Plate Gr8 Hospitalitythe company behind The union kitchen, which has six locations in Houston and outlying cities, and three Jax Grill locations, is launching its first Italian restaurant. Called Bridgeit is located at 9945 Barker Cypress in the Towne Lake Boardwalk center – which is also the site of one of The Union Kitchen restaurants. Passerella opens on May 17. (The name means “gateway” or “gateway”, alluding to the lakeside location.)
“We are very happy to see this project come to fruition,” said Paul Miller, who co-owns Gr8 Plate with his wife, Doris. “For us, it’s about bringing together the freshest ingredients we can find to create a menu that is distinctly different from anything we’ve done in the past. Our hope is to provide an elevated dining experience that complements the beautiful views of Boardwalk Towne Lake.
Starters include a charcuterie board, conveniently half-size or full-size, loaded with artisan cheese, charcuterie, olives, mixed nuts, pickled vegetables and homemade bread. Also among the antipasti selections is Fritto Misto (Italian for “mixed fried”) with calamari, prawns, fried lemon slices, white anchovies, arugula and candied lemon herb vinaigrette, ricotta montata (sweet and whipped ricotta) garnished with fresh mint, parsley, honey and extra virgin olive oil served with polenta, and Arancini (fried risotto balls with mozzarella). There are also soups, like Zuppa of Aragosta with Maine lobster in a creamy broth, garnished with Calabrian pesto, and salads, such as Insalata di Rucola (arugula, or arugula, salad) with Buffalo mozzarella, baby arugula, apple, crispy prosciutto and red wine vinaigrette.
Main dishes include fish and seafood, such as pan-fried dishes Branzino alla Calabrese with spinach risotto, creamy Calabrian pesto sauce and blistered grape tomatoes, as well as hearty meat dishes, such as Agnello in Crosta di Erbe, which literally translates to “herb-crusted lamb”. Side dish selections include three cheese polenta and crispy Brussels sprouts with finely grated parmesan.
While the common Italian sensibility is not to mix seafood and cheese, Frutti di Mare Alfredo dares to break the norm with a mix of sautéed Gulf shrimp, chunks of crab and forest mushrooms over fettuccine in a homemade Alfredo sauce. Another pasta dish is Bucatini and Polpette (meatballs, in this case braised in tomato) with a classic meat sauce and a little grated Grana Padano.
Passarella, outfitted with plush armchairs and banquettes, is designed for lingering, meaning guests can enjoy an after-dinner amaro either in the dining room, on the Towne Lake-view terrace, or in the bar equipped with “yellow Ferrari” bar stools. (to match the Ferrari sign on the wall, of course).
beverage manager Dylan Hartwhose past experience includes Brix Wine Cellars and Salt Grass Steakhouse, has developed a “whimsical” cocktail that draws inspiration from Dante’s Inferno menu. Paradise is a cocktail made with white rum sweetened with passion fruit liqueur, orgeat, Velvet Falernum and Luxardo cherry syrup, and enhanced with a little acidity of lemon juice. Dark spirit aficionados might instead aim for the Virgil with rye whiskey, Averna and Angostura and orange bitters, while those who prefer gin might consider Purgatory with Aperol, rosemary simple syrup, grapefruit juice, lemon juice and a dash of Peychaud bitters to garnish the top.
For the wines, miller and head sommelier matt stevenson (formerly of The Tasting Room) worked together on a 55-bottle list rooted in Italian selections, such as Nebbiolo, Chianti and Sangiovese — and familiar California crowd-pleasers. Those who want to relax with a beer will find choices both at home and abroad. A round of drinks could easily be accompanied by one of the pizzas, like the Mushroom Pizza garnished with a creamy bechamel sauce, mozzarella, forest mushrooms, mixed herbs and white truffle salt.
Passerella’s opening hours are Monday and Wednesday-Thursday 3pm-10pm, Friday-Saturday 3pm-11pm, and Sunday 3pm-9pm. closed on Tuesdays. For reservations or more information, call (281) 213-2354. (The website isn’t quite finished yet, but it should be live by May 17.)