A classic Italian red sauce is a true delicacy. It’s made from scratch, packed with bold flavors, and draws from Italian tradition — all aspects chef William Wright strives to bring to the forefront at new Heights restaurant Arthur Ave. Paying homage to the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue, the restaurant, which is focused on the cuisine cooked and eaten by Italian immigrants in America — officially opens on Friday.
It’s the next step for a chef who’s no stranger to international cuisine. Wright is currently the executive chef at Rice Village eatery Helen Greek Food & Wine, where his refined Greek fare has earned national acclaim, including a Beard nomination this year in the Best New Restaurant category.
Now, Wright and the Helen team — owner and sommelier Evan Turner, director of operations and partner Sharif Al-Amin, managing partner Tim Faiola, beverage director Lainey Collum, and interior designer Erin Hicks — are tackling a new challenge: bringing vibrant parts of Boston, Philadelphia, and New York to Houston.
An obligatory trip to Italy inspired Wright’s menu. The six-month sojourn resulted in staples such as Arthur Ave’s caprese salad with hand-pulled mozzarella, chicken and eggplant parmesan, handmade gnocchi, Sunday Gravy, and New York-style pizza.
Start your meal with options like baked Clams Casino, red sauce-braised hanger steak braciole, or a scarole salad topped with a soft farm egg. Entrée choices include grilled Italian sausage with peppers and polenta fries, roasted suckling porchetta, and grilled chicken marsala. For dessert, the cannolis are a can’t-miss sweet treat.
Collum’s cocktail program complements the fare, meshing Old World charm with modern flair. Libations are made with ingredients like house made grappa-based limoncello and other Italian spirits to create crisp craft cocktails sans the long wait (Collum’s bartenders must take a speed-pour test to ensure appropriate wait times). A wine list put together by Turner and restaurateur Shepard Ross offers nearly 120 Italian and American selections.
Hicks’s cultivates a traditional Italian ambience — leather walls and woven upholstery fill the dining room, and a wine room connects to an ornate private dining room, perfect for intimate gatherings. In addition, a 3,000-square-foot rooftop offers providing some of the best skyline views in the city.
The Arthur Ave team has bit off a lot to chew, but if their success at Helen is an indicator, we can look forward to some satisfying Italian fare.