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Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts Scores Two Exciting New Restaurants With Michelin Star Cachet

Le Jardinier and Cafe Leonelli will open inside the brand new Kinder building this spring

Three men stand in a restaurant dining room smiling
Pastry chef Salvatore Martone, Cafe Leonelli chef Jonathan Benno, and Le Jardinier chef Alain Verzeroli, pictured from left to right
Shannon O’Hara for Bastion Restaurants

This spring, the hospitality group behind beloved Houston restaurant La Table will debut two chic eateries at the newest addition to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

The first, Cafe Leonelli, will be helmed by chef Jonathan Benno, who brings Michelin star pedigree and experience in the kitchen alongside culinary titans like Daniel Boulud, Michael Mina, and Thomas Keller. An offshoot of Leonelli Bakery in New York City, the restaurant will serve a menu of “accessible Italian cuisine” ranging from focaccia to fresh pasta. Italian pastries prepared by pastry chef Salvatore Martone, will also be a fixture of the menu.

Also opening at the MFAH’s new Kinder Building is Le Jardinier, a French restaurant with chef Alain Verzeroli leading the kitchen. Vezreroli comes to Houston after 20 years of working alongside vaunted chef Joel Robuchon at iconic restaurants like Arpege, and will oversee a menu of “vegetable-rich” dishes made with locally sourced organic produce and meats. The restaurant’s open-air patio will offer views of the museum’s sculpture garden.

In addition to the two restaurants, Bastion Restaurants will also open an outpost of Martone’s ice cream shop Frohzen inside Cafe Leonelli, slinging its famed ice cream cupcakes, macaron ice cream sandwiches, and “cakesicles.”

All three projects will be located inside the stunning new Kinder building, named for MFAH donors (and energy billionaires) Nancy and Rich Kinder. The spaces, designed by Steven Harris Architects in New York, will include piece of art specifically commissioned for the space, along with overhead lighting made of Akari lanterns designed by iconic American designer Isamu Noguchi.

Cafe Leonelli is set to make its debut at MFAH in March, with Le Jardinier to follow in April. Stay tuned for more details on the menus and an official opening timeline in the coming weeks.

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