big changes at la table

Ben Berg bids adieu to neighboring French restaurant, reveals 2 new Galleria-area concepts

Ben Berg bids adieu to adjacent French bistro, reveals 2 new concepts

Ben Berg Valerio Lombardozzi La Table
Ben Berg and Valerio Lombardozzi will lead the new La Table. Photo by Jenn Duncan

Big changes are coming to La Table. The French restaurant’s current iteration will close after service on Saturday, July 2.

In its place will be two new restaurants developed by a partnership between Berg Hospitality, the local company that operates adjacent restaurants Turner’s and The Annie Café & Bar, and the Bastion Collection, the New York-based hospitality firm behind both La Table and Le Jardinier, the vegetable-forward, French fine dining restaurant at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

They are: Tavola (Italian for table), described in a release as offering “upscale Italian fare in a vibrant atmosphere,” and a new, more upscale version of La Table. Tavola will occupy the building’s first floor, and La Table will operate above it. 

“We are thrilled to announce this strategic partnership with Berg Hospitality as we combine our strengths to refresh La Table and create a new dining concept downstairs,” Bastion Collection executive vice president Michelle Upton said in a statement. “We are confident that Houstonians are going to be there with us to celebrate the return of La Table and the opening of Tavola in February 2023.”

Berg Hospitality founder Ben Berg tells CultureMap that Bastion approached him about helping re-concept La Table. Since it opened in 2016 as a replacement for the short-lived Table on Post Oak, the French restaurant had been known for its fine dining atmosphere and tableside presentations, but it dropped them after a six-month closure during the beginning of the pandemic. It reopened in November 2020 with a more casual menu at a lower price point.

After consulting with his team and negotiating with the landlord, Berg and Bastion came up with a plan that will combine Berg’s operational expertise with Bastion’s roster of culinary talent, including Le Jardinier creator Alain Verzeroli and star pastry chef Salvatore Martone. 

“La Table never found itself after COVID. I think it had a really hard time,” Berg says. “One thing I really want to do is redefine what La Table is. We want to define what French is. We want the table service, but I want to do it in a more relevant dining room. Not in a staid, Old World dining room. Bring some energy back into the dining room.”

The menu will focus on brasserie-style fare that diners will recognize, alongside some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, such as the signature crab and avocado salad. Table side presentations could return, too.

“We want to bring that relevance back,” Berg says. “There’s a void here in French restaurants, but I think we have to have identifiable French dishes as well.”

Berg describes Tavola as being different from both of his existing Italian concepts, family friendly B.B. Italia and recently-opened Heights restaurant Trattoria Sofia. Physical changes to the space will allow it to seat approximately 60 inside and 80 on the patio.

“It’s more Roman-style Italian with a real Euro-New York vibe,” he says. “It’ll be on the larger side of a big menu, heavy pasta, in a really intimate, fun, lively atmosphere.”

To make room for two separate restaurants, the physical space will undergo a number of changes, Berg says. They include: removing the large internal stairwell in favor of an exterior elevator; relocating the current downstairs bar so that it’s adjacent to the patio; adding a second floor terrace for La Table; and installing a small kitchen downstairs that will execute Tavola’s menu.

One constant will be La Table general manager Valerio Lombardozzi, who will continue in his role and oversee both openings.

“My opinion is Valerio is probably one of the best service managers in the city,” Berg says. “To not use that to our advantage would be a big mistake.”

Ultimately, Berg Hospitality will operate four restaurants in the same property, but Berg isn’t worried about competing against himself. 

“Turner’s and Annie is our American side. [Tavola and La Table] are our European side,” he says. “They complement each other. When you define what you are, people know where they’re going.”