I haven’t been too lazy to go out to eat... just too lazy to write during the holidays.
I met an old friend for lunch before Christmas and he had suggested Fratelli’s Authentic Italian Cuisine (a restaurant that I had enjoyed several years ago and, sadly, had not returned to in a while). I remember that on my last visit here, I ran into a very well-known “celebrity chef” friend of mine and he said that on his days off, when he doesn’t feel like cooking at home, THIS is the place he comes for pasta. Since he is known for his Italian dishes, I listened to him.
The owner of Fratelli’s Authentic Italian Cuisine, Chef Teresa Tadeo Wittman, was born in Xoxocapa, Veracruz, Mexico. As a Mexico regional cuisine student/writer, that means something to me and I expected to see a very different menu on my first visit here. As a child, Chef Wittman was fascinated with the process of baking bread with her mother and the manipulation of it as it went through the rising and baking process. At the age of 14, she moved to Mexico City to work in a bakery. This was merely her portal into the world of cooking and while she worked in many other businesses, her love was food and she attended many cooking classes to learn classical Mexican, French and Italian cuisines. At any rate, while she was operating a flower shop in Mexico City, she met her husband-to-be, Bob Wittman. In 1991, she moved to Houston and married Bob. They traveled often to Italy due to her husband’s oil business and (trying to keep this from being a biography) her passion for Italian cooking flourished. Much of her education in the art of Italian food and wines came from the homes and families of Bob’s Italian business partner.
Pizza alle Pesto
So, on this visit, knowing that I remembered the pizzas here, we started with the Pizza alle Pesto, with olive oil, basil, onions, parsley and grilled chicken. The menu says “authentic wood-burning oven” and it should be taken seriously, as it was built by hand by her husband, Bob, in 2000 when they opened the restaurant. The menu also says “thin crust” and it is literally the thinnest crust I have ever seen on a pizza... cracker thin. If you are seeking a “Chicago-style”, or even a New York-style pizza, you may not be pleased, as the pizzas here take their character and flavor from the ingredients... not the crust. I was pleased, as when I eat pizzas, there is usually a pile of crust left at the end of the meal. Not here, though. The pizzas here are unique in Houston, in my opinion.
Insalata dei Mediterrranean
I followed the pizza with an Insalata dei Mediterrranean, which is a simple fresh salad with Romaine, tomato, Kalamata olives, cucumber, red onions, feta and a nice light vinaigrette. There’s not much one can say about a good salad, except that it was an excellent salad and I had taken a photo, so I included it... and I would order it again, after trying the other salads.
Ravioli di Formaggio con Ragu Bolognese
I had to alter the appearance of the next dish so I could photograph it... not for quality’s sake, but for presentation, as the Bolognese was so rich and thick that it obscured the star of the dish... the ravioli. The Ravioli di Formaggio con Ragu Bolognese actually surprised me when presented, as I didn’t recognize it. I had to uncover the ravioli to photograph it as it looked like a plate of very thick meat sauce. However, when I bit into the tender (yet slightly al dente) ravioli to expose the creamy ricotta and parmesan filling, my mind was taken away from the presentation immediately. This dish exemplifies, in my mind, the focus on authenticity at Fratelli’s and the total disregard for pretense and formality. The rustic meat sauce is prepared in the style of the Emelia-Romagna region of Italy.
I was curious about the Salmone Mostarda... a salmon filet grilled and then very lightly sautéed with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach, with a creamy mustard sauce. My concern was that with almost any seafood I can think of, putting it through two cooking processes has the potential for overcooking. I see this as requiring a very short visit to a very hot grill and a very soft touch in the sautée pan. Both happened and the dish is exactly what I wanted from it... very moist and the sauce was light on the mustard and, in no way, did it overpower the salmon. This is a very nice dish... not really defined strictly by the mustard, in my opinion.
TiramisuI didn’t try the cannoli for dessert here and as God is my witness, I am actually eating a cannoli from Mike’s Pastry Shop in Boston’s north end as I type this review, so my memory might be clouded! As good as the one at Fratelli’s looked, I didn’t try it... but I DID have the Tiramisu... and I have not had a creamier one or a more delicious one in Houston. Let the picture save me a thousand words on this one.
Fratelli’s Authentic Italian Cuisine
10989 N.W. Freeway
Houston, TX 77092