New Chef for Museum Cafe

Museum cafe hires new chef and broadens Italian concept — with a twist

Museum cafe hires new chef and broadens Italian concept — with a twist

MFA Cafe Paolo Fronza Marlies Wasterval
Paolo Fronza has hired Marlies Wasterval as executive chef for MFA Cafe. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
MFA Cafe Kale salad
A kale salad is one of the items designed to please a range of patrons. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
MFA Cafe interiors
Since it opened six months ago, MFA Cafe has provided a more stylish replacement for Cafe Express. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
MFA Cafe pastries
Pastry sampler. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
MFA Cafe mushroom lasagna
The mushroom lasagna keeps things classic. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
MFA Cafe Paolo Fronza Marlies Wasterval
MFA Cafe Kale salad
MFA Cafe interiors
MFA Cafe pastries
MFA Cafe mushroom lasagna

Six months into their tenure as the operators of MFA Cafe, manager Paolo Fronza has decided to up the restaurant’s culinary game by adding some new menu items that broaden the cafe’s Italian-oriented approach.

Towards that end, Fronza has hired Marlies Wasterval to serve as the cafe’s executive chef. Her resume includes work at restaurants in both San Diego and Houston, most recently SaltAir Seafood Kitchen.

“I chose Marlies because of her experience, Fronza tells CultureMap. “She’s been a chef in several very good restaurants, and we thought she was well-rounded to serve a variety of recipes.”

Wasterval has broadened the menu by adding items like sliders (including an Italian version topped with mozzarella, tomato, and prosciutto) as well as new salads and mains that are both Italian (lasagna) and not (turkey meatloaf).

“We tried to keep within an overall Italian flavor but still appeal to as many palates as possible.” Fronza tells CultureMap. “We are inside a destination, and we need to make sure we can get to 99-percent of the palates.”

In addition to the new lunch and dinner options, MFA Cafe has started serving brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. The Italian Benedict swaps the classic English muffin and ham for a polenta cake and prosciutto. Naturally, a full 

Six months in, Fronza says he’s happy with MFA Cafe’s development and thinks hiring Wasterval will only improve things further.

“We had a learning curve. We had to understand we are not a normal restaurant and find the right balance (for being a restaurant in a museum),” he explains. “We were asked to do an Italian concept, but we had to broaden it. We had to give it a twist.”

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