Openings and Closings: Alba at Granduca, The Palm Downtown

Alba Ristorante, 1080 Uptown Park Boulevard, opens October 2 for dinner at the Hotel Granduca, in time for the hotel’s 15th anniversary celebrations. The hotel’s owner and developer, Giorgio Borlenghi, brought in designer Kara Childress to redesign the restaurant space, creating an intimate dining room and cozy champagne bar that carries out the elegant Italian design elements seen throughout the hotel itself.

Those elements include a bar and doors from an 18th century French chateau and a hand-painted 19th century antique tapestry panel. The painted ceiling in the dining room is also 18th century and comes from a house in Naples, Italy. Throughout the hotel and restaurant, guests will find prints from Slim Aarons, the late American photographer known for his photographs of movie stars, aristocrats, celebrities and socialites doing what the well-heeled do.

click to enlarge

The interior of Alba welcomes guests for an evening of elegance.

Photo by Local Creative Solutions

And guests at Alba will feel part of the jet-set with the hospitality of an Old World European restaurant awaiting them at either entrance. Guests at the hotel can enter from the hotel itself through the champagne bar while dinner patrons may enter through the new side entrance to the restaurant itself. There is valet and self-parking available.

The hotel’s executive chef, Maurizio Ferrarese is a native-born Italian who has called Houston his home for the past eleven years, along with his wife and four children. Having worked all over the world, Ferrarese is wowing diners at both of the hotel’s restaurants, the new Alba and Il Giardino, the hotel’s all day dining spot.

click to enlarge Chilean Sea Bass gets the Ferrarase touch. - PHOTO BY LOCAL CREATIVE SERVICES

Chilean Sea Bass gets the Ferrarase touch.

Photo by Local Creative Services

The menu at Alba includes snacks like caviar, Snow Crab Claws with pistachio vinaigrette and Sliced Wild Boar Lanzino. Guests can enjoy them in the champagne bar while waiting for a table or just enjoying an intimate conversation. In the dining room, Chilean Sea Bass and Ferrarese’s special Acquerello Risotto with Barolo and Truffle will transport guests to an Italian villa dining room.

Cocktails are a  perfect way to begin the evening and Alba has the signature Giorgio’s Negroni, Borlenghi’s take on the traditional Negroni cocktail made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, Campari and Martini and Rossi red vermouth. There’s also champagne cocktails like Alba Kiss, a coupe of vanilla bean-infused Barolo grappa and bubbles.

With only ten tables, reservations must be made ahead of time and they are going fast.

click to enlarge A retro restaurant gets a contemporary update. - PHOTO BY PALM RESTAURANTS

A retro restaurant gets a contemporary update.

Photo by Palm Restaurants

The Palm, 1201 Fannin, opens its posh doors October 1 at Downtown Houston’s GreenStreet, a vibrant mixed-use development. This is a relocation for the Tilman Fertitta-owned concept. The Houston location first opened in 1978 at 6100 Westheimer. The very first Palm was opened in New York City in 1926 by Italian immigrants Pio Bozzi and John Ganzi. It now has 18 locations worldwide.

The new downtown location has two stories and will feature its famous caricatures and murals on the walls in a modern and updated setting. There will be a piano bar with live music daily and the elegant, refined atmosphere will still be classic but contemporary. The restaurant will seat 230 guests and there are private dining options including five private rooms plus a table for six directly in front of the piano as well as an eight-top at the refurbished round booth brought from the Westheimer location.

click to enlarge Fine wine and filet mignon is what one would expect at a classic fine dining spot. - PHOTO BY PALM RESTAURANTS

Fine wine and filet mignon is what one would expect at a classic fine dining spot.

Photo by Palm Restaurants

“The move to GreenStreet presented the perfect opportunity for The Palm. We are thrilled to revitalize this legendary restaurant at its new location in the heart of Downtown Houston,” said James Hamilton, Vice President of Palm Restaurants. “Guests can look forward to an array of innovative, chef-curated offerings, in addition to The Palm’s classic offerings in a lively, modern environment.”

