First Bite: B.B. Italia Bistro & Bar Brings Classic Italian with a Twist to Sugar Land

Front Entrance of BB Italia

Recently, on a Facebook foodie group, a fellow member bemoaned moving to Sugar Land, leaving behind all their favorite inside-the-Loop restaurants for the land of chains. As a Sugar Land resident myself, I agree that the choices can be limited. I have managed to find favorite spots and little gems, however, residents are hungry for more options — options that don’t include a drive through and options for a date night or a fun night out with friends. As the city continues to grow and thrive, we are slowly getting those, especially at Sugar Land Town Square, which is still the social axis of the city.

Berg Hospitality (which operates B&B Butchers & Restaurant, B.B. Lemon, The Annie Café & Bar, Turner’s and Trattoria Sofia) is fulfilling some of those dining desires by opening B.B. Italia Bistro & Bar at 16250 City Walk, in a large corner spot that was home to a Charming Charlie. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the restaurant originally opened in 2019 in the Energy Corridor, taking over Carmelo’s Cucina Italian. That location closed in 2021, at least in part due to the pandemic, and is now Maize.

That might have been a loss for the Energy Corridor, but it’s good news for Sugar Land. B.B. Italia is a welcome addition to the square — particularly in that space, which had been vacant for quite some time. The bold, red exterior is now marked with a mantra we should all live by: “Life Is Short Eat Pizza & Pasta.” It should draw the attention of potential diners.

The interior is that of a classic Italian bistro with modern touches. Old-school, red-checkered floors are juxtaposed with sleek, dark, steel-lined windows, while framed vintage posters, black-and-white photos and antique mirrors play off of contemporary brass fixtures and lighting. The dining room is anchored by an open kitchen on one end and a stone-deck pizza oven and gelato bar on the other. The horseshoe-shaped cocktail bar at the front will feature live music and will surely be a popular gathering spot for before- and after-dinner drinks.

Executive chef Marcelo Mintz, a Le Cordon Bleu alum and 20-year veteran of the restaurant business, heads the kitchen, which whips out a menu of over 60 dishes. With so much to choose from, it was a little overwhelming.

The Bacon Parmigiana at B.B. Italia. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam.

For starters, there are many classic Italian dishes, like calamari and arancini, but there are also novel items, such as bacon parmigiana; thick-cut bacon smothered in pomodoro and mozzarella. There are also several shareable options, including a hot antipasto tower and salumi and formaggi boards. There are also housemade soups, including lobster bisque and classic minestrone, and salads, including caprese and a chopped salad. Pastas and pizza dough are made in-house daily. The entr​​ées include seafood, beef, chicken, lamb and veal.

We were invited to visit and sample some of the dishes from the expansive menu. The focaccia service is a must. The flat bread comes directly from the oven and is accompanied by whipped ricotta, stracciatella di mozzarella, avocado cream and spicy aglio e olio. The whipped ricotta was the hands-down favorite. The texture was smooth and creamy, with the perfect balance of sweet and savory. It melted ever so slightly once spread over the airy interior of the focaccia. Once you pop a bite in your mouth, you taste rosemary and the olive oil that’s brushed over the crispy exterior.

Clams Casino at B.B. Italia Bistro & Bar
Clams Casino at B.B. Italia Bistro & Bar in Sugar Land. Photo by Minh Truong.

You’ll often see oysters Rockefeller or different versions of baked oysters on menus but clams less so. At B. B. Italia, there are two options: clams casino, baked on the half shell and topped with bacon, red bell peppers and bread crumbs and clams oreganato, accented with garlic, oregano, bread crumbs, lemon and Parmesan.

Grandma's Ravioli at B.B. Italia
Grandma’s Ravioli at B.B. Italia Bistro & Bar in Sugar Land. Photo by Minh Truong.

It was not easy to decide on an entrée, but it was hard to pass up Grandma’s Ravioli, stuffed with pork and short rib and presented in mushroom-marsala ragu. This was a dish that was on the menu at the previous location, and they were right to keep it. I was told it was named “Grandma’s” because it was a family recipe, and it was indeed true Italian comfort food — something you’d want a bowl of on a cold night. The sauce was rich and earthy from the mushrooms and the filling was tender and moist.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo at B.B. Italia
Shrimp Fra Diavolo at B.B. Italia & Bistro in Sugar Land. Photo by Minh Truong.

I also tried the shrimp fra diavolo— fra diavolo translates to “brother devil” in Italian and refers to the dish’s heat. The jumbo-sized shrimp was covered in the garlicky, spicy San Marzano tomato sauce, seasoned liberally with red pepper flakes and oregano, and served over a bed of silky risotto. Both dishes were great, but with the large selection, it was easy to have order envy as I looked around the dining room. For my next visit, the braised lamb shank is on my radar.

In such a family-friendly area, it’s important to have an accessible kid’s menu, and kids should happily devour everything on the “Bambinos” section. It includes pizza and fresh pastas — with red, white, or even pink sauce —  meatballs and chicken strips.

The dessert menu features all the Italian classics, such as cannoli and tiramisu, but the gelato bar beckoned when I spied pistachio. The texture was pleasingly thick and custard-like, while the pistachios came through with pronounced nutty flavor.

The gelato bar at B.B. Italia Bistro & Bar in Sugar land. Photo by Minh Truong.

It was a quick weeknight visit, so next time I want to explore the wine list, curated by Berg Hospitality’s Vice President of Beverage Operations Stuart Roy. It features Italian and Californian wines ranging from $40 to $550. The cocktails are sure to be a hit, as the drink list was created by recent James Beard Award winner Alba Huerta of Julep.

Sugar Land continues to grow thanks to an influx of new businesses and younger professionals and families. Hopefully, B.B. Italia is leading the way for more cultivated dining in the area, and this resident couldn’t be happier.

B.B. Italia is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Future plans include offering brunch and happy hour.

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