North Italia

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.)

Will you accept this rose? And this Pinot Grigio?

The Fizz

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). 

The Wild Shrimp Scampi

The Fork

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.

Peep those pine nuts!

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. 

This salad is worth the feature

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.
Chef’s…and I cannot emphasize this enough…kiss

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

Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli

You’ll fall in love with this easy Valentine’s Day dinner idea

Valentine’s Day is coming in HOT, with only four days left to finish planning for the big day. If you’re still scrambling to decide what you and your sweetie should do to celebrate your love, especially in the middle of a pandemic, don’t you worry, we’ve got you! 

Last week, we suggested Café Poêtes as the perfect place to take your girls for Valentine’s Day, and that would definitely be a great option for a date night as well. But if you’re more the “I haven’t left the couch in three days and I don’t plan on changing that anytime soon” type, you’ll find no judgement here. This post is for you. Picking a gift is hard enough, why not keep the celebration part sweet and simple with this easy-to-follow dinner recipe?

The Process

This recipe is one we cooked up, literally and figuratively, ourselves. So today you get the recipe directly from us:

Ingredients:

  • Shrimp (However much you want)
  • 1 pack of pre-packaged lobster ravioli from Costco
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions:

  1. If the shrimp are frozen, start off by defrosting them. Place them in a bowl of warm water and they should be ready to go in about 10 minutes. After they are thawed, drain the water from the bowl and pat the shrimp dry. 
  2. Next, finely chop 1/2 onion. Yellow is preferred, but we used a red one here and it turned out lovely as well. (We personally like to julienne our onions, but that’s mostly because it makes us feel fancy.) While you’re here at the chopping board, go ahead and mince the garlic.
  3. Heat 2 tbsps of olive oil in the pan, along with 1 clove of garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until fragrant, then add the onion. Cook until tender and caramelized. Next, add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper (here is where you add the optional red pepper flakes for a bit of kick). Cook until the shrimp isn’t translucent and has a pink coloring. Transfer to a plate!
  4. Fill up a pot of water and heavily salt it. Bring it to a boil.
  5. While you are heating the water up, start on the sauce. In the same pan you cooked the shrimp and onion in, add 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp of unsalted butter, and 2 cloves of garlic to the pan. Cook until the garlic is nice and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  6. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add 1/4 cup of white wine, cooking until halfway reduced. Then add in 3/4 cup of heavy cream. Mix together and bring to a simmer. 
  7. By now, your water should be boiling. Add in the lobster ravioli and cook on high for 4 minutes. 
  8. Return to the sauce and add in however much Parmesan makes you happy–I’d say about 1/2 cup. Take a whisk and mix it all together, working out the clumps and making it smooth and creamy. Add in 1 tsp of basil or any other herb of choice at this time. 
  9. Drain the pasta, then add both that and the shrimp into the saucepan. Mix and cook for about 3 minutes, just long enough to heat the shrimp back up. 

The Results

Once the dish is complete, you are certainly more than able to serve. If you want to add some pizzazz, though, while also getting in your greens, we suggest roasting some asparagus to serve as a bed for the pasta dish. This can easily be done in the oven on a roasting rack while you work on the pasta. Once everything is complete, throw some additional parmesan on top, ladle onto a plate, and pour a glass of wine. The final step? A toast–to love and Costco ravioli!

What should you know before you make this Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli dish?

  • The amount of shrimp required for this recipe is variable depending on how much you enjoy shrimp, but an easy rule of thumb is to have about ¼ pound per person eating.
  • The Costco lobster ravioli is divine. It just is. But this recipe would work with any pre-assembled lobster ravioli you can find…probably.
  • We suggest buying frozen shrimp that’s already peeled and de-veined. It significantly speeds up the process and keeps you from getting too messy.
  • Make sure the parmesan cheese you buy is finely shredded and not the shaky stuff! It a.) won’t have the same taste and b.) won’t melt correctly.
Is this what love feels like?

When should you make shrimp and lobster ravioli?

Valentine’s Day, duh. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it? But honestly, this seafood dish would be perfect for anytime you want to make your dinner just a little bit ✨special✨ even if it’s just for you!

For dessert, might we suggest olive oil cake or donuts?

What team are you–Valentine’s at home or Galentine’s out on the town? Let us know in the comments!