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New Houston restaurant highlights Italian seafood and family cheese — so much for the same old

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Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar February 2014 interior rendering
An interior rendering of Amalfi Courtesy rendering
Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar February 2014 interior rendering
A second interior rendering of Amalfi Courtesy rendering
Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar February 2014 exterior rendering
Amalfi will reside in a Galleria-area strip center on Westheimer.  Courtesy rendering
Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar February 2014 chef Giancarlo Ferrara when at Artisans Restaurant
Chef Giancarlo Ferrara will open Amalfi later this year. (File photo) Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar/Facebook
Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar February 2014 interior rendering
Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar February 2014 interior rendering
Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar February 2014 exterior rendering
Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar February 2014 chef Giancarlo Ferrara when at Artisans Restaurant

After 11 years as the chef at Sardinia restaurant Arcodoro, chef Giancarlo Ferrara is striking out on his own with a new restaurant called Amalfi. Expected to open in May, the restaurant will bring a focus on Italian seafood dishes of the Amalfi coast to the same Galleria-area strip center that houses The Palm steakhouse.

Ferrara grew up in the Italian coastal city of Salerno before entering culinary school. He spent 10 years working in Northern Italy before traveling to Germany, France and Ireland. Eventually, he made his way to Florida and then to Houston where he landed at Arcodoro.

"My dream was to open my own place," Ferrara tells CultureMap. "I delayed it because I became too comfortable at Arcodoro . . . I decided to go out on my own a year ago. Now is the right time. The economy is booming."  

He chose the location after the owner of Stogies cigar shop convinced him the area could use an Italian restaurant.

 "My dream was to open my own place. I delayed it because I became too comfortable."  

Ferrara says the menu will focus on simply prepared seafood with dishes built around the restaurant's wood burning oven. Diners can expect pizzas, bread, steaks and fish to emerge from the oven. Last week, at a dinner where he cooked with Artisans restaurant chef/owner Jacques Fox in a battle of Italy vs France, Ferrara previewed Amalfi's menu with dishes that included caramelized sea scallops over risotto, hot carpaccio of snapper and lamb loin stuffed with black truffle and herb butter. 

"I try to always keep things simple," he says. "I'll use lemons and olive oil from Amalfi . . . Of course, I'll use local products like meat and seafood from the Gulf." 

Amalfi will use buffalo mozzarella, pecorino and other cheeses from Ferrara's family's cheese making business in Italy. "My family has been cheese makers for four generations. I will use their products in my restaurant. I will be very proud to share a piece of my country with my customers." 

Even after 25 years in the business, Ferrara says that passion still drives him: "I love to give to my customers the feeling that they’re having something they’ve never had before. I do it because I love to do it."

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