possible.
For starters, "shortcut" is a dirty word in the back of the house where dishes are composed with integrity, respect, and passion as bespeaks the Italian heritage they represent. "Everything comes off our trucks in the morning as flour and eggs, different types of fruits and vegetables. And we put it in front of our guests as beautifully executed Italian food," says Wills. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, or in this case the made-from-scratch menu that features fresh pastas and pizza dough among its many noteworthy offerings.
Services include lunch, dinner, and happy hour on weekdays and a not-to-miss brunch on weekends (with its own intoxicating perks like half-off bottles of wine all day Sunday). For your noonday meal, enjoy a smorgasbord of sandwiches served on freshly baked bread, one of the three things not made in-house but instead as collaboration with Kraftsmen Baking using North Italia's recipes. The Italian grinder comes bursting with turkey, Molinari salami, provolone, pepperoncini relish, romaine, tomato, onion, and oregano while the cheese Panini is a cheese lover's dream filled with mozzarella, provolone, grana padano, basil pesto, and Campari tomatoes.
Dinner swaps sandwiches for scrumptious entrees the likes of braised short ribs, seafood, rosemary chicken, and prosciutto wrapped pork tenderloin. Try the fig & prosciutto pizza with goat cheese and arugula and "The Pig" featuring pepperoni, soppressata, salami, and Italian fennel sausage. Fun fact: whatever dough remains at the end of the day is turned into homemade buns for the juicy, cheesy burgers.
The beverage program at North Italia, which boasts an assortment of creative yet approachable menu of cocktails that incorporate the fresher, lighter flavors of Italy's northern region and likewise complement the food of same origin. Popular favorites include the Ducati, a blend of Gran Centenario anejo, Solerno blood orange, grappa, and clover honey and the Julietta, which brings together vanilla & ginger infused Smirnoff, St. Germain, lime, and topped with Prosecco.
In line with the mission to source locally when possible, breweries Karbach, St. Arnold, Cedar Creek, and Southern Star round out a beer list that also includes classics like Peroni, Stelle Artois, and Moretti La Rossa. Wine is most certainly offered as well with a healthy mix of international options in red and white.