Company Behind The Union Kitchen Readies New Italian Restaurant in Cypress
Gr8 Plate Hospitality, the company behind the Houston area’s six The Union Kitchen locations and three Jax Grill locations, is debuting its first Italian restaurant. Called Passerella, it’s located at 9945 Barker Cypress in Cypress’s Boardwalk Towne Lake center — which is also the site of one of The Union Kitchen restaurants. Passerella opens on May 17. (The name means “footbridge” or “catwalk,” alluding to the lakeside location.)
“We are very excited to see this project come to fruition,” said Paul Miller, who co-owns Gr8 Plate along with his wife, Doris. “For us, it’s about bringing together the freshest ingredients we can find to create a menu that is distinctly different than anything we have done in the past. Our hope is to deliver an elevated dining experience that complements the beautiful views found at Boardwalk Towne Lake.”
Chef Ed Roberts and his wife Stephanie are helming the kitchen. The duo will be offering appetizers such as a charcuterie board, conveniently in either a half- or full-size, laden with artisan cheeses, cured meats, olives, mixed nuts, pickled vegetables and housemade bread. Other antipasto include fritto misto (Italian for “mixed fried”) with calamari, shrimp, fried lemon wheels, white anchovies, arugula and preserved lemon herb vinaigrette; ricotta montata, soft, whipped ricotta accented with fresh mint, parsley, honey and extra virgin olive oil that served with polenta; and arancini (fried risotto balls with mozzarella). There are also soups, such as Zuppa di aragosta, Maine lobster in a creamy broth, accented with Calabrian pesto. The starters are rounded out with salads like insalata di rucola, baby arugula with buffalo mozzarella, apple, crispy prosciutto and red wine vinaigrette.
Of course, there are entrées. Several feature seafood, such as the pan-seared Branzino alla Calabrese with spinach risotto, Calabrian pesto cream sauce and blistered grape tomatoes. There are also substantial meat dishes, like agnello in crosta di erbe, which translates to “lamb in herbal crust.” Side-dishes include three-cheese polenta and crispy Brussels sprouts with finely grated Parmesan.
While the common Italian practice is to not mix seafood and cheese, frutti di mare alfredo dares to break with standards by mixing sautéed Gulf shrimp, jumbo lump crab and forest mushrooms with fettuccine tossed in housemade Alfredo sauce. Another pasta dish is the bucatini e polpette, tomato-braised meatballs and bucatini served with a classic meat sauce and a scattering of grated Grana Padano.
Outfitted with plush chairs and booths, Passarella is designed for lingering, which means guests can enjoy an after-dinner amaro either in the dining room, on the patio with a view of Towne Lake or at the bar outfitted with “Ferrari yellow” barstools (to match the Ferrari sign on the wall, of course).
Beverage manager Dylan Hart, whose past experience includes Brix Wine Cellars and Salt Grass Steakhouse, developed a “whimsical” cocktails that take inspiration from Dante’s Inferno. Paradiso is a white-rum based cocktail sweetened with passion fruit liqueur, orgeat, Velvet Falernum and Luxardo cherry syrup, and braced with tartness from lemon juice. Dark spirit aficionados might aim for the Virgil with rye whiskey, Averna and both Angostura and orange bitters. Those who are into gin might consider Purgatorio, the juniper-infused spirit mixed with Aperol, rosemary simple syrup, grapefruit juice, lemon juice and a dash of Peychaud’s bitters.
Miller and lead sommelier Matt Stevenson (formerly of The Tasting Room) built a 55-bottle wine list anchored by Italian selections — such as Nebbiolo, Chianti and Sangiovese — and crowd-pleasers form California. Those who want to kick back with a beer will find choices from at home and abroad. A round of drinks could easily be accompanied by one of the pizzas, such as the pizza ai funghi topped with a creamy béchamel sauce, mozzarella, forest mushrooms, mixed herbs and white truffle salt.
Passerella’s hours are Monday and Wednesday through Thursday from 3 to 10 p.m., Friday through Saturday from 3 to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 3 to 9 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays. For reservations or more information, call (281) 213-2354. (The website isn’t quite done yet, but it should be live by May 17.)
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.