First bite: Berg Hospitality’s new restaurant in Houston takes rustic Italian to the top
Trattoria Sofia, the new concept of Berg Hotel Group, opened on November 26 at 911 West 11th in the Heights. The rustic yet classic Italian restaurant (in the former home of Presidio which closed after a fire) is the eighth restaurant currently operated by the group founded by the CEO Benjamin Berg. Founded in 2018, the company’s portfolio includes B&B Butchers Houston, B&B Butchers Fort Worth, BB Lemon, BB Italia kitchen and bar, Annie cafe and bar, NoPo Café and Market and turner – and there is more details to come.
Just days after the grand opening, Houston Food Finder was invited to send a writer to try a few dishes. My guest and I opted for an early dinner and received an exceptional welcome from the restaurant staff. Three options are available for seating: the upscale bar, the main dining room with banquettes and tables, and a romantic outdoor patio designed to keep guests comfortable despite the famous Houston times.
Upon entering, guests are greeted by a warm and inviting space reminiscent of an Italian villa, with exposed brickwork and comfortable seating. They will also find a bar that offers upscale libations developed by the bartender Alba Huerta, owner of Julep, and an evolving wine list that emphasizes strong Italian reds.
We were seated in a beautiful oversized dark green cabin which was a comfortable and functional place to read carefullyhe menu. The dishes are an impressive collection of authentic Italian dishes by the chef Lj wiley, formerly of the famous Yelapa Playa Mexicana. (Wiley recently spent a few years living and working in Peru.) Many dishes come with homemade ciabatta and sesame semolina breads developped by Michelin starred chef Magnus Hansson, who was brought on board to bring his experience to the homemade artisan bread program.
We started our meal with two bruschetta: Crostini Di Stracciatella made with Sicilian pesto, mint, roasted Sicilian pistachios, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Calabrian pepper; and Crostini Gamberi Arrabbiata, made with crispy shrimp, spicy tomato sauce, smoked labna, dill and fennel pollen. We have associated them with Black Horse cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, Benedictine and turbinado.
The hot Scarola arrosto the salad was a surprise gift from the kitchen, and although we didn’t order it, we would happily do so next time. The dish combines grilled leafy escarole, spicy garlic and anchovy vinaigrette, Pecorino Fiore Sardo, crispy breadcrumbs and parsley oil. The textured escarole char combined with the sour dressing made this dish especially memorable.
Then came the Polpo Arrosto, Wood-fired octopus tendrils served with crispy potatoes, basil pesto, salsa verde, basil, parsley and lemon. This hearty dish was delicious, and the Pesto and salsa balanced the fleshy octopus.
The pasta is also delicious. we have sampled Cacio and Pepe, a classic Italian dish that’s simple yet rich thanks to generous amounts of Pecorino Romano and black pepper flakes, and the Bucatini Alla Pesto Siciliano, which combines the thickness bucatini pasta, Sicilian pesto, whipped ricotta, pecorino, toasted pistachios, mint, basil, lemon zest and pepperoncini.
Last, but not least, came the pizza. In a place like this, where the dough is freshly made every day, it would be criminal not to try it even when you are already packed. the Margherita wood-fired pie features fresh Italian tomatoes, basil, mozzarella di bufala, fior di latte, peperoncini Calabrese and Parmigiano Reggiano. Vegetable lovers will want to order the Green made with spinach, kale, dill, basil, Fontina, caciocavallo, fior di latte, lemon zest, smoked chili and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It was heavenly.
Trattoria Sofia should impress Houston diners with its rustic yet sophisticated Italian cuisine. Hours of operation are Sunday to Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. To book, call (713) 804-0429 or visit the website.