Restaurants / Openings

New Italian Seafood Restaurant in Montrose Keeps It Sophisticated and Light — Your First Taste Look at Pastore

Underbelly's Latest Goes Away From the Red Sauce Obsession For Something Different

BY // 07.12.23

If a seaside Mediterranean getaway along Italy’s Southern coastline — think Sicily, Sardinia, or Amalfi — eluded you this summer, reserve a table at the new Pastore Italian Kitchen. Chef Jeff Potts (Helen Greek Food & Wine, Shun Japanese Kitchen) will take you there vicariously through the light, Italian-inspired coastal cuisine he creates at Underbelly Hospitality’s latest restaurant.

Situated in Regent Square at the intersection of West Dallas and Dunlavy in Montrose, the calming interior of the 2,611-square-foot space is awash in white, blue and gray, care of design firm Montgomery Roth. White-cloth-covered tables are pulled up to velvet powder-blue channeled banquettes beneath an Impressionist-style mural in complementary hues. Sunlight filters through ivory sheers hung along a wall of 12-foot floor-to-ceiling windows. Warm brass lighting crafted in floral forms evoke a sense of whimsy, as do ephemeral golden butterflies that alight by the open kitchen.

Pastore Details Alex Montoya
Get a look inside the new Pastore Italian Kitchen brought to you by Underbelly Hospitality. (Photo by Alex Montoya)

When the Pastore Italian Kitchen was in development (back when founding chef and former owner Chris Shepherd was in the mix; in fact, Pastore is Italian for “shepherd”), there was talk of Italian-American red-sauce dishes. Gigantic portions of lasagna covered in marinara, wood-fired pizzas, and so on. Houston is hardly at a loss for groaning plates of pasta covered in mountains of melting mozzarella however.

So this new Houston restaurant’s pivot to a sophisticated seafood-dominated menu combined with authentic Italian ingredients was a wise idea indeed.

What to Eat at Pastore

Start with an Aperol spritz with the essence of blood orange ($16) or a sweet white peach Bellini ($14), or dabble through the wines by the glass, all of which hail from Italy.

Begin your repast with slices of the cured Gulf snapper, a light, bright dish created with the perfect touch of acidity, care of lemon oil balanced with Castelveltrano olives and fresh fennel ($15). The robustly flavored calamari is far from the typical rubbery rings of fried squid. Here the kitchen hearth roasts the whole, uncut mantle and stuffs it with a smoked sofrito of peppers, garlic, onions and aromatics mixed with farro before it’s napped with a rugged piquillo pepper and hazelnut Romesco sauce ($17).

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Begin your repast at Pastore with slices of the cured Gulf snapper, a light, bright dish created with the perfect touch of acidity, care of lemon oil balanced with Castelveltrano olives and fresh fennel ($15). (Photo by Doc Hoang)
Begin your repast at Pastore with slices of the cured Gulf snapper, a light, bright dish created with the perfect touch of acidity, care of lemon oil balanced with Castelveltrano olives and fresh fennel ($15). (Photo by Doc Hoang)

Handmade pastas include a swordfish amatriciana ($17); kale cavatelli made with a salsa verde, a fricassee of summer vegetables and smoked egg yolk ($14); and fra diavolo with an array of seafood wound around strings of squid ink linguini ($19). I ordered the ravioli en brodo, seven Lilliputian pasta squares filled with spicy chicken sausage, bobbing in a shallow bowl filled with a 24-hour chicken-based broth and topped with fresh oregano leaves ($15).

The flatbreads (as well as focaccia, available upon request) are made from general manager Peter Pearce’s five-year-old sourdough starter, which the staff has lovingly dubbed Miss Puff. It lends a gentle pull to the thin crisp crust, as well as a bit of tang. Toppings include clams ($19), a classic Margherita ($15), and Italian sausage with rapini and eggplant ($17). I adored the version topped with fresh mission figs, dollops of lemon-scented ricotta, thinly sliced lardo and fresh herbs ($17).

Shareable portions — labeled Large on the concise menu — include roasted pork belly with a gigante bean ragot ($43) and crisp chicken Milanese dressed with a prosciutto vinaigrette ($35). My dining companion and I swooned over the beautifully prepared hearth-roasted branzino puttanesca crowned with charred cherry tomatoes, capers and anchovy and a squeeze of lemon ($45).

End your meal with an apple fritter — rings of Honeycrisp apples battered and delicately fried, drizzled with a reduction of vanilla-scented apple purée, and served with a pourable carafe of Taleggio fondue ($12). Care for dark chocolate? The rich chocolate tart combines a decadent chocolate ganache sprinkled with Maldon salt over a layer of gianduja atop a pate sucrée crust ($13).

Pastore Italian Kitchen is located at 1180 Dunlavy Street. Pastore is open Mondays through Thursdays from 5 pm to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 5 pm to 11 pm and Sundays from 5 pm to 9 pm.

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