Along with the updated and revamped design, there is a new, innovative menu that still includes its signature steaks and  Broiled Nova Scotia Lobster but also pays tribute to the restaurant’s heritage with fresh takes on traditional Italian dishes from executive concept chef Michael Coury and executive chef Jim Krauss. Highlights include Jimmy Martin’s Veal Chop Parm and Seafood Posillipo, a mega seafood dish with one and a half pounds of lobster, clams and shrimp atop a squid ink pasta served in a traditional Posillipo sauce, named for an area of Naples, Italy. Other Italian favorites include Chicken Parmigiana and Linguine with White Clam Sauce. 

click to enlarge True to its Italian-American roots, The Palm does parm. - PHOTO BY PALM RESTAURANTS

True to its Italian-American roots, The Palm does parm.

Photo by Palm Restaurants

The menu favorites are not the only familiar touches. Jimmy Martin, who served as the original general manager for The Palm Houston when it first opened in 1978, has returned to The Palm Downtown as maitre’d and is thrilled to rejoin The Palm family. Martin said in a press release,  “As an original member of the Houston team, I look forward to preserving the signature atmosphere and elevated experience our patrons have treasured at The Palm for more than 40 years.”

click to enlarge Grilled Branzino gets a new presentation at Lulu's. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM

Grilled Branzino gets a new presentation at Lulu’s.

Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Lulu’s, 2518 Kirby, will open October 4. It comes from Palacios Murphy, the hospitality group behind upscale Tex-Mex hotspot Armando’s. Owners Cinda and Armando Palacios opened the first Lulu’s in the tiny Texas town of Round Top in 2018, where it has been a popular dining destination not only for locals but Houstonians and Austinites willing to make the drive for the delicious Italian fare amid the ambiance of the 18th century stone building which also has a stone fireplace and wine cellar.

click to enlarge The Prosciutto and Arugula pizza at Lulu's exemplifies Italian cuisine. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM

The Prosciutto and Arugula pizza at Lulu’s exemplifies Italian cuisine.

Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

The Houston location has Michelin-trained chef Jose Monterossa at the helm and the Italian menu offers little plates, or piccolos, like Calamari Frito, Polpette (meatballs) over polenta and Antipasto. Pasta dishes include Spaghetti Vongole with Manila clams and Carbonara served with a sunny-side up egg. Secondi, or mains, include Braised Short Ribs, Grilled Branzino and Chicken Marsala.

While the Carbonara and house-made Lobster Ravioli from the Round Top restaurant will make their way onto the menu for the Houstonians who visit on a regular basis, Monterosso has added five new pasta dishes to the River Oaks menu to keep things fresh and to introduce the locals to the contemporary Italian cuisine in which Monterosso specializes. New dishes include Papardele Bolognese, Fussili Ceccio e Pepe and Bucatini Al’ Amatriciana.

click to enlarge Lulu's Zero-Proof Cocktail program offers teetotalers and the health-conscious options. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM

Lulu’s Zero-Proof Cocktail program offers teetotalers and the health-conscious options.

Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

The Guatemalan-born chef learned his love of cooking and feeding others from his grandmother, though he at one time trained to be an engineer. He has done stints as executive sous chef at Casa Luca in Washington, D.C. and as executive chef at Ocean and Acre in Alpharetta, Georgia.

The elevated European comfort food will be served in the former space that once housed Stone Mill Bakers. Palacios Murphy has brought in New York-based architect Rocco DiLeo of RD Studios Inc. to create a space that is warm and full of character like the Round Top location.

click to enlarge Combo platters can be topped with white or hot sauce, or both. - PHOTO BY THE HALAL GUYS

Combo platters can be topped with white or hot sauce, or both.

Photo by The Halal Guys

The Halal Guys, 23703 Cinco Ranch, will open its seventh Houston area outpost October 2 in Katy. This is the sixth location for owner Masroor Fatany who recently was awarded Texas Restaurateur of the Year 2021 by the Texas Restaurant Association. The young entrepreneur is also responsible for bringing Layne’s Chicken Fingers, a favorite fast-casual restaurant in College Station, to Houston this past June. Fatany has another location of Layne’s planned for Pearland in October.

