Under The Radar: Amore Italian Restaurant in Houston is Buzz-Worthy, Despite Little Publicity
Driving down South Shepherd, you might notice an upscale restaurant where the outdoor entrance is dressed up with floral planters and the interior is decked out in white linens. Amore Italian Restaurant at 3310 South Shepherd (in the former Maine-ly Sandwiches space) got our attention, and it should get yours, too.
Once inside, you might feel the need to stand up straight and brush up on your table manners. However, ‘stuffy and uptight” is not the atmosphere the owners, Alfredo and Christina Mojica, want their diners to experience. This couple recently opened the romantic neighborhood Italian eatery, but it’s sailed under the radar, in part due to both no social media presence and few articles written about it. “The word of mouth will travel for the right kind of diner,” said Christina.
Amore has a family-friendly atmosphere and no dress code (other than the basics, of course; please wear clothing and shoes). It should appeal to diners who want delicious fresh-made pasta, creative crudos, gourmet pizzas and pristinely plated Italian dishes for lunch or dinner (even if that means showing up in your sweats and sneakers). The white linens attribute to the aesthetic of the eatery, but the owners did not want the look of the restaurant to create an unapproachable environment.
“I wanted to serve food that I often cook at home,” said Alfredo, who spent the past 25 years in Italian restaurants across Houston, learning the tricks of the trade from Tony Vallone at Grotto and, most recently, Marco Wiles at Da Marco.
On a casual Thursday, the city was in the middle of a downpour and the restaurant was nearly empty except for my party of one. I started off with a simple dish: an order of tender lamb meatballs with a touch of sweetness from drizzled truffle honey and crunch from shaved almonds and crisp endives.
I knew the pizzas were created with housemade dough, so I had to try one. These are baked in a show-stopping, golden-tiled, wood-fired oven adjacent to the bar. There are 13 different pizzas showcasing vegetables, herbs and fresh meats. The prosciutto pizza caught my eye, and it turned out to be a meat lover’s dream. It comes piled high with delicious dry-cured ham, mozzarella fior di latte and lightly decorated with basil and arugula.
As is nearly requisite at Italian restaurants these days, Amore serves branzino, or European sea bass. It is prepared with lemon, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, spinach and potatoes, and guests can order it roasted, grilled aquapazza (poached in an herb broth before grilling) or fried. I opted for the roasted version, and it was delightful. The skin of the fish was brown and crisp with a hint of citrus, and all the meat was very tender.
There are seven entrées dedicated to Alfredo’s love of the prized black truffle. The Tagliolini topped with shaved black truffle and Parmesan Reggiano cheese was one of my favorites of the evening. Next time, I might try the truffle-spiked egg souffle with jamon Iberico, the sea scallops with quail eggs or the Adriatic sea bass with lobster and leeks.
For dessert, I chose a sinfully sweet chocolate sponge cake served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, topped with fresh fruit and drizzled with caramel. It was a perfect ending to a fully satisfying meal.
To drink, there is a respectable beer and wine menu, but spirits are not served at this time.
All in all, dining at Amore is a comfortable, delicious experience and well worth a return visit. Amore Italian Restaurant is open Tuesday 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 10 p.m. Call (713) 485-0033 to make reservations.