First Bite: Berg Hospitality’s New Houston Restaurant Brings Rustic Italian To The Heights
Trattoria Sofia, the newest concept from Berg Hospitality Group, opened November 26 at 911 West 11th in the Heights. The rustic-yet-classic Italian eatery (in the former home of Presidio which closed after a fire) is the eighth restaurant currently operated by the group founded by CEO Benjamin Berg. Founded in 2018, the company’s portfolio includes B&B Butchers Houston, B&B Butchers Fort Worth, B.B. Lemon, B.B. Italia Kitchen and Bar, The Annie Cafe and Bar, NoPo Cafe and Market and Turner’s — and there are more on the way.
Just days after the grand opening, Houston Food Finder was invited to send a writer to try some dishes. My guest and I opted for early dinner, and we received over-the-top hospitality from the restaurant’s staff. Three options are available for seating: the upscale bar, main dining area with booths and tables, and a romantic outdoor patio that is designed to keep guests comfortable despite Houston’s famously intemperate weather.
Upon entering, diners are greeted by a warm and inviting space reminiscent of an Italian villa, complete with exposed bricks and cozy seating. They will also find a bar that boasts high-end libations developed by bartender Alba Huerta, owner of Julep, and an evolving wine list that focuses on strong Italian reds.
We were seated in a beautiful, dark green, oversized booth that was a comfortable and functional place to peruse the menu. The dishes are an impressive collection of authentic Italian fare by chef LJ Wiley, formerly of the well-regarded Yelapa Playa Mexicana. (Wiley has most recently spent a few years living and working in Peru.) Many dishes are accompanied by housemade ciabatta and sesame semolina loaves developed by Michelin-starred chef Magnus Hansson, who was brought onboard to lend his experience to the in-house artisanal bread program.
We began our meal with two bruschetta: Crostini Di Stracciatella made with Sicilian pesto, mint, toasted Sicilian pistachios, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Calabrian chili; and Crostini Gamberi Arrabbiata, made with crispy shrimp, spicy tomato sauce, smokey labneh, dill and fennel pollen. We paired them with the Dark Horse cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, Benedictine and turbinado.
The warm Scarola Arrosto salad was a surprise gift from the kitchen, and while we didn’t order it, we would gladly do so next time. The dish combines fire-roasted leafy escarole, spicy garlic anchovy vinaigrette, Pecorino Fiore Sardo, crispy toasted bread crumbs and parsley oil. The textured char of the escarole paired with the acidic dressing made this dish especially memorable.
Next came the Polpo Arrosto, wood fire-roasted octopus tendrils served with crispy potatoes, basil pesto, salsa verde, basil, parsley and lemon. This hearty dish was lovely, and the pesto and salsa balanced out the meaty octopus.
The pastas are delicious, too. We sampled Cacio e Pepe, a classic Italian dish that is simple yet rich thanks to generous amounts of Pecorino Romano and flakes of black pepper, and the Bucatini Alla Pesto Siciliano, which combines thick bucatini pasta, Sicilian pesto, whipped ricotta, pecorino, toasted pistachios, mint, basil, lemon zest and pepperoncini.
Last, but not least, came the pizza. In a place like this, where the dough is made fresh daily, it would be criminal not to try it even when you’re already bursting at the seams. The Margherita wood-fired pie features fresh Italian tomatoes, basil, mozzarella di bufala, fior di latte, peperoncini Calabrese and Parmigiano Reggiano. Vegetable fans will want to order the Verde made with spinach, kale, dill, basil, Fontina, caciocavallo, fior di latte, lemon zest, smoked chili and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It was heavenly.
Trattoria Sofia should impress Houston diners with its rustic, yet sophisticated Italian cuisine. Hours of operation are Sunday through Tuesday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. For reservations, call (713) 804-0429 or visit the website.