So, this is not the first time I have dined at Little Napoli. Nor will it be the last. Quite honestly, this is probably one of my favorite Italian places in Houston. This, however, will be my first official review of it. I might do more at a later date since I enjoy the food so much and I am always trying to order something different. Speaking of food, it has everything from pizza to the classics. This place should cover everyone.
So tonight my wife were
having a little mini celebration. When we were talking about what to do
for dinner I suggested Little Napoli because one of the things that I
absolutely love about this place is its atmosphere. It can be great for
a casual dinner with friends or accommodate you when you want something
a little more intimate. The lighting is nice and low without being
dark. The music selection is varied ranging from slow romantic music to
a peppy Italian ballad to something from the Rat Pack's repertoire.
Another I love about the place is the the overall volume is very
subdued. It is not quiet by any means, but I can hear myself talk and
hold a conversation with another person without having to resort to
screaming. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that almost
every time I have ever been to Little Napoli it has never been full.
Some might see this as a negative, but I see it as quite the opposite.
It helps keep the intimacy in my opinion. Even if the place fills up, I
have the feeling that the noise would still not be a problem.
Now, let's get to the food. For tonight's repast I ordered the crab
cakes as the appetizer. The plate came with two crab cakes that were
covered in a nice pink sauce (mix of tomato and cream) with chunks of
tomato and bell pepper that gave the sauce some substance. The crab
cakes themselves were expertly cooked. Nice and crispy on the outside
with a soft and moist, but flaky interior. They were masterfully
seasoned and had a good ratio of crab meat to bread crumbs.
My wife ordered a staple of ours at Little Napoli: the braised beef and
tortellini. The dish is served in a nice creamy sweet Marsala sauce and
has sliced portobellos as well as the tender beef and four cheese
tortellini. There is a reason why this is one of our favorite dishes
here and why it is sometimes difficult to stray and try something
different. This dish just screams comfort. Like your favorite blanket
in the cold winter months or a warm hug from your grandmother. The
Marsala sauce is nicely balanced without having an overwhelming flavor
of alcohol or being overly sweet. It is the perfect cream coverall for
this dish. The beef itself is also superbly done. Both tender and
flavorful indicating that they take time to slow cook it to get it just
right. In fact, it would not surprise me to find out if the beef were
cooked in Marsala wine and that cooking liquid was then reserved and
used to make the sauce. As for the tortellini, well, lets just say they
know how to cook pasta. It was nice and al dente.
for the evening was something I had not had here before. I decided to
try the veal piccata for the first time. I was a little apprehensive at
first because one, veal is something that very easily can be done
wrong, and two, the piccata sauce did not have any capers as it normally
does. Instead, the dish was made with sun dried tomatoes and artichoke
hearts. The whole thing was also served on a bed of capellini (angel
hair) pasta. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The veal
was cooked to perfection, keeping its tenderness while not turning chewy
or tough. The sauce was magnificently done. It had all the hints of
the white wine while drawing acidity from the lemon juice, tomatoes and
artichokes without ever becoming too tart. The pasta once again was
expertly cooked. Angle hair past is one of those finicky pastas that
you have to treat with kid gloves. Cook it just a bit too long and it
falls to pieces. Not the case here.
Another great thing about
Little Napoli is the wine selection. It is vast and it is varied. It
has something for everyone and a wide spectrum of price points. Having
arrived at the tail end of happy hour (from 2-7 pm), my wife and I both
choose the house shiraz which was a new selection. I had previously
order the house wine and had never been disappointed, especially
considering the cost. Now can I say this was the best wine I have ever
had? No. But was it fairly good? Yes, especially if you let it breath
from a moment.
As much as I enjoy Little Napoli, there are
a few points of contention I have with it. First of all, the small
salads which are served before the entrees are really just uninspired.
The consist of basically one cucumber slice, one tomato wedge, one ring
of a white onion, and bunch of lettuce drenched in vinegar with a bit of
seasoning. You can't really call it a vinaigrette because you would
need oil for it to be considered one. If there was any oil, you could
have fooled me. I enjoy vinegar, but this was just too much.
Another problem with Little Napoli is the service. It is not that it is
bad necessarily. The problem lies in that it can be piece meal and
confusing at times. When we walked in, my wife and I were seated by one
server who also gave us menus, asked if we had been helped by another,
and had our order taken by a third. When the third waiter asked for our
orders, my wife ordered her wine and I ordered our appetizer since I
had not made up my mind about what to get yet and also thinking that our
original server would take our orders for our entrees. When our
appetizer came out is when we finally gave our entree orders and my wine
order, to which our server seemed surprised about. Maybe this was just something caused by the restaurant being not quite so fully, maybe not. After the point where the staff decided who would be attending us, the service was just fine.
So, that is just one of my dining experiences at Little Napoli on Westheimer.
This place is well worth looking into for a nice casual evening of
Italian dinning or maybe something a little nicer without going into
full blown "nice restaurant" category.