Rodeo Best Bites Winners

Pearland restaurant takes top prize at Rodeo Best Bites — and it's not Killen's

Pearland Italian restaurant takes top prize at Rodeo Best Bites

Grazia Italian Kitchen Rodeo Uncorked Best Bites 2016
Grazia Italian Kitchen earned the top prize at Sunday night's Rodeo Uncorked! and Best Bites Competition. Grazia Italian Kitchen/Facebook

When hearing that a Pearland restaurant with a steakhouse chef took the top prize at the annual Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup and Best Bites Competition, one might be forgiven for assuming that meat master Ronnie Killen had prevailed again. But no, Killen, who celebrated the second anniversary of barbecue restaurant, opted to sit out this year. 

Instead, the night's winner proved to be Grazia Italian Kitchen. Former Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse chef Steve Haug served a dish of smoked beef short ribs over pancetta risotto topped with a cilantro molasses glaze that earned both the highly coveted Best Entree and the Best Bites Rookie Award for first time entrants. 

Haug's dish won over both a panel of media judges and the 5,500 attendees. Among the 102 participating restaurants, diners could choose from popular favorites like Pappas Bros. Steakhouse and Brennan's as well as a couple of restaurants that haven't opened yet and used the event to make a first impression.

In the case of Dallas-based The Porch, which will open in River Oaks District this fall, that consisted of a nicely spiced pimento cheese. Set to open in April, Montrose barbecue restaurant The Pit Room debuted its Texas pastrami with a housemade pickle and seriously spicy mustard. 

The line at the night's most popular restaurants could get long, but sipping on one of the 450 available wines made them more tolerable. Cheerful volunteers provided quick refills. 

Other winners included Davis St. at Hermann Park, which followed up last year's surprise Best Entree award by earning the Outstanding Showmanship award. Max's Wine Dive took the Best Bites Trail Blazin' Appetizer award for a fried oyster on wonton chips, and Trentino Gelato earned the Best Bites Two Steppin' Dessert Award for its cajeta gelato pop. Royers Round Top Cafe continued its dominance of the Popular Choice award. 

The full list of winners appears below (via the Houston Press):

Trail Blazin’ Appetizer/Cheese/Bread Award
1. Max’s Wine Dive: Fried Oyster over Wonton Crisp
2. Federal Grill: Truffled Beef Carpaccio
3. Sonoma Wine Bar: Meatballs In Sweet Tomato Broth with Mozzarella

Lone Star Entrée Award
1. Grazia Italian Kitchen: Smoked Short Rib with Pancetta Risotto and Cilantro-Molasses Glaze
2. Newk’s Eatery: Pimento & Bacon Mac & Cheese
3. Taste of Texas: Certified Beef Tenderloin with Mac & Cheese

Two Steppin’ Dessert Award
1. Trentino Gelato: Cajeta Pops
2. Joyce’s Seafood & Steak: White Chocolate Bread Pudding
3. Mostly Chocolate & Catering: Truffles

Popular Choice Award
1. Royers Round Top Café: Assortment of Pies
2. Grazia Italian Kitchen: Smoked Short Rib with Pancetta Risotto and Cilantro-Molasses Glaze

Outstanding Showmanship: Davis Street at Hermann Park
Tasty Tradition Award: Joyce’s Seafood & Steaks: White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Rookie Award: Grazia Italian Kitchen