After a quiet first half of 2016, Montrose has seen a number of high quality new restaurant openings. Snooze, the second location of Good Dog Houston, The Pit Room, and newly-opened Cafe Azur have all been welcome additions to Houston’s most prestigious dining neighborhood.
On Friday, the neighborhood gets its third option for Neapolitan-style pizza as acclaimed Dallas-based restaurant Cane Rosso begins its soft-opening. In the four-and-a-half months since opening its first Houston location in The Heights, the restaurant has emerged as one of the city’s most reliable pizzerias.
Owner Jay Jerrier tells CultureMap that he’s been pleased with how the Houston operation is going, and he sees potential in the city for more restaurants, including a branch of the company's New York Italian-style pizzeria Zoli's.
“Overall, it’s been a good reception. We have a lot of regulars in The Heights that come in all the time,” Jerrier says. “Edgar, who is going to be helping us get open over here, has made a lot of good connections. It’s been a nice run. It’s on plan. I’m glad.”
While the menus at the two locations are essentially the same — a pepperoni and jalapeno pizza that’s an off-the-menu special in The Heights makes the permanent one in Montrose — the two restaurants look very different. The new restaurant’s longer shape gives it a real bar that will feature 10 craft beer taps and two frozen cocktails, but the real difference is outside, where a covered patio can hold up to 160 people.
“That was the thing that kind of drew us to the space is that we liked the potential for the patio,” Jerrier says. “We spent a lot of money on that dang overhead cover, but it’s nice that it has louvers we can open and close.”
The patio also means that Cane Rosso can start holding events that benefit dog rescues, including one Wednesday night that will benefit German short-haired pointers. A $10 donation to the organization comes with a free glass of wine or beer and discounts on select pizzas.
Although Jerrier says he’d prefer a quiet opening, he feels confident the Montrose location is ready. Cooks and servers have been able to train at The Heights to prepare, and that should help ensure things run smoothly.
“The staff knows the menu, they know the food, the guys know how to cook everything,” Jerrier says. “The only thing that’s new is the layout and the table numbers. The ebbs and flows of the kitchen. The servers need to get into their own rhythm. There’s no good way to figure out how a restaurant works until you open it. Where are people going to want to sit?”
Cane Rosso will be open for dinner-only Friday through Monday. If all goes well, lunch starts Tuesday. Jerrier says he’s already hearing from office managers in Montrose and Greenway Plaza who are ready for lunch to begin.
Once the location is operating smoothly, Jerrier says he’d like to bring back some of the brunch items the company developed at its original location in Deep Ellum. The only issue is getting diners to order something other than staples like the burrata appetizer and pizzas.
“I loved the menu with all my heart and soul, but it was a lot of prep work. We made ricotta biscuits with bacon marmalade, gravy with local sausage. The food was really good,” Jerrier says. “The servers would tell people, and people would go, ‘that sounds great. Give me a Zoli.’ We would make it, and no one would order it. I think it’s time to revisit it.”
Jerrier says he’s still looking for the right location to bring Zoli’s to Houston, but the only firm plans are to expand the exisiting Heights location of Cane Russo by claiming the additional 2,000 square feet of space available in the building it currently occupies.
“If you’ve been to The Heights on a Saturday night, it’s ridiculous. There’s four seats at the bar, nowhere to stand, nowhere to hang out,” Jerrier says. “We’re going to put a big, long bar and a bunch more TVs. Really, aside from finding a parking spot, there shouldn’t be any wait for a table, even at peak times. It’s going to be 6,000 square feet; it will be our biggest restaurant.”
Plans are currently being prepared to submit to the City of Houston next month. If all goes according well, the expansion should be ready to open in February or March. By then maybe Jerrier will have found a space he likes for Zoli’s or another Houston location of Cane Rosso.