Houston
1. Trattoria Sofia
Greater Heights
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A new contestant swimming in Houston’s ever growing Italian restaurant scene, this rustic palace has been drawing ravenous crowds with their intriguing cocktail list, fresh pastas, and juicy proteins. Eye-popping selections include Crispy Cheese Fritters, pizzas piled high with all the hits (definitely tipping our hats to the Prosciutto Pie dripping with spicy honey), Cacio e Pepe, Campanelle tossed in lamb ragu, and Pan-roasted Monkfish laced with a zippy concoction of mint, basil, and parsley. For a final dose of deliciousness, dip into some Frozen Coffee Tiramisu.

2. Potente
Downtown
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Honestly, there’s no better spot to conquer lunch than Potente—or maybe we should say, soothe the soul after a lengthy Houston Astros game. Astros owner Jim Crane dreamed of crafting an upscale space teeming with inventive Italian eats, refined wine, and a calming atmosphere, and with Potente, he definitely hit the ball out the park. Stationed across the street from Minute Maid Park, expect to swirl your fork in decadent bowls of Spaghetti al Tartufo Nero topped with black truffle shavings, Mezzelune with braised Texas duck, pistachio-brimmed Bremolata, and a particularly superb caviar service.

4. Coppa Osteria
Rice Village/Southampton
$$$$

Warning: One bite of Coppa Osteria’s made-from-scratch pies and crustacean-laden pastas, and you’ll be making this cozy trattoria your go-to afterwork spot. There’s an entire glass-enclosed room just for dough-making here, so diners can fawn over chef Jorge Torres and Davide de Angelis whipping up pizzas loaded with numerous kinds of sausage and salumi, creamy Conchiglie Bolognese, Egg Pasta Ribbons garnished with seasonal mushrooms, and more. Other delights include dreamy Spaghetti Carbonara nestled in a cream sauce, Rigatoni buried in thinly-sliced prosciutto, and Whole Roasted Branzino. True to Clark Cooper Concepts form, the wine list here is beyond reasonable, with bottles priced as close to retail as possible for your popping pleasure.

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