Charles Clark and Grant Cooper have reopened their former Catalan Food and Wine eatery as Coppa Ristorante Italiano. Chef Brandi Key is turning out flavorful small plates and pastas and pizzas from a Mugnaini brick oven handcrafted by Refratarri Valoriani. All the standard Italian dishes Houstonians have come to expect are here, but there are a few twists as well, like the ham and egg pizza topped with spicy air-dried pork shoulder and quail eggs. The restaurant itself has also undergone a makeover with blue and yellow colors, custom chandeliers, butcher paper-topped tables and a new partially enclosed patio. Clark and Cooper closed the popular Catalan in June when founding chef Chris Shepherd departed to work on his own restaurant and they decided to create a new concept. Clark and Cooper also own Ibiza Food & Wine Bar, Ibiza Next Door and the new Brasserie 19. Lunch Mon.-Fri., Dinner nightly. Coppa Ristorante Italiano, 5555 Washington Ave., Houston, TX 77007, 713-426-4260.
Pejman "PJ" Jamea has opened his Felix 55 Restaurant & Bar in the trendy Rice Village with executive chef Michael Kramer running the kitchen. Kramer, formerly of Voice and the Tasting Room, promises a menu culled from his fine-dining and casual experiences. Standout items include a mesquite-smoked duck and bourbon-brined pork chop. There are also contemporary Italian standards and Gulf Coast seafood items, along with a nice wine list and handcrafted cocktails. Jamea, an architect and furniture maker, designed the space as well as every table, chair and bar stool. The result combines utilitarian tables with plush chairs and sofas, a Brazilian black stone bar and wall canvasses by local artist Kelley Devine. There's also a community table for eighteen and outdoor dining for 100 on the front patio. Lunch Mon.-Fri., Dinner nightly, Brunch Sun. Felix 55 Restaurant & Bar, Rice Village, 5510 Morningside, Houston, TX 77005, 713-590-0610.
Houston Restaurant Weeks Raises Record Funds for Houston Food Bank
This August Houston Restaurants Week raised more money than ever for the Houston Food Bank. The event, which started as a week long food fest and now runs the entire month of August, began in 2003 as a way to raise funds for the local food bank and help out restaurants whose business tends to drop off during the hottest month of the year. Participating restaurants offer special menus with a percentage of the proceeds going to the food bank. This year HRW founder Cleverly Stone presented a check to the food bank for $800,000 dollars, an amount that will translate to 2.4 million meals for those in need. One hundred and forty two eateries participated in the event this year.
Benjy’s Gets in the Grocery Business
Benjy Levit, owner of two Benjy's restaurants, is planning a new concept: a combination local grocery store and casual eatery for Rice Village. The new venture---set to open in October---will be called Local Foods and source from fifteen to twenty local venders. Levit says to expect cucumbers, tomatoes, fruits, house-cured meats and artisan bread. Local Foods will also offer counter service for breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring made-to-order sandwiches, salads, prepared foods and various housemade favorites from Benjy's restaurants, including beer nuts, granola and cheese crackers. Benjy's, 2424 Dunstan St., Houston, TX 77005, 713-522-7602.
Big changes are going on at the Hotel Icon's Voice restaurant. Executive chef Greg Lowry has decamped to join chef Ryan Hildebrand at his soon-to-open Trinity eatery, and the hotel owners have hired chef Tommy Birdwell, chef and partner at TQLA, to consult on a new menu. It will not be Mexican fare like TQLA's but no word yet on just what it will be. In the interim, chef David Luna, recently executive chef at Flora & Muse and formerly of Canopy and Shade, will be the temporary executive chef for Voice. Voice, Hotel ICON, 220 Main St., Houston, TX 77002, 832-667-4470.
Phil’s Texas Barbecue closed earlier this year. Phil's Texas Barbecue, 110 S. Heights Blvd., Houston, TX 77007, no phone.
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