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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Thu 11:00am–10:00pm
Fri 11:00am–midnight
Sat 6:00pm–midnight

Features Date-friendly, good wines, live music
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Essential


Greenway Plaza
3755 Richmond Ave.
Houston, TX
(713) 622-6778
Amid much grandiosity and noise, a simplicity quietly succeeds on the plate

Tony Vallone’s name has, in Houston, become synonymous with success (although we don’t think his middling Café Bello and Ciao Bello ventures qualify). His eponymous Italian restaurant turned a corner in 2009, finally trading in much of its fussy, creamy American-pleasers for more authentic, simple preparations. The modesty just makes the bright, soaring dining room all the more obscene; while the redesign reduced the sleaze factor considerably, the color palette of burnt-peach and brown is merely a bland backdrop for fake tans and bizarre modern art.

The kitchen’s makeover is better. There’s still some seared-ahi silliness, but it’s done reasonably well. You really ought to focus on homemade delicate pasta dumplings, like pansotti and cappelletti. Carbonara is done properly, with poached egg and Parmigiano-Reggiano emulsifying into sauce, and plenty of black pepper. Fish is superbly cooked, although we prefer the chef, not the customer, decide which sauce to put on it. Nevertheless, the range of successes is great, and some dishes even rival Da Marco for excellence.

Most of the 23-page wine list is sheer gobbledygook—flagrant expense-account Californians and an admirable but out-of-place French selection. Spend those hundreds instead on Sagrantino de Montefalco or Barbaresco. Or, for much less, match the décor with an Umbrian blend that’s elegantly matured and nearly orange.

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