Pizza Patrón's friendly, bilingual servers dole out pies that celebrate Latino culture while speaking to tongues in the international language of flavor. Pizzasmiths slather fresh dough with marinara or alfredo sauce and cheese, then strew crust canvases with an artistic smattering of more than a dozen topping options or assemble specialty masterpieces. The restaurant's festive Latin-infused environs host dine-in eating, and patrons can opt to carryout or swing by the drive thru to nibble in the comforts of their homes or favorite quicksand pit.
The Mandola family has been keeping Houston well fed since 1975 with a menu that combines classic deli fare with hearty italian specialties. Po’boy sandwiches come filled with roast beef, salami and ham, or fried shrimp, or with fried eggplant, mushrooms, and tomatoes, plus a generous slathering of Mandola's homemade italian spread. Other homemade eats include the italian sausage and the Faccia di Veccia, a sicilian-style foccacia bread that is baked fresh so regularly you could set your rooster to it. Either option would pair well with a side of spaghetti or a plate of pasta brocata, its penne noodles doused in creamy pesto and dotted with grilled shrimp.
Flakey’s Pizza slings a mean calzone and presents appealing wings, but it’s all about the pizza. The staff hand tosses every pie and can tailor them with more than 20 available toppings—ranging from canadian bacon and mushrooms to creative add-ons such as sun-dried tomatoes, sweet pineapple, and chipotle peppers. They also make half-pizzas available for the half-hungry, as well as gluten-free crust and vegan cheese for those with diet restrictions or lingering resentment from losing a bet about milk to Louis Pasteur.
Hosted by the happy-hour champs at Lucky’s Pub, Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day douses eight bands and two DJs in green beer to welcome fall Emerald Isle–style. Atlanta duo Dead Rabbits puts a bluesy spin on vintage garage sounds, and local quartet Lost Element rocks crowds with a giant cradle while performing its latest EP, Back Again. Wielding metal riffs as sharp as they are funky, Downfall 2012 cuts grooves deeper than a fortune cookie on the ocean floor. Other highlights include rousing bagpipe jams and a performance by Eddie Peery & the Rattlesnakin’ Daddies, who blankets fans in comforting country covers.
The Houston Italian Expo, which is hosted by the Italian American Chamber of Commerce, immerses visitors in a three-day tour of the fashion, design, fare, and art of the boot-shaped nation. Amble by more than 100 displays and kiosks from vendors from Italy and the U.S., including more than 30 gourmet vendors distributing noshables of authentic Italian pasta, olive oils, and cheese. Live cooking competitions and demonstrations show off the culinary prowess of some of Houston’s top Italian chefs, hailing from such restaurants as Arcodoro, La Griglia, and Valentino. The expo also honors Italy’s rich history of design with fashion shows from such designers as James Martinez, Danny Nguyen, and Simran Rihal, as well as displays from all the country's regions that display handcrafted items, luxury cars, motorbikes, and sculptures of Sophia Loren made out of mashed gnocchi. In addition to admission, this Groupon entitles guests to wrap their teeth around two complimentary pizzas.
Inside the Four Seasons Hotel Houston, executive chef Maurizio Ferrarese draws on his Italian upbringing to create an ingredient-driven menu of locally sourced Italian fare. Ferrarese always puts his guests first, leaving the kitchen to visit tables as much as he can and even inviting guests to make special requests if they want to test his creativity with original dishes. He doesn't mean to downplay the regular items on his menu, saying, "I designed it so that I have a menu full of dishes that I would recommend blindfolded."
Inside the dining room, servers deliver orders of veal and seared tuna with puffed pantelleria capers or house farm greens with Texas Lone Star goat cheese in small-plate form to share with friends or purposely hide from mortal enemies. Main-course options include seasonal risottos, veal osso buco with glazed root vegetables, and the chef's signature housemade braised-beef ravioli with black truffle and corn purée. During Sunday brunch, cooks mix together eggs and fresh vegetables behind omelet stations and replenish the seafood bar's platters of roasted salmon and striped-bass broccolini.
The modern decor contrasts the rustic recipes with its vivid color, red leather accents, and tabletop holograms. Four private dining areas offer different experiences for small gatherings, from the chef's table with views of the kitchen to the cozy wine cellar with a corked floor and a display of 1,250 bottles.