Oporto's Pastry Pop-Up

Ex-Common Bond baker takes Midtown restaurant to the next level with weekend pastry pop-up

Ex-Common Bond baker offers weekend pastry pop-up at Midtown eatery

Oporto Midtown Natas pop-up
Rick Di Virgilio has hired Tony Stein as Oporto's head baker and pastry chef. Photo by Eric Sandler
Oporto Midtown Natas pop-up
A selection of sweet and savory pastries from the NATAS pop-up. Photo by Eric Sandler
Oporto Midtown Natas pop-up
Stein says he aspires to serve Houston's best croissants. Photo by Eric Sandler
Oporto Midtown Natas pop-up
A look at the NATAS offerings. Photo by Eric Sandler
Oporto Midtown Natas pop-up
Croissants and cookies. Photo by Eric Sandler
Oporto Midtown Natas pop-up
Oporto Midtown Natas pop-up
Oporto Midtown Natas pop-up
Oporto Midtown Natas pop-up
Oporto Midtown Natas pop-up

One of Midtown’s best restaurants has a new addition that makes it even more appealing — a weekend pastry pop-up inspired by Lisbon’s sidewalk cafes. No surprise that Oporto Fooding House has stepped things up again; its newly launched NATAS bakery pop-up makes a really good restaurant even better.

“It was always intended to be part of the concept as a fooding house . . . the bakery aspect of it,” chef-owner Rick Di Virgilio tells CultureMap. “It just so happens it took about a year-and-a-half to get it launched. I was looking for the right person to complement us and share the same type of vision that my wife and I have to implement this sort of Portuguese-interpreted bakery shop.”

Di Virgilio found the right person in head baker-pastry chef Tony Stein, who comes to Oporto after working at Common Bond. Stein brings French training to the role, and, more importantly, an affection for the Indian flavors that Di Virgilio and his wife Shiva incorporate into all of their restaurants (Oporto in Greenway Plaza and The Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen).

“It’s just such an inspiring palette of ingredients and an inspiring concept. To be able to leave Common Bond and start here on something totally different has been really fun,” Stein says. “It’s always a European-style pastries have the French influence. To be able to work with Indian spice and traditional Portuguese ideas has been really cool.”

Those influences come together in a range of sweet and savory pastries that blend classic Portuguese items with Stein’s careful preparations. The namesake pastel de natas, a lemon tart baked in a pastry shell, is a good place to start. American-style sweets like cookies and blondies share counter space with French croissants and baba au plum. Savory items include cod fritters and beef empanadas. Even though the pop-up has only been happening for a week, Stein already has some ambitious goals in mind.

“I’d like for us to offer the best croissant in town. I think that’s within our reach,” he says. “And just rotating the other things, introducing Indian and Portuguese ideas in with French execution. Doing a pistachio brioche or a baba inspired by Indian flavors. That’s how I’d like to see it grow.”

While taking the pastries to go is always an option, staying provides the opportunity to linger on Oporto’s patio and enjoy beverage director Samantha Porter’s offerings like a passion fruit lassi and a Chai-spiced horchata — adding a shot of rum is strictly optional, but encouraged. A full selection of coffee, fresh juices, and organic teas are also available.

NATAS happens every Saturday and Sunday from 8 am until 11 am. Although it’s billed as a pop-up, Di Virgilio says it will being going on for the foreseeable future and could even become a permanent addition.

“We have an adjacent space that’s available if we decide to move that route and expand it to next door,” he says. “It would be an easy expansion. That’s sort in the back of our minds; it’s always been part of the idea. We’re going to launch this and see how it goes.”

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