Restaurants / Openings

New Houston Italian Restaurant Brings Fresh Pasta, Creative Cocktails & Decadent Desserts to Uptown Park — A Closer Look at Lombardi Cucina Italiana

A Posh New Scene Worthy Place

BY // 01.07.24

Dallas-based restauranteur Alberto Lombardi has brought his eponymous Italian restaurant to Uptown Park. The posh second incarnation of Lombardi Cucina Italiana (the first can be found at The Star in Frisco in the Dallas Cowboys world headquarters complex) has taken up residence in the former stead of The Tasting Room. If Lombardi’s name rings a bell, it’s likely because he made his mark in this competitive business, working more than 40 years in the restaurant industry and along the way bringing Houston diners the French-inspired, Toulouse restaurant situated in the high-rent River Oaks District, as well as 10 other distinctly different restaurant concepts in Austin, Atlanta, Mexico and his home base of Dallas.

In Houston, the new elegant interiors of Lombardi Cucina are bathed in shades of ivory with cozy demi-lune style sofas pulled up to white cloth-covered tables illuminated by Venetian glass chandeliers. Hand-plastered, bone-colored plaster walls envelop the dining room with a pair of mighty old-growth olive trees taking root center stage, evoking an indoor garden vibe. On a pretty spring day, diners and day drinkers alike can find a seat on Lombardi Cucina Italiana’s expansive patio and sip on an Italian G + T ($14, made with orange marmalade, lime and smoked rosemary) or perhaps a Barolo by the glass.

Pink Dragon at Lombardi Cucina
The dragon fruit and tequila-soaked cocktail, Pink Dragon ($19), at the new Lombardi Cucina in Uptown Park. (Photo by Courtesy of Lombardi Cucina Italiana)

Its namesake is a native of Northern Italy and Lombardi Cucina’s menu features an array of traditional Italian favorites inspired by regions North, South and places in between. However, we especially enjoyed the inventive tangents Italian-born chef Stefano Ferrero takes at this new Houston Italian restaurant. For example, instead of finding the much-played Caesar salad on its dinner menu, you’ll find a playful take on a cacio e pepe salad ($16) made with spears of baby gem lettuce and tossed with a pecorino and black pepper dressing inspired by the famed pasta dish.

Appetizers meant to be shared among the table include the perfectly fried artichokes and zucchini chips ($18) accompanied by a chilly whipped ricotta and mascarpone dip. Next time, I’ll try their Wagyu meatballs ($24) slow-cooked in tomato sauce with grilled sourdough bread, a sort of deconstructed meatball sandwich. The prosciutto and burrata, with the 24-month aged prosciutto di parma sliced on the gleaming red slicer poised in the dining room served tableside with roasted red peppers, is quite the presentation. I adored Lombardi’s shellfish take on carpaccio (Carpaccio di Scampi $29), made with paper-thin slices of Argentinian red shrimp dressed with a light citrus vinaigrette.

Risotto Limone Capesante (Photo by Courtesy of Lombardi Cucina Italiana)
Risotto Limone Capesante ($40) with seared sea scallops, carnaroli rice, prosecco butter sauce and lemon zest can be found at Lombardi Cucina Italiana.

Lombardi’s boasts that all its pasta is handmade in-house (and for those gluten-free diners, there are options there too). Who doesn’t love a tableside show? Or, for that matter, the buttery, delicate flavor of Italian grana Padano cheese? Not to mention fresh black truffles shaved atop? Yes, please. Request tagliolini and tartufo pasta ($48), and in front of your very eyes, a waiter will toss those thin strands of noodles around and around and around in said cheese wheel then crown it all with shavings of fragrant fresh black truffle.

Additional pasta options range from a rustic cut fazzoletti with basil pesto and burrata cheese ($28) to risotto al limone ($40) with seared sea scallops napped in a prosecco butter sauce.

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Entrees include cioppino Mediteranno ($48), the classic fisherman’s stew made with a tomato base doused with Calabrian chiles to bring up the heat and in its broth bobbing bits of white fish, shrimp, clams, scallops and blue mussels, topped with spears of sourdough bread to soak up the spicy sauce. The lamb scottadito ($68) made with marinated Colorado-bred lamb was seared to a perfect medium rare (I beg of you not to order it any more done than that) with stalks of broccolini and a potato au gratin.

The sweet finale includes a pistachio tiramisu ($14) — not a dusting of cocoa powder in sight — and Lombardi Cucina Italiana’s clever take on an edible old-fashioned cocktail. That deconstructed dessert features a creamy milk chocolate budino (essentially Italian chocolate pudding) topped with cubes of whiskey jelly, an edible “cigar” filled with caramel cream and its ash. A delicious chocolate cookie crumble ($15) also tempts. It’s completely worth the splurge.

Lombardi Cucina Italiana is located at 1101 Uptown Park Boulevard, Suite 18. It is open from 11 am to 10 pm Mondays through Thursdays, 11 am to 11 pm Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 am to 9 pm Sundays.

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