New and Noteworthy
Ciao Bello, Houston and Justine’s, Austin
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Houston The Vallone restaurant dynasty—specifically Tony and Jeff—has an instant hit on its hands with Ciao Bello, whose name translates aptly to “Hi, gorgeous.” It seems that adding dramatic art to the striking setting that previously housed Jimmy Wilson’s Seafood and Chop House (high ceilings, visible kitchen, massive wine walls, and a lovely patio) and offering classic Italian dishes at mid-level prices result in a packed house. Our favorite entrée was pure Tony: skinny strands of fedelini pasta topped by a buttery sauce cut with lemon and vermouth. We were also quite fond of the cuscinetti, plump pasta “pillows” stuffed with chicken, fontina, sausage, and spinach. Ciao bello, indeed. Bar. 5161 San Felipe, near Sage Rd (713-960-0333). Open Mon–Thur 11–10, Fri 11–11, Sat 5–11, Sun 5–10. $$–$$$ W+
Austin The bistro’s Web site, featuring grainy black and white photos of seminude women in a bathtub, has generated a certain amount of tittering. But the food—from Chez Nous alums Pierre Pelegrin and Justine Gilcrease—is what’s enticing people to venture past the Cap Metro bus barn and wait for a table at this east side bungalow. Listening to old records, guests sip kir royales and nibble on traditional French fare like house-cured meats and pâtés. Wafts of garlic announce the arrival of escargots. Steak frites, featuring a well-marbled ribeye with a creamy brandy- peppercorn sauce, is a big favorite, though it’s the silky crème brûlée you may want to bathe in. Laguiole cutlery and the constant pop of champagne corks make the chic crowd seem even chicer. Bar. 4710 E. 5th (512-385-2900). Dinner Wed–Mon 6–1:30. Closed Tue. $$ W+