Slowing the spread of COVID-19 may have closed restaurants’ dining rooms, but the virus hasn’t stopped construction of new establishments. Work is almost complete on Ostia, an exciting new restaurant that will open in Montrose early this summer.
Chef-owner Travis McShane brings a substantial culinary pedigree to his new restaurant. After growing up in Kingwood and earning a degree at The University of Texas, McShane opted out of “sitting behind a desk” and chose to attend culinary school in New York. From there, he spent 10 years working for celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman at a variety of establishments, including chef de cuisine at Barbuto in New York and executive chef of Adele's in Nashville.
Waxman is widely credited with bringing the farm-to-table movement to New York with his pioneering restaurant Jams and the Italian-influenced Barbuto. Ostia won’t be a copy of Barbuto, but McShane tells CultureMap his new restaurant will share certain aspects with the places he's worked before. Really, how could they not?
“It’s going to be my food, my style, but I have a lot of Jonathan DNA type of thing. It’s going to be underlying Italian, Mediterranean, kind of Barbuto-ish . . . just having fun, cooking seasonally, locally,” he says. “Post the menu at 5 pm. Change it all the time. Let the staple dishes organically come, whatever people like.”
Ostia’s menu will be built around an extensive pasta menu — covering fresh, dried, and extruded varieties — as well as a wood-burning oven. Diners will be able to request classic pasta dishes such as carbonara and cacio e pepe even if they aren’t listed on the menu. Lunch will feature lighter fare such as grilled swordfish with wilted greens and salsa verde. Waxman’s roasted chicken is one his most well-known dishes, and McShane acknowledges he’s ready to put his spin on the classic.
‘The amount of chicken I’ve roasted in my life is unbelievable,” he says. “We’ll play with different chicken ideas. It’ll be simple, homey, roasted, crispy skin, beautiful, perfect for sharing.”
Speaking of sharing, that will be a key component for a collection of tables near the open kitchen in the main dining room. McShane says they’ll be able to be pushed together to accommodate groups of as many as 18; for a set price, he’ll serve a multi-course meal built around family-style platters.
Another dining area will feature a massive skylight and doors that can be opened in nice weather. The restaurant will also feature a spacious patio. In total, McShane expects Ostia to seat between 100 and 125 people.
“It’s a medium size restaurant,” he says. “We wanted a big enough restaurant that we could fulfill demand but at the same time [not so big that] it wasn’t intimate or personal.”
The timing of Ostia’s exact opening depends on the completion of construction and the receipt of a Certificate of Occupancy from the City of Houston. From there, McShane says he has two plans in mind. If restaurants still aren’t permitted to seat people, Ostia will sell food to-go while he trains his staff. If they are, he’ll have a more normal training period followed by a public opening.
“Our goal is not to delay anything,” he says. “As soon as we can open, we want to open. It’s been a two-year process. We’re getting antsy as can be to rock and roll.”