The Halal Guys began as a street food cart in Manhattan, New York, in 1999.  It offers halal food like beef gyros, chicken, falafel in either sandwich version or combo platters with rice, lettuce, tomatoes and a choice of toppings. Its famous hot sauce and white sauce have earned devoted fans with many opting for both on top of their dishes. There are also sides and starters such as baba ganoush, hummus and crinkle-cut fries. For dessert, there’s baklava and chocolate chip cookies.

The Cinco Ranch store will occupy 1,800 square feet of space with seating for 32 inside plus three outdoor tables.

click to enlarge Open wide for OMG Burger. - PHOTO BY OMG BURGER

Open wide for OMG Burger.

Photo by OMG Burger

OMG Burger, 8854 Spring Cypress, softly opened September 17. This is the third location for the family-owned halal burger and chicken sandwich restaurant. There are a variety of burgers made with 100 percent grass-fed Angus beef like the OMG Stack Burger, Guaca and 2M2H Habanero for those who like it spicy. For chicken sandwiches, the choices are abundant with grilled, Nashville Hot and even the Likka Tikka made with tandoori chicken breast. Oh My Philly hits the spot for cheesesteak lovers and fans of loaded fries can opt for fried potatoes topped with beef, chicken, chili cheese and more.

click to enlarge OMG Fries are loaded. - PHOTO BY OMG BURGER

OMG Fries are loaded.

Photo by OMG Burger

OMG also has a handful of vegetarian burgers made with black bean patties or portobello mushroom. Guests can also ask about gluten-free and vegan choices. The restaurant also offers halal and zabiha halal menu items. 

click to enlarge 3 Fibs colorful exterior beckons guests inside. - PHOTO BY CHARLIE EWING

3 Fibs colorful exterior beckons guests inside.

Photo by Charlie Ewing


3 Fibs
, 104 Main, softly opened August 29 and now is in
full gear as a sister coffee shop to co-owner Michael Caplan’s Cavo Coffee which has two locations in West U and Greenway Plaza. The arabica beans used at 3 Fibs are sourced from South America, Africa and Indonesia and are roasted by Caplan’s Cleo Roasting Co. Caplan shares the new concept with co-owner Tim Leyden, founder of EaDough Waffles, as reported by CultureMap Houston. 3 Fibs will offer EaDough’s Liege waffles on the morning and early afternoon menu. The waffles are made with a dough rather than the typical waffle batter. An imported pearl sugar from Belgium is incorporated into the dough which is then caramelized by a special Belgian iron.

There will be an assortment of sweet and savory waffles including the Benedict, made with a waffle, pecan-smoked shoulder bacon, poached egg, hollandaise and dill. Benny lovers can view a brief video on its Facebook page for a bit of food porn. There is also The Toast, a Liege waffle with avocado, rainbow micro-greens, poached egg and grapefruit vinaigrette for a healthier indulgence.

The coffee shop becomes a cozy wine bar in the evenings where guests can select from a wine list that leans heavily toward South American varietals and also features wines from Casa Madero, which was founded in 1597 in Mexico. For light bites, 3 Fibs will offer charcuterie boards that are also inspired by South American flavors. Caplan asked us to make sure readers know about the wine specials offered during the week. On Wednesdays, bottles are 50 percent off and guests can enjoy $2 off wines by the glass Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

click to enlarge When in Rome...or not in Rome, eat like the Romans do. - PHOTO BY ALEX MONTOYA

When in Rome…or not in Rome, eat like the Romans do.

Photo by Alex Montoya

BOH Slice, 8200 Washington, opens October 6 at Railway Heights Market. The Roman-style pizza concept comes from owner Ben McPherson and chef Chris Zettlemoyer. McPherson is the owner of BOH Pasta and Pizza at Bravery Chef Hall, where his Roman pizza first made its debut. With the spin-off at Railway Heights, Houstonians will now have two places to find the only pizza al taglio in the city.

Roman-style pizza is served as a take-away street food in Rome with the rectangular slices being easy to carry and eat at the same time. The focaccia-like crust is thicker than Neapolitan pizza but still remains light and crispy due to the long fermentation process which requires the dough to rest for 12 hours. McPherson learned the technique from Massimiliano Saieva after falling in love with Roman-style pizza. The slices are cooked in a Moreti Forni oven at 380 degrees Celsius. Not Fahrenheit. Celsius.

