Restaurants / Openings

New Italian Restaurant Brings the Tastes of Rome to Houston — Numero28 Arrives With Major Pasta and Patio Power

Boosting the Highland Village Food Scene

BY // 10.11.22
photography Becca Wright

For years the Italian-born restauranteur Bernardo Nolfo traveled the globe opening sleek outlets of the glamorous Milan-based restaurant Bice for its owners, the Ruggeri family. He often traversing to far-flung locales in Europe to Asia and spent time in Houston for what turned into Bice’s short-lived stay in The Galleria shopping center.

But when it came time for Nolfo to do his own thing, he knew he wanted to relocate somewhere in the sunbelt where the climate was a temperate one and the people were as friendly as those he grew up with in his native Sicily. Lucky for us, Nolfo chose Texas.

Along with partner Leo Gravina, Nolfo opened Numero28 in Austin (2014) followed by North Dallas (late 2020). Their newest Numero28  restaurant has opened in Houston’s Highland Village. (Each was made possible by the endorsement of Nolfo’s partner and longtime friend Rolando Biamonte and his family, the founders of Numero28 in New York with four restaurants across the Big Apple.)

Numero28 was originally named for the address of Biamonte’s first restaurant. At this new Houston version, you can take a seat inside or out on the charming patio encircled with a framework of trellises at lunch or dinner. You’ll feast on house-made Southern Italian favorites, the sort Nolfo’s nonna made for him growing up in Sicily.

The Numero28 Menu

Start with the caponata ($11), a cousin to France’s ratatouille made with a mix of stewed eggplant, celery, tomatoes and onions, seasoned with capers and olives and served with grilled crostini slices. Or perhaps try the arancina ($13), either the saffron spiced risotto balls stuffed with peas and a Bolognese sauce or the vegetarian version made with tomato-tinged risotto stuffed with melted mozzarella, eggplant and basil. Both are served with the house-made tomato sauce.

Cacio de pepe is a signature dish at the new Numero28 which is finished table side in a pecorino cheese. (Photo by Becca Wright)
Cacio de pepe is a signature dish at the new Numero28 which is finished table side in a pecorino cheese. (Photo by Becca Wright)

The light 12-inch pizzas, thinly crusted and made-to-order, include options like a classic margherita ($16, add $3 for Buffalo mozzarella or $2 for a gluten-free crust) and the Bianca del Diavolo topped with pepperoni, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. This Italian restaurant’s signature pie is stellar. The Numero28 pie is made without tomato sauce, and layered with button mushrooms and mozzarella. It’s finished with slices of speck (smoked prosciutto) and drizzled with a fragrant truffle cream ($21).

Outdoor Dining with Bering's

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By the way, Numero28’s array of panini selections — served at lunch only — are made with the very same dough as the pizzas, and share the plate with a side of tossed greens.

Pasta noodles made in-house include gnocchi al pesto ($20) tossed with homemade basil pesto and sundried tomatoes, and the bucatini all’amatriciana ($21) — hollow spaghetti noodles served with a spicy traditional red sauce flavored with the fat of porchetta (cured pork belly) and pecorino cheese. Cacio e pepe($22) is undoubtedly Numero28’s signature pasta. The ground black pepper-laced spaghetti alla chitarra (named because the noodles resemble guitar strings) is finished tableside inside a pecorino cheese wheel. Made much as you’d find in some of those small, older restaurants in Rome, if you’ve never lost your taste for kid-friendly mac n’cheese, here’s your chance to elevate the ordinary.

Next visit, I’m looking forward to trying Numero28’s lasagna Bolognese made the way it is done in the old country with sheets of pasta layered and baked with that slow-cooked meat sauce, creamy bechamel, and parmesan cheese. In addition, the extensive menu includes chicken parm ($24) and porchetta ($23), roasted pork belly wrapped around a cut of pork loin, then stuffed with fresh herbs.

Numero28 Bar (Photo by Becca Wright)
The snug little Italian boîte called Numero28 offers seating at the bar lunch and dinner not to mention a full bar. (Photo by Becca Wright)

Don’t leave without a bite of the freshly made tiramisu ($11). Presented tableside, the individual portion of tiramisu is built in a clear cylinder to keep the stacked layers of custard and espresso-soaked ladyfingers upright. It’s finished with a dramatic pour of mascarpone thinned with lightly whipped cream and then generously sprinkled with deep dark cocoa powder. Made fresh before each service, I cannot tell you when I have had a better version.

Finally, to touch upon the drink menu, you’ll find a list of Italian wines (shocking, I know) that pull from the North, the South and regions in between. And before the trendy Aperol spirit crossed the Atlantic to our shores, the Aperol spritz was the drink Italians imbibed at outdoor cafes from Milan to Florence. Served here, it shares the cocktail list with drinks like the basil martini mixed with vodka, fresh lime juice and muddled basil leaves. While the Margarita No. 28 is shaken with tequila, Aperol, Cointreau and lime juice before it’s topped with a splash of club soda.

Numero28 is open for lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Sundays. It’s closed Mondays.

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