Restaurants / Openings

Houston Hotel Favorite Unveils a New Restaurant — Your Exclusive First Look at Granduca’s Ristorante Alba

Northern Italian Food Wonders and a Beyond Chic Champagne Bar Await

BY // 10.08.21

The night before the official opening of Hotel Granduca’s Ristorante Alba, Cathy and Giorgio Borlenghi invited a stylish clutch in for appraisal of the reimagining of the former Ristorante Cavour restaurant, which had provided a romantic dining scene for discriminating diners and hotel guests for more than a decade. An update had been in order.

With the molto elegante Borlenghis guiding the transformation, the menu was fine tuned to reflect sophisticated Northern Italian fare, the decor refreshed with true Italian flare and a terribly chic champagne bar was added.

Bravissimo! Alba appears to have succeeded on all points.

“We wanted it to become something new but continue to have the theme of being a very sophisticated, classic Italian place and to renew ourselves,” Granduca owner Giorgio Borlenghi says. “That is why we called it Alba, not just because that’s a city in Italy (renowned for its white truffles), but because alba in Italian means dawn so it’s a new dawn for us.

“We wanted to at the same time be a bit more contemporary.”

That new dawn begins with a new entry directly into the restaurant across from the Granduca’s porte cochère, while the original entry from the hotel remains. The refresh of the Uptown Park boîte was delivered by talented interior designer Kara Childress, she and husband Ray Childress decades-long friends of the Borlenghis.

River Oaks District

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“The design started with this incredible 18th century ceiling from a villa in Naples, Italy,” Childress points out.

Carpeting was replaced with vintage wood flooring reclaimed from a stable in Italy. Focal point of the intimate dining room is a black and white painting by Carolyn Mara, noted Miami artist who happens to be the Borlenghis daughter. Remaining decorative artworks are Slim Aarons photos from the La Dolce Vita collection confirming the luxe living that Ristorante Alba exudes. Seating has been reupholstered in mossy green, lighting adjusted and all new tableware brought in to reflect a more contemporary note. Various European antiques are appointed throughout including a 19th century hand painted landscape wall panel.

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The champagne bar in Ristorante Alba in Uptown Park’s Hotel Granduca.

The champagne bar is a jewel of a cozy space. On this evening, guests gathered there pre-dinner and sipped Giorgio’s Negroni, Borlenghi’s take on the traditional Negroni cocktail, this one made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, Campari and Martini and Rossi red vermouth and sampled the Alba Kiss, a champagne cocktail served in a coupe of vanilla bean-infused Barolo grappa and bubbles.

The CO2 glass chiller adds drama and excitement to the champagne service, this new option expected to appeal as much to thirtysomethings as to an older clientele. The caviar on the bar menu adds to the allure.

Elevated Hotel Dining

“(Chef) Maurizio (Ferrarese) is so excited you can’t believe it,” Giorgio Borlenghi says. “I needed to give him something else to aim for. With this restaurant he has a new menu and he is going the extra step. What we want to do is to create an authentic Northern Italian elegant and high cuisine environment.”

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Ristorante Alba’s Albese beef tartare, Hotel Granduca

Diners can expect plenty of truffles, black truffles as on this evening and white truffle delicacies when the season begins in mere weeks. The new menu includes chilean sea bass and Ferrarese’s special acquerello risotto with barolo and truffle, Ferrarese’s inventive take on scallops, his ravioli and more.

“We are doing what we do the best,” Ferrarese says. “It’s very upscale. It’s dining with great quality ingredients, most of them flown in from Italy . . . . For impeccable service, we have spent months training employees.”

Ristorante Alba is open 5:30 to 10 pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays. The popular tea service continues at the restaurant from 1 to 5 pm.

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