Rustic Italian in the old tavern

    The 7-year-old Antica Osteria is much too young to be one of “the nurseries of our legislators”, but it sure feels like one: warm brick walls, dark wood work, an old house nested in the green, sleepy residential area northwest of Rice University, and a patronage mainly composed of old white men. The smell of books might have been replaced by the smell of pasta and cheese (this place was previously a bookstore), but Chef Velio Deplano and his partner Ray Memari have kept Antica Osteria in that hidden, rustic, peaceful feeling of a bookstore. The gentle orange light made me excited like a drifting sailor seeing a lighthouse.

    Normal bread and butter, not bread, vinegar and oil, accompanied our post-ordering conversation, followed by some airy garlic bread. A tiny voice in some little corner in my mind whispered that the garlic bread was waiting for the salad to travel down the pipe, but who could resist such beautiful orange color. We made sure that the garlic bread’s presence on the table was as fleeting as its texture. 😉

    The insalata campagnola was great by itself anyway. The buffalo mozzarella, plain with a nutty lightness of marshmallow, deems superior to mozzarella from cow milk. I grew up hearing that water buffalo meat is leaner and “whiter” than beef (as in white meat vs. red meat, no racist joke here), so I was appalled to learn that water buffalo milk is much richer (higher levels of protein, fat, and minerals) than cow milk. (To produce 1 kg of cheese, 5 kg of water buffalo milk is needed versus 8 kg of cow milk.) The richness really doesn’t show in this cheese ball though, it’s like eating air.

    I guess Varun didn’t feel particularly adventurous that day, as if one could ever be adventurous in an Italian restaurant, seeing that he got grilled salmon. As long as he’s happy…

    I got petto d’anatra al pepe nero (black pepper pan-fried duck). It’s good, but again, not adventurous either.

    The most exciting thing of the night was Aaron’s choice, also a special del giorno: cappellini aragosta, or angel hair pasta with lobster. Not that it was anything few people dare to eat, but the battle between Aaron and the lobster tail was captivating. Battle Aragosta. I can imagine directing a dinner date scene where the heroine of my movie has such trouble eating lobster and the guy finds it both uncouth and endearing at the same time. 😀 That said, I never order lobster.

    Address: Antica Osteria
    2311 Bissonnet
    Houston, TX 77005
    (713) 521-1155

    Dinner for three: $95.26

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