The slices are available in already conceptualized versions such as the I’m a Funghi with wild mushrooms, truffle cream, parmesan, chives and Texas olive oil or The Frenchy, a slice with butter, ham, brie and dressed arugula. Patrons can also create their own personal rectangle of joy by choosing one of four bases and eight cheeses, then adding four toppings from a list of 30.

The slices go for $6.50 while a two person pie is $12. Besides slices, there are snacks like baked goat cheese, Italian hummus and baked bread sticks.

click to enlarge 96 Cafe brings food and music to Humble. - PHOTO BY DEZJA SYMONE/D. SYMONE PHOTOGRAPHY

96 Cafe brings food and music to Humble.

Photo by Dezja Symone/D. Symone Photography

96 Cafe, 20026 Highway 59 N., had its grand opening September 10 in Humble. The Cajun and Creole-inspired restaurant also offers live music performances and DJs. Its menu includes dishes like Shrimp Gisele Pasta, Cajun Seafood Pasta, Crawfish Tails and Po’Boys. For dessert, there’s creme brulee, beignets and cheesecake. The restaurant/music venue also has a Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with music beginning at noon. This Sunday, October 3, Clynese, a local singer, will perform.

click to enlarge How bougie is your doggie? - RENDERING BY GIN DESIGN GROUP

How bougie is your doggie?

Rendering by Gin Design Group

Pucci Cafe & Pet Boutique, 23501 Cinco Ranch, is shooting to open later this fall. Owners Maria and Bobby Davidson were inspired by pet-friendly cafes they saw on their trips to Europe and the concept has been in the works for several years now. The couple launched the online portion of the boutique last year, offering luxe designer pet accessories and high end dog products. The new cafe will offer space for guests to shop and mingle with their pooches.

Designed by Gin Design Group, the English cafe-inspired interior is rich in texture with layers of lighting and greenery creating an upscale environment that serves as a backdrop for the specialty merchandise and retail display cases. Designer canine accessories are imported from all over the world and there is an exclusive collection of GMO-free dog spa products as well as bejeweled collars, pet jewelry, high-end clothing and dog carriers.

The cafe part of the experience will offer dog lovers third-wave coffees, teas, specialty beers, wine, pastries and charcuterie boards plus other shareables. Pups will also have snacks available from the dog bakery. With its endcap space, the boutique and cafe will be able to offer a 2,000 square foot patio for guests to relax with their canine companions as well as a fenced in play area for the fur babies to expend some energy. There will also be occasional live music.

click to enlarge An outdoor patio, bottles of wine and your precious pooch can be enjoyed together at Pucci Cafe. - RENDERING BY GIN DESIGN GROUP

An outdoor patio, bottles of wine and your precious pooch can be enjoyed together at Pucci Cafe.

Rendering by Gin Design Group

The concept allows the couple to combine their backgrounds in merchandising, design and business with their passion for animals and the duo are committed to raising awareness about pet rescue. In the future, events such as wine tastings and espresso cuppings will be hosted as partnership campaigns with local dog rescue organizations.

“Dog cafes in Europe are simply part of their lifestyle. It seemed like an obvious need for pet lovers in our community,” said owner Bobby Davidson. “We wanted a space that was open late that felt luxurious and high-end where you can enjoy time with your dog. After working a long day, sometimes our dogs end up being an afterthought, and we want to change that.”

Maria Davidson will serve as the president of the company while husband, Bobby, will provide day-to-day leadership to the company’s senior management as well as marketing, business development and sales activities.

The Savoy Ice House, 4402 Emancipation, may open October 30, as reported by EaterHouston. Details are not set in stone as of yet, however. The new urban ice house comes from Turkey Leg Hut owner Nakia Price. It will offer a comfortable hang-out with a large deck and a decor of vintage motorcycles and walls covered with street art in the Third Ward neighborhood.

We reached out to a spokesperson for the company and were told that final preparations were being made and that more information would be forthcoming very soon.

click to enlarge Concura offers a great escape for lunch or the whole day. - PHOTO BY MATTHEW ROOD

Concura offers a great escape for lunch or the whole day.

