Sud Italia Ristorante
BY MIKE PUCKETT
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Sud Italia Ristorante is located in the beautiful neighborhood of Rice Village – close to shopping, Rice University, the Museum District and many other hot Houston attractions.
Houston is obviously not short of fine Italian restaurants, but there’s definitely an upper echelon. Well, Sud Italia Ristorante is a step above the rest, for sure! Restaurateur Shanon Scott brings 27 years of experience to the local dining scene. I can tell you first-hand… it shows!
One of the first things you notice as you walk into Sud Italia Ristorante is how romantically cozy the restaurant is. I feel at home instantly… which makes sense because this historic home has been renovated into a restaurant.
The deck is a beautiful area to savor a meal al fresco while you people watch and take in the fresh air. There’s a cozy dining room as well as a small bar where you can stop and enjoy a glass of wine before your meal.
With a number of different atmospheres to choose from, Sud Italia Ristorante is a wonderfully romantic restaurant for any occasion. I am immediately reminded of my favorite La Jolla eateries and know this will be a night I will not soon forget.
The traditional southern Italian cuisine served here is indigenous to the 5 main regions of Italy – providing an authentic culinary experience. Take a look the menu here to see exactly what I mean.
One of the benefits of having so many foodie friends is that I get a chance to hear what they think. Here at Sud Italia Ristorante, most of them were raving about the fresh seafood. The fresh vegetables. The fresh… well, you get the point. Come to find out, the seafood is delivered daily.
Before settling down to enjoy my meal, I took a quick tour of the restaurant. I didn’t see a single freezer – but I did see a beautiful herb garden in the backyard. No wonder everything is so fresh!
I had been warned that I might get caught up in the extensive Southern Italian wine list, and that I did. Ha! I was happy to find out that our server was extremely knowledgeable – so we decided to put it in his hands for the night. Good choice! I recommend you do the same. We started things off with a couple of appetizers: Fritto Misto and Sausage e Friarelli paired with Regaleali Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC 2013, Tasca d’Almerita. This ruby-red wine had a delightful berry taste which complimented both appetizers well.
Oh, the Fritto Misto was absolutely incredible! Definitely a must-eat here at Sud Italiano Ristorante! Although it’s hard to believe, the lightly fried combination of lobster, shrimp, calamari and vegetables tastes even better than it looks. It just feels right starting our southern Italian dining experience with this divine dish. Fresh is an understatement – I’d be surprised if these guys weren’t playing in the ocean this morning… just saying.
The Sausage e Friarelli was another exceptional choice. This dish was prepared with sausage and fresh rapini along with a light Pomodoro Sauce. The flavors in this dish were exactly what I was looking for. The sauce was not too rich and the sausage had a seriously robust flavor. The fresh rapini was what really set it apart, adding color and texture that were second to none.
We continued our tour of southern Italy with the Insalata di Tonna. This beautiful bowl of cucumber and lettuce hearts had the most amazing sesame-seed-crusted tuna lounging on top and a tangy, roasted bell pepper dressing drizzled across the tuna. This salad was plated with an artistic hand, indeed! I paused in appreciation – before cleaning the plate spotless. If you like crusted tuna, you will LOVE this dish.
We ordered the Pizzaiola di Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia and Zuppa di Mare paired with Ziobaffa Pinot Grigio 2014. This organic Pinot Grigio was my favorite wine of the night: a fresh, fruity, floral flavor with a hint of citrus. Just perfect!
The Pizzaiola di Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia was one of the most recommended dishes by our Good Eats readers and I soon found out why. The squid ink-infused spaghetti was tossed with fresh lobster meat and homemade pizzaiola. The squid ink made for a very eye-pleasing entrée, but did not change the flavor – playing a delightful trick on the mind. If you are looking for something delicious and unique, then look no further!
The Zuppa di Mare was a favorite with our group. This homemade stew featured a delightful combination of clams, mussels, calamari, red snapper, vegetables and fresh herbs swimming in a light white wine tomato broth. I know I’m getting a bit repetitive, but the seafood here is really fresh! I loved the red snapper especially, partly due to my fond childhood memories of fishing in the Gulf. This bowl of goodies vanished with lightning speed – every drop soaked up with delicious Italian bread.
The Costolette d’Agnello alla Griglia was my favorite entrée of the night and it paired beautifully with the Cannonau di Sardegna, Argiolas 2012. This wine from southern Saredenia, with its ripe berry flavor and just a hint of vanilla, was the perfect companion to this savory dish. The grilled lamb chops, served with fingerling potatoes and asparagus, enjoyed their own red wine reduction. The photography says it all, what do you think? Is THAT something you would be interested in?
Finally, it was time for the moment that always delivers a smile to this man’s face… dessert!
Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts, and this coffee-flavored Italian stallion from Sud Italia Ristorante took the cake (pun intended). With layer after layer of whipped mascarpone, it was a delight for the eye… as well as the taste buds.
The Chocolate-Dipped Cannoli was unlike any Cannoli I had ever tasted: fried pastry dipped in chocolate and served with fresh strawberries. I was told it was the perfect accent to a glass of wine enjoyed on the patio. I can confirm that this is true.
Sud Italia Ristorante is a wonderful dining experience. The friendly staff welcomes you with open arms, making you feel at home the minute you walk through the doors.
As you know, “I like vacation”. And this vacation to southern Italy was a trip filled with fresh and authentic cuisine, impressive grapes and decadent desserts. Shanon Scott and his family should be extremely proud of what they have created here. See you there soon!
Good Eats Houston Recommends…
Fried combination of lobster, shrimp, calamari and vegetables
Sausage e Friarelli
Sausage and fresh rapini with a light pomodoro sauce
Paired with: Regaleali Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC 2013, Tasca d’Almerita
Bright ruby-red color, this wine offers layered notes of cherry, mulberry and raspberry. On the palate, it is complex and supple, with ripe berry flavors framed by silky tannins
Insalata di Tonna
Sesame seed crusted tuna, heart of lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes with a roasted bell pepper dressing
Pizzaiola di Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia
Squid ink-infused spaghetti tossed with fresh lobster meat and homemade pizzaiola
Zuppa di Mare
Homeade stew of clams, mussels, calamari, red snapper, vegetables and fresh herbs in a light tomato broth
Both paired with: Ziobaffa Pinot Grigio 2014
Fresh rich aromas of apples and pears with hints of citrus that fade into a floral bouquet and on the palate it is bright and fresh with wonderful fruit flavors
Costolette d’Agnello alla Griglia
Grilled lamb chops in a red wine reduction served with fingerling potatoes and asparagus
Paired with: Cannonau di Sardegna, Argiolas 2012
Flavors of very ripe strawberries, black cherries, herbs, and spices. The warmth and intense sunlight of southern Sardinia can be seen and felt in the wine with unexpectedly deep color and fullness on the palate. French oak barriques provides rounded tannins and flavors of vanilla.
Lady’s fingers, mascarpone cheese, flavored with cocoa
Dipped in chocolate and filled with a sweet, creamy ricotta
PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE PUCKETT
FOOD STYLIST: KERI HENRY
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