North Italia Debuts Restaurant in The Woodlands Featuring Chef’s Perspective
The second Houston-area location of North Italia opens October 5 at The Woodlands Mall, located at 1201 Lake Woodlands. The Woodlands’ kitchen of this Italian chain, which debuted its first Houston location at BLVD Place in 2014, is helmed by executive chef Shawney Severns, who has creative license to include her personal take on the menu. This is in line with the company’s intent to develop chef-driven restaurants. This thoughtful approach means that menus vary slightly from location to location.
Severns grew up in a military family, and as a result, moved around to various countries, including England, Germany and Italy. She relocated to the United States to attend high school, and started working in restaurants as a dishwasher. She moved into cooking positions, attended culinary school and worked in restaurants in Jacksonville, New York and Nashville before moving to Texas, where she worked as executive chef at North Italia in San Antonio. Brynn Ward is the general manager for The Woodlands’ location, and was initially a bartender in Tampa before moving into management and joining North Italia in 2019.
Houston Food Finder was present for a preview of North Italia in The Woodlands and sampled a few of the dishes. Guests can choose from a variety of starters including crispy calamari, Italian meatballs or a Chef’s Board with Prosciutto di Parma, spicy coppa, roasted peppers and cheese. There is also a selection of pizzas, including a traditional Margherita, vegetarian funghi and a daily chef’s special.
The Italian eatery touts a variety of daily, scratch-made pasta dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs and squid ink tonnarelli, with sautéed shrimp, calamari and a spicy Calabrian chili sauce. Tonnarelli is similar to spaghetti, but much thicker, adding a more substantial bite. (This is an example of how the dishes differ between the Houston-area locations, as North Italian in the Galleria uses mafaldine, a wavy, ribbon-shaped pasta.) Meatier entrées include Tuscan half chicken, braised short rib and roasted salmon. Additionally, North Italia offers several handmade desserts, such as tiramisu, Italian butter cake and salted-caramel budino.
In contrast to many chains, North Italia puts sincere effort into the craft cocktail program. For the Sfumato, the bar does not play it safe, using mezcal, Strega and an Italian aperitivo blend, resulting in a cocktail that tastes like smoked grapefruit in a glass. Other drinks on the menu include the New Italian Spritz and Fig Manhattan, the latter of which is a Woodlands’ exclusive. The wine list is diverse and showcases Italian wines, but there are hearty nods to other regions as well. The beer selection is primarily focused on local options and currently features Saint Arnold, Karbach, Live Oak and No Label.
For a soft opening, North Italia in The Woodlands felt like a well-oiled machine. The staff and hostesses were friendly and organized. Our server was personable, had a detailed understanding of the menu and shared feedback from other customers to help us make our selections.
Most importantly, the food made it easy to forget you were at a national chain. The dishes were well-made and bold. In particular, the squid ink tonnarelli and the salted caramel budino left lasting impressions.
Reservations will be available on the website. For now, the hours of operation are not currently listed, but North Italia in The Woodlands will be open for lunch, dinner and brunch, and also offer happy hour. For guests looking to enjoy the dishes at home, the restaurant has an exclusive delivery partnership with DoorDash.