Elegant Montrose Italian Restaurant Shutters After Less Than a Year

Exterior signage of Pastore

There was a lot of momentum for Underbelly Hospitality last year. Despite chef and founder Chris Shepherd’s departure, the group moved forward with closing GJ Tavern, relocating Wild Oats, replacing it with Mexico City-style taqueria Comalito and opening a second Underbelly Burger, all while continuing to operate Georgia James Steakhouse.   The group also opened Pastore across from Georgia James in the Regent Square development at 1180 Dunlavy. Unfortunately, Pastore never seemed to catch on, so after less than a year, it will have its last day of service on Saturday, March 23.  

A variety of dishes at Pastore
A variety of dishes at Underbelly Hospitality’s Pastore. Photo by Duc Hoang.

Pastore was initially announced while Shepherd was still part of Underbelly Hospitality,  and described as an “American-Italian red sauce” restaurant based on one of now-closed One Fifth’s iterative menus. Instead, the company decided to go forward with a seafood-forward, coastal Italian menu, which executive chef Jeff Potts and Underbelly Hospitality culinary director Scott Muns developed.

Lightly Cured Gulf Snapper with fennel, Castelveltrano olive and lemon oil at Pastore
Lightly Cured Gulf Snapper with fennel, Castelveltrano olive and lemon oil at Pastore. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

Pastore opened in June of 2023 and was met with glowing reviews for its tightly focused menu of shareable small plates of fresh seafood like the Lightly Cured Gulf Snapper, and handmade pastas such as the fra diavolo, squid ink linguini in a spicy tomato sauce with an assortment of seafood., Houston Food Finder named it one of the Best New Restaurants of 2023 due to the quality and creativity of Potts’ creative take on Italian Fare.

Editor and publisher Phaedra Cook called Pastore “underrated” (“underappreciated” may have been more accurate), and that seems to be the case as it never gained the customer base needed to sustain its operating costs.

Regarding the closing, Nina Quincy, President of Underbelly Hospitality, stated, “Despite receiving several recognitions, including nominations for Best New Restaurant, the concept did not sustain the momentum necessary to operate at its caliber. We are incredibly grateful for all our staff’s hard work and dedication and are relocating them within the company.”

The four sister concepts, Georgia James, Wild Oats, Underbelly Burger, and Comalito, remain open, and Underbelly Hospitality will maintain Pastore’s lease. Georgia James Steakhouse will use the space for events as the group explores its options.

Despite the news, Quincy and team remain confident in the future. “Closing a restaurant is never easy. We exhausted several options, and ultimately this was the path we had to take. Despite this closure, we are confident in our company and want to focus our efforts on what we do best – delivering an elevated dining experience with high-quality food and exceptional service. We sincerely appreciate the support of the community and look forward to seeing patrons – existing and new – in our dining rooms at Georgia James, Wild Oats, Comalito and Underbelly Burger.”

The Crispy Anchovies & Sage with brown butter aioli at Pastore.
The Crispy Anchovies & Sage with brown butter aioli at Pastore. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

Undoubtedly, Underbelly Hospitality will continue evolving through 2024, and we will keep readers updated. In the meantime, stop by this weekend for one last Olio-Tini and an order of Crispy Anchovies and Sage.  They are open today for dinner from 5 to 11 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch and lunch service and for dinner from 5 to 11 p.m.

Comments (3)

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  • March 22, 2024 at 5:37 pmMr. Bill

    Too many “high end” Italian Restaurants have opened in the past couple of years, not surprising with this failure, I expect to see more to come once the “newness” wears off. Even with inflation as it is most folks are not accustom to these prices for pastas and other Italian entrees.

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  • March 22, 2024 at 12:08 pmEllen C. Ratliff

    It is obvious from this not well researched article that Underbelly was the sole source of the information. Had the writer bothered to even reach out to Chef Jeff Potts or Scott Muns to get their opinion, the article might be a little less bias. There was not one segment of Pestore from inception to closing that was not run by the full Underbelly management. The restaurant failed, as do many restaurants in their first year. There was total mismanagement on the part of Underbelly that caused this and several other restaurants to fail. I would suggest you look at upper management and ask…why have so many of Underbelly’s endeavors failed?

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    • March 22, 2024 at 2:44 pmPhaedra Cook

      Ellen, I was messaging with Jeff Potts two hours ago, and other than one article clarification that he requested, he had nothing but kind words. He was a pleasure to chat with, a talented chef and I hope his next role allows him to continue showcasing his skills.

      You say many restaurants fail in their first year, which is absolutely true, but then you insinuate that it’s due to Underbelly Hospitality management. If you have specific, verifiable information to share, please do. I can be reached at [email protected].

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