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.
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.
Chef Marco Wiles takes inspiration from Venice and the greater Friulian region for this higher-end take on Italian, so much so that he imports a lot of the product from the motherland itself. What he doesn’t import, he makes fresh, like Raviolo peppered with seasonal truffles and ricotta, buttery Paninos delicately stuffed with cured prosciutto and fig jam, Lamb Chops blanketed in an earthy cumin yogurt spread, and Artichokes alla “Giudia” fried to a heavenly, airy crisp. Dress to impress here (seriously, jackets are preferred), and gear up to splurge on aged Italian wines, a few of which date back to the '70s.
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.
This quite literal fresh-from-the-garden eatery is the best example of why you shouldn’t discount Italian in Houston. Each season, Coltivare’s (Italian for “to grow”) heart-healthy menu gets a constant refresh as their ingredients come straight from the restaurant’s idyllic 3,000-square-foot garden. And if it’s not grown in the yard, the rustic flavors are carefully sourced from local farms or made in-house, such as meaty and nutty charcuteries from sibling concept Revival Market. Don’t come here expecting your grandma’s Sunday gravy or hulking veal chops. Instead, you’ll find shareable plates in the form of bubbly wood-fired pies, unrivaled Casarecce, plump Ravioli, whole-roasted fish, and decadent Chocolate Rum Cake.
How to order: Order take-out via Toast.
River Oaks residents line up here for an impressive range of classic and chic Italian plates, such as crabmeat-engorged Linguini, Tortellini Piemontese dazzling in cream sauce, and succulent veal options shimmering in red wine glaze, finely chopped onions, and earthy mushrooms. Though it’s a bit on the fancy side, it’s also super comforting. Warmed by a corner fireplace and sporting a wood-paneled, moody interior that evokes the Renaissance, this family-run stunner makes for an off-the-charts date night.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.