Dark wood and flaxen-hued walls surround the scents and savors of wood-fired pizzas, creative pastas, and locally sourced steaks at Café Eccell. Disks of dough hand-forged daily, such as the rustic italian-sausage pizza ($15) or margherita pizza ($13), emerge from the wood-fired oven with a smoky flavor and encyclopedic knowledge of campfire songs. Opportunities for fork-finagling can be found in the seafood linguine, which suffuses shrimp and salmon with tomato-garlic butter on a bed of saffron linguine ($19), and in the 12-ounce USDA Prime rib eye, fetched from local purveyor Ruffino Meats and draped in herb butter ($25). Paying homage to the traditional garb worn on their annual apricot hunts, strawberries disguise themselves in an apricot glaze and hide out in an almond-lace cookie shell lined with Belgian chocolate in Café Eccell’s strawberry tart ($7).
It would be more than fair to say that Alfonso Gonzalez is of local renown—the owner and executive chef of La Riviera Restaurant won the Chef of the Year award from the Brazos Valley chapter of the Texas Chefs Association three years in a row, and he now reigns as their director.
With more than 30 years of experience, it's not surprising that Gonzalez uses only top-notch ingredients such as Angus beef, local produce, and fresh-caught seafood. He's also comfortable enough to dabble in an international lineup of culinary styles, stacking his menu with everything from chicken carbonara to Caribbean jerk tilapia, so named because it makes fun of other fish. The diversity of his food is matched by the wine list, which includes varietals from California, Oregon, and abroad.
For 30 years, Cenare's sconce-lit walls and elegant menu have entranced diners, inviting them to linger luxuriously over plates of pasta, tiramisu, and creamy espresso cups. Fresh, daily made bread greets guests with a firm, crunchy handshake, moisturized to taste with imported olive oil. While kitchen magicians arrange 15 layers of beef, mozzarella, and ricotta cheese for the homemade lasagna ($10.99), noshers may savor stuffed mushroom cap starters, drizzled with a Creole mustard sauce ($6.95). The tortellini alla diavola accessorizes a saucy ensemble of chicken, ham, fresh mushrooms, and chipotle cream with cheese-filled pasta rings ($12.95), while the secret ingredients of the spaghetti al telefono are discoverable only through long, whispered games of telephone ($7.95). Gluten-free pasta is also available.
The culinary artisans at Luigi's Patio Ristorante fill lunch and dinner menus with family recipe pastas, pizzas, and entrees in a rustic Italian villa setting. The evening array boasts vegetarian options such as eggplant feathered with parmesan and perched atop a nest of capellini pasta ($13) and specialties including pistachio-encrusted red snapper ($24) and duck breast sweetened with balsamic and orange-toffee sauces ($21). Or quell midday cravings with toasted panini ($8+) or a pizza generously bombarded with toppings such as italian sausage and pesto sauce. Diners can groove to live music most nights in Luigi's warmly lit indoor courtyard patio, which, like a Roman piazza, is populated by street lanterns and gatherings of garrulous pepperonis.
DoubleDave's Pizzaworks serves up an assortment of hearty, hand-tossed pizzas, Peproni rolls, stromboli, and more. Choose a pie from DoubleDave's selection of specialty pizzas ($19.99 for an 18", $15.99 for a 15", and $12.99 for a 12”)—the buffalo-chicken pizza outfits its surface area in mozzarella, chicken strips, wing sauce, and ranch dressing, while the duplicitous Dave's Fave offers carnivore-coaxing meatball and sausage or veggie-baiting tomato, garlic, and spinach variations on its olive oil, garlic, and oregano sauce base. Do-it-yourselfers are welcome to design their own pies ($10.99 for a 15", plus $1.59 per topping), choosing size, toppings, and the type of crust, and diners wishing to cram their cuisine into claustrophobic confines can opt for a half-dozen Peproni rolls ($7.99), with pepperoni and cheese wrapped into dough. Or escape the boot-shaped grip of the Mediterranean with a Philly cheesesteak stromboli ($10.99 for large, $5.99 for small).
"We don't cook with recipes, we cook with our hearts." That's how Caffe Fiore co-owner Arturo described his authentic Mexican restaurant to Deborah Duncan of Channel 11's Great Day Houston. The staff's passion for flavor shows results in the food, which consists of home-cooked classics from tamales and pozole to tacos al carbon. The quality of the dishes has earned Caffe di Fiore attention from other media outlets, too. FOX 26's Michelle Mehrar has stopped by, and so has CBS Sports Radio host Cleverly Stone, who broadcast live from the kitchen during the restaurant's first-ever guacamole bowl.
Tell us about your business.
Caffe Di Fiore offers traditional, authentic Mexican cuisine made from generations-old recipes that have been passed down through our family history.
What inspired you and your wife, Lucy, to open up this business?
My mother owned a small eatery in Mexico, so I grew up cooking great food. It's part of who we are! So it was natural that I open a restaurant to serve and please our friends. And every customer becomes our friend.
How do you prepare your food?
Our cuisine is passionate! We cook with our hearts and our customers love the difference. We use the finest ingredients and freshest spices. Everything is made daily and from scratch. We take joy in preparing great food fresh every day.
How do you connect with your customers?
We have a varied menu, but some folks like to have the same dish over and over again. As we get to know our clients we will tell them, "Tonight, you are trying something different." And we will prepare something special for them. They love this special attention.
What is your restaurant's ambiance like?
The atmosphere is wonderful and conducive to family gatherings at night, business meetings during the day, and mommy groups in the morning. We have paid attention to every detail, and our guests enjoy the relaxed and comfortable style. Whether you are celebrating an important occasion or that it is Hump Day, we are here to help you celebrate!