New Heights neighborhood restaurant bakes up globally inspired Italian fare
The Heights restaurant boom shows no signs of slowing down. In 2019, the neighborhood will be home to new locations of The Burger Joint, Hopdoddy, and Common Bond, as well as a new concept from Better Luck Tomorrow partners Justin Yu (Theodore Rex) and Bobby Heugel (Anvil, etc).
Despite the increased competition, restaurateurs continue to see opportunity for more growth, including a couple who just opened their first restaurant in the neighborhood. Meet Mari and Xavier Godoy. They left behind the corporate world to open Mastrantos, a breakfast and dinner concept that recently opened on Studewood near BCK and Maison Pucha Bistro.
Inspired by the principles of transparency, global taste, and balance, Mastrantos wants to serve its neighborhood with eclectic fare that reflects its owners roots in Venezuela — the couple grew up and met there — as well as their time in Houston and travels abroad.
“Our concept since the get-go was all about transparency, how we can show our clients what we do,” Xavier Godoy tells CultureMap. “There is nothing to hide in our concept. The approach is we would like you to feel like you went to a friend’s house where they cook for you.”
To achieve that goal, the restaurant has an open design. Diners can see into the bar to watch espresso shots be pulled, into the kitchen to see their food being prepared, and into the “dough lab” where pasta and pastries are made.
At just 2,100 square feet, the space has an intimate feel, particularly along one wall that offers a long banquette with tables that can be pushed together to create seating for groups of six or eight. Godoy has lived in Houston for almost 20 years. While he knows how much people like their space, he hopes they’ll be willing to get a little closer together.
“The feeling you get is more San Francisco, Boston, or the new Houston, if you will,” Godoy says. “Hopefully we can show people that being intimate is not a bad thing. ‘Hey, what is that you ordered, that looks good’ kind of approach.”
To prepare for their new roles as restaurateurs, the couple traveled to Italy to study proper pasta making techniques. In addition, Xavier Godoy worked as a cook at Bosscat Kitchen to learn the demands of a professional kitchen. To help support their family during Mastrantos lengthy buildout, the couple sold pasta and breads to an extended network of friends and family.
Working with executive chef Tony Castillo (Tiny Boxwoods), the Godoys developed a menu that’s both globally inspired — for example, traditional Italian pasta forms get sauces inspired by a range of flavors — and balanced in the sense that it focuses on fruits and vegetables with grains and proteins to complement them.
Dinners begin with small plates like snapper crudo with snapper skin chicharrones, salt-roasted beets with Gorgonzola, or grilled carrots served with carrot hummus. Pastas on the opening menu include agnolotti stuffed with purple sweet potato, traditional bolognese made with casarecce pasta, and squid ink linguini served with a Thai curry sauce. Salmon and tri-tip are available for those seeking a heartier main entree. As the couple assess demand, the menu will grow.
At breakfast, the menu includes a variety of pastries produced in the dough lab, as well as arepas and breakfast tacos. They’re paired with espresso drinks made with beans the restaurant buys from Italy. The focus in on grab-and-go in the mornings, but dinner is full service. The restaurant isn’t open for lunch.
It’s an ambitious plan, but one the Godoys have spent years planning. As Xavier explains, there’s no looking back.
“We quit our previous life to do this,” he says. “We have three kids. This is the fourth one.”
Mastrantos; 927 Studewood St.; 346-227-8458; Tuesday through Friday 7 to 11 am and 5 to 10 pm; Saturday 8 am to 1 pm and 5 pm to 10 pm; Sunday 8 am to 1 pm.