Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pallotta’s Italian Grill in The Woodlands is the Real Thing


 

A couple that we dine with from time-to-time invited us to join them at Pallotta’s Italian Grill in The Woodlands for some Italian food. Considering that The Woodlands is at least 45 minutes away, we felt that it had better be as good as they said it was.  Actually, I expected excellent food, as they live nearly as far away from it as we do.  This is a family owned local favorite that should be on the radar screen of those of us not in the immediate neighborhood.  Phil Nicosia is a restaurant owner with 22 years of kitchen and dining experience and someone who seems to thoroughly enjoy working and creating in the kitchen and making sure his guests have a great time while enjoying his offerings. 
Cozze Felice

 
Letting our hosts order for us, we started by sharing three appetizers and they all shined. The Cozze Felice (“happy” steamed mussels) were topped with a tomato and white wine sauce with fresh basil, oregano, red onions, and lot's of garlic... served with toasted garlic bread.  A mussel-lover, I can attest that these were relished by all and consequently, a suggestion to you.

 
La Chac La

La Chac La (Italian flat bread) was interesting, and tasty to me. It's a signature appetizer here, the flat bread, baked from a honey-sweet dough and spicy Italian sausage, mozzarella and basil pesto and a generous bowl with plenty of garlic, olive oil and spices.  Nice… really nice.

Garlic Bread
 

Garlic Bread is something that most of us expect at an Italian restaurant. Without belaboring the merits of bread as a side, the garlic bread at Pallotta's, accompanied by a rich red sauce to sop it in, is a must-order, in my opinion... and if necessary, a must-reorder.
 
Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
 
Creamy Tomato Basil Soup at Pallotta’s Italian Grill is not the standard, trite, common Le Madeliene-style of bright red tomato-basil soup. This one is thick with cream and pesto, therefore not the bright red soup I am used to.  The color was a surprise to me and, frankly, a little off-putting, until I tasted it… then I understood.
 
Shrimp Amato
 
I love the way that owner Phil Nicosia finds ways to mix seafood with other meats and his Shrimp Amato pairs large Gulf shrimp (pan-grilled in amber butter) with spicy sausage and green onions over spaghettini pasta with a rich tomato sauce. There’s plenty of garlic bread with it to finish off the sauce.

Chicken Parmesan
 
The Chicken Parmesan is traditional and is true to the tradition.  The breading was crispy and the chicken was tender.  Lots of melted mozzarella and tomato sauce.  It wasn’t mine, but I kept reaching across the table for bites (bad manners… I know).
Linguine with Clam Sauce
 
I am a big fan of Linguine with Clam Sauce (red or white, but I ordered white). “Clam sauce” is an under-statement, as this was loaded with coarsely chopped clams, as well as whole baby clams.  It’s far more than a “sauce”.

Lasagna Bolognese
 

The Lasagna Bolognese was excellent, also.  The first thing I noticed was the non-square-cookie-cutter presentation. The lasagna is a smooth textured meat and cheese lasagna topped with a flavorful tomato sauce and laced with Pavia sauce. This entrée was also an excellent use of the mixture of three cheeses (Marie Cheese) touted on many dishes here… a combination of Asiago, Romano and Parmigiano adds a very slight salt touch to tame the acidity of the red sauce. Sad to see the last bite of it go.

 
Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Tiramisu 
 
Through the years, I've noticed that if you visit 30 Italian restaurants, you will taste 30 versions of Tiramisu. In most cases, it's like an introduction to the chef's Italian mother. The Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Tiramisu  is one of the dishes at Pallotta’s Italian Grill that are “takes” on the "traditional".  Alternating layers of ladyfingers are dipped in espresso, Kahlua and Myers Rum, along with layers of Italian mascarpone cream and chocolate raspberry mousse, then topped off with milk chocolate shavings and a really delightful raspberry sauce.  Not your mother’s tiramisu, but I suggest that she would love it.

Holy Cannoli  
 
Holy Cannoli  is THE traditional Italian dessert… a golden flaky pastry shell stuffed with a sweetened ricotta cream filling mixed with mini chocolate chip morsels. Topped w/ powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate syrup.  It is approved by owner Phil’s very particular Italian mother, due to the crispy flaky shell that many restaurants don’t seem to get right these days. Oh yeah, there was a cherry stuck in each end.
There is a “law” at Pallotta’s Italian Grill that if a server asks the question “Is everything all right?” you get free ice cream.  That’s because Phil wants relevant and specific questions asked by servers, so diners can tell they really WANT to know what they think of their many menu items.

I wondered why I hadn’t tried of this treasure before.
27606 Interstate 45
(Across the freeway from The Woodlands Mall)
Conroe, TX 77385
281-364-9555