Restaurateur Bill Floyd is all smiles as his Porta'Vino reopens after being shuttered by the coronavirus mandate. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
If Porta'Vino reminds you of Reef, that was no accident, says Bill Floyd a partner in that now closed seafood restaurant. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Porta'Vino has two private dining rooms each with a 70-inch screen TV for meetings and viewing sporting events. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The wine cooler at Porta'Vino is framed in panels from wine boxes. Prices by the bottle only are said to be less than retail across the city. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The Craig and Mary Jo Beyer cork collection adorns a wall in one of the two private dining rooms. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Bill Floyd overlooks the vast patio that backs up to the railroad track, an added dimension to the restaurant ambience. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
On this afternoon, seasoned professional Bill Floyd is all smiles as he welcomes early visitors to his latest entry into the world of restaurants, Porta’Vino. He had initially opened his casual bring-your-own-wine Italian restaurant on March 8 and already had crowds waiting an hour for a table when COVID-19 shut him down only eight days later.
Those who know him well know that Floyd typically is all smiles; his jovial, upbeat presence, combined with his skills in the hospitality business, has propelled him along a mighty path for decades. He’s had a hand in running 32 restaurants during his career in Houston. Today, he partners with Jim Crane in the Astros owner’s two downtown restaurants, the posh Potente and the casual trattoria Osso & Kristalla, and Monarch Hospitality.
But this baby, anchoring a remodeled warehouse at 7800 Washington, is all his own in partnership with well-known investor/developer Larry Levine. So, where exactly is it and what is the exceptional draw?
Porta’Vino (Italian for “bring your own wine”) sits just north of Interstate 10, where Washington splits off into Old Katy Road and Hempstead Highway. It’s on the right as you head north, a neighbor to the Ladco Design Center. This might seem like another universe, but it’s just a quick hop from Memorial Park.
The space, designed by Floyd, has an industrial-chic ambiance reminiscent of Reef with the polished cement floors and metal furnishings. That was somewhat on purpose, Floyd says. He and Bryan Caswell were one-time partners in the Midtown seafood restaurant as well as El Real Tex-Mex mecca.
It’s interesting to note that with limited social media and little press, Porta’Vino still gained huge popularity in its first few days. Floyd says the BYOB aspect ($12 corkage fee) is key, as few BYOB restaurants remain in Houston.
“We patterned it after La Vista, which was open for 20 years and was a favorite of mine,” he says. “So it’s no secret that that was the genesis of the restaurant. As a matter of fact, Greg Gordon, who was the owner of La Vista, is my chef here.”
And, what is the draw? “We have incredibly cheap wine prices. They are below what you will pay retail anywhere in the city, not restaurant but retail,” Floyd tells PaperCity. “And the food is fabulous. Greg has done a great job. We have a phenomenal location with unlimited parking. No valet, and it’s easy to get to.”
Porta’Vino has a long, wide gallery for outdoor dining and is angled to catch the evening breeze. In addition, a tin-sided barn at the back of the property is set to open as a bar where diners can have specialty cocktails and bites from the restaurant.
Reservations are recommended until restaurant seating returns to a more normal configuration.