The North of Italy in the South of Texas
Wow, we’re back. While right now it’s sunny and 75 degrees outside, that was very much not the case a week ago, and we’ve never been more grateful to be safe and sound. Our winter wonderland quickly became a nightmare and we sincerely hope you are all safe and taking care of yourselves. On a quick but very real note, if you were deeply affected by last week’s winter storms and still in need of assistance, FEMA has assistance available and the easiest way to apply is through this website.
Before the apocalypse descended upon Texas, though, we were able to take a visit to North Italia, located in the Uptown/Galleria area of Houston. Our last post was about our at-home Valentine’s Day meal idea, an Italian-inspired Shrimp and Lobster ravioli dish, so we decided to venture out and find an Italian meal you don’t have to cook yourself. The vibe of the whole North Italia restaurant is sort of modern Italian rustic. Plus, the kitchen has glass walls so you can spy on the chef making pasta from scratch, sizzling up your meal, and yelling at the sous chef. It’s dinner and a show. (Kidding about the yelling part, in case you weren’t sure.)
We started our meal off with a glass of the Matteo Braidot Pinot Grigio. This wine was super tasty, with notes of pear and apple. It was balanced, not overly sweet or tart. For a “sweet” wine, it would be considered on the dryer side. If you prefer red wine, we suggest a Chianti or Red Zinfandel to pair with a red sauce dish, or a Pinot Noir to go with a white sauce dish. While we took it easy on the drinks this time around, the cocktail menu at North Italia is nothing to be mocked. Next time we go, we plan to try the Julietta (Ginger and vanilla-infused Tito’s vodka, Italian elderflower, lime, prosecco) or the Ginger Blossom Margarita (Espolon blanco tequila, fiorente elderflower, greenbar ginger, cucumber, and lime).
Appetizers can make or break your expectations for a meal, and in this case, they were definitely made. We ordered the Wild Shrimp Scampi, which consisted of shrimp, blistered tomatoes, grana padano, garlic confit, herb butter, charred lemon, and grilled bread. There are four shrimp, so it’s good to share between 2-4 people, and even once the shrimp are gone, the tomato mixture is still wonderful as a bread spread on its own. Considering how heavy Italian food can be, this appetizer is the perfect light option.
For the main dish, we ordered a Tuscan kale salad and the Strozzapreti. The Tuscan kale salad was made of crispy pancetta, charred grape, apple, pistachio, breadcrumbs, and parmesan vinaigrette. This is no ordinary salad. We had never tried a charred grape until this dinner, but we can best describe it as a grape, but almost smoky. The grapes were truly the shining star of this dish and added depth to a salad that was overall very light and crisp thanks to the tartness of the apple, tangy parmesan, and saltiness from the pancetta. The other dish was the Strozzapreti…and y’all. This dish was so flippin’ good. It was chicken, roasted mushroom (incredible!!), spinach, toasted pine nut, and parmesan cream. Everything at North Italia, including the pasta, is made from scratch, and it shows. All the flavors in this dish complement each other beautifully. The nuttiness of the pine nuts pairs so well with the earthy roasted mushrooms and the tanginess of the parmesan is the figurative cherry on top. Also, because we wondered at first too, no, parmesan cream is not just another way of saying Alfredo sauce. This sauce is its own beast entirely. It’s not rich like Alfredo–it coats the pasta beautifully and isn’t overwhelming.
It is not in our nature to leave without dessert, especially when gelato is involved. This being an Italian restaurant, gelato was involved, so…we ordered the gelato of the day, the stracciatella. For those not familiar, stracciatella consists of dark chocolate chips folded into a classic vanilla base. It’s the quintessential meal topper because it isn’t too rich with chocolate and won’t leave you feeling overly stuffed. The gelato isn’t pictured because, quite frankly, we were too excited and it was too good.
Things to Know Before You Go:
- Locations: We visited the Houston location, but there are actually North Italia restaurants in several states across the United States. Specifically for our Texas folks, there are locations in Houston, Dallas, Plano, and two in Austin!
- Hot tip! Located just an elevator ride away from North Italia is the Rooftop Cinema Club. They’ve been closed for Covid reasons, but this open-air movie theater concept is re-opening soon and would make the perfect cherry on top after a dinner at North Italia!
- Happy hour at North Italia is from 3:00-6:00 pm so if you go for an early dinner you can get some great deals on wine and beer! Plus, all day Sunday are half-price bottles of wine.
When Should You Make Your Own Trip to North Italia?
North Italia is an ideal date spot, whether it’s a romantic date or girls’ date. In the evening time, the candles and dark atmosphere are very romantic, but during the day the place is much brighter and, with a solid lunch menu and extravagant cocktail menu, would be a great day date with friends. Either way, North Italia is a great place when you want high-quality, made-from-scratch Italian food but don’t want to completely blow your budget for the whole month (maybe just half the month?).
As the Italians say, *chef’s kiss* 🤌🏼
See you back here next time! Xx