Houston Restaurant Titan’s Casual Italian Takeover Hides Some Seriously Sophisticated Food — and Worthy Pizza

Your First Taste Look at B.B. Italia and B.B. Pizza

BY // 08.27.19

Restaurant owner Carmelo Mauro ran his Memorial Italian restaurant for 37 years before retiring from the competitive food world. Before he served his last supper, Houston restauranteur Benjamin Berg of Berg Hospitality Group (owner of B&B Butchers & Restaurant, B.B. Lemon, The Annie Café & Bar) made Mauro a deal he couldn’t refuse.

Berg quietly ran the place as Carmelo’s until earlier this year, when he closed the 8,000-square-foot space and overhauled it inside and out, revealing it anew as B.B. Italia Kitchen & Bar with a carry-out concept named B.B. Pizza To Go.

The restaurant business is in Berg’s bloodline. While throughout his career he ran operations in the front of the house, his younger brother, Daniel Berg, diligently worked in the back. Daniel — a Houston transplant who is positively gobsmacked with his new home city — is a talented chef in his own right. Based in New York for years, Daniel worked for chef Andrew Carmellini at A Voce, among other restaurants.

He also studied Italian cuisine in Colorno, Italy, for 18 months and worked at Michelin two- and three-star restaurants in Sicily and Milan, respectively.

The brothers modestly refer to B.B. Italia as a neighborhood joint, it is, after all, in Benjamin Berg’s hood. The pasta noodles are made fresh daily, and the lengthy menu is filled with classic Italian-American dishes made with quality ingredients

Prices are approachable at both lunch and dinner. Standouts at either service include Sunday ragù (a favorite of general manger Joe Malheiro), pasta shells tossed in a pomodoro sauce with spicy sausage and meatballs ($14), and Grandma’s ravioli, stuffed with braised short rib and napped with a rich marsala and mushroom sauce ($14).

B.B. Italia Kitchen & Bar (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam)
B.B. Italia Kitchen & Bar (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam)

Bolognese is a long-simmered sauce, the preparation of which is always a good barometer of a kitchen’s skill, and executive chef Berg’s version is made with tagliatelle in veal ragù and topped with a dollop of fresh ricotta, adding an unctuous richness to the whole ($14).

While the Bergs have left the square leaning-tower bus station intact — a remnant of the former restaurant — they’ve dressed it up, much like the rest of the interiors with crisp, clean lines of black and white. The horseshoe-shaped bar and outdoor patio are new additions, as is the to-go concept, where you can call ahead and pick up pizzas, calzones, and the like, day or night.

B.B Italia Kitchen & Bar, 14795 Memorial Drive, 281.531.0696; B.B. Pizza To Go, 14795 Memorial Drive, 281.962.5500.

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