Photo by Matthew Rood

Concura Italian Bites, 4340 Westheimer, has added lunch service, after recently opening for dinner this past August. Executive chef Angelo Cuppone has created an “Il Pranzo” menu for the mid-day meal which reflects his Italian heritage and that of native-born Italian owner, Jessica Biondi.

Guests can choose from sandwiches like the piadina with aurgula, tomato, burrata cheese and prosciutto or for eggplant lovers, there’s  the piadina with grilled aubergine, smoked Scarmoza cheese and chard. There’s also the Focaccia Mortadella & Tartuffo. There are several puccia options as well. Puccia is a type of bread from the Puglia region of Italy and diners can choose between the Puccia di Porchetta, the Puccia di Polipo (octopus) and the Puccia di Coniglio made with rabbit, a meat that we don’t often see on menus in Houston but is becoming more available. That makes this writer’s husband very happy.

Guests can add a glass of Franciocorta to their lunch for $20.

McDonald’s USA is bringing back its McRib to Greater Houston and nationwide November 1. Yes, fall is a happy time for pumpkin pie latte freaks and candy corn-eating weirdos (of which I am one) but it’s also a much anticipated season for the fanatics who love their saucy slab o’ meat at McDonald’s.

The McRib made its debut 40 years ago in Kansas City, Kansas. It quickly gained fans for its seasoned boneless pork patty slathered in BBQ sauce, topped with slivered onions and dill pickles on a homestyle bun.

Mike Bullington, Senior Archives Manager at McDonald’s says “Whether you’re a McRib loyalist or first timer, there is no denying that the McRib is one of the most iconic sandwiches of the last four decades and we have thousands of emails and tweets from fans to prove it.”

And it isn’t only Americans who crave this rather bizarre creation. The McRib has had some international exposure in countries such as Germany, New Zealand, and that bastion of gastronomical snobbery, France.

It’s available for a limited time while it’s McRib Season. You can even have it McDelivered.


Restaurants Reported Open September 2021:

The Baker’s Man, 3622 Main, opened September 4
Big City Wings, 22762 Westheimer, opened september 15
Casa Nomad, 600 N. Shepherd, opened September 23
Cassandra’s Louisiana Kitchen, 5203 FM 1960, opened August 6
Common Bond On-The-Go, 7680 Katy Freeway, opened September 4
Concura Italian Bites, 4340 Westheimer, opened August
Dave’s Hot Chicken, 12161 Westheimer, opened September 24
Dim Sum Box, 1223 Grand West Boulevard, opened August 19
Dog Haus, 1096 Enclave, opened October 2
Dutch Bros. Coffee, 5258 FM 2920, opened September 19
Dutch Bros. Coffee, 8617 Spring Cypress, opened September 29
El Zocalo, 8921 Louetta, opened August 30
Heartbeet, 14714 Memorial, opened September 29
Jersey Mike’s Subs, 1413 S. Voss, opened September 22
Jersey Mike’s Subs, 1907 W. Gray, opened September 8
Logan’s Roadhouse, 12950 Northwest Freeway, reopened September 23
Mahesh’s Kitchen, 10619 City Walk, opened September 10
MARCH, 1624 Westheimer, reopened September 16
Pho Oh yeah, 1230 N. mason, opened august 9
Rosalie Italian Soul, 400 Dallas, reopened September 15
Simply Greek, 11702 Grant, opened September 9
Slim Chickens, 8940 Spencer Highway, opened August 30
Tacos A Go Go, 3875 Holman, opened September 18
Texas Tailgate, 2401 Texas, opened August 5
Tight Squeeze juice bar, 600 N. Shepherd, opened September 18
Turkey Leg Hut, 3875 Holman, opened September 18
URBE,1101 Uptown Park, opened August 27
Vida Mariscos, 902 W. Grand Parkway, opened September 15
The Waffle Bus, 3875 Holman, opened for UH home games
Winnie’s, 3622 Main, opened September 18
ZOA Moroccan Kitchen, 6700 S. Rice Avenue, opened September 9

Restaurants Reported Closed September 2021:

Beck’s Prime, 115 W. 19th, closed September 30
Golden Bagels, 3119 White Oak, closed September 26

Author: Lorretta Ruggiero