No one knows Houston restaurants better than the people who run them, own them, and work in the kitchens. In this continuing series, CultureMap is asking our favorite foodie personalities around town where they go for great eats when they're not working.
Tony Mandola has been serving up Gulf Coast classics with an Italian twist for more than 20 years. But after two decades he's ready to try something new: this week he breaks ground on the future location of Tony Mandola's Gulf Coast Kitchen, near the southwest corner of Waugh and West Dallas, which is set to open in early 2011. Gulf Coast Kitchen is currently open at 1962 West Gray.
But the man with an appreciation for homemade cooking (Mandola credits his "Mama" with his basic food training) gets around to plenty of other food spots in town. Mandola tells CultureMap where he goes to celebrate and to catch a quick breakfast.
Restaurant for a special occasion: Well, I don't want to hurt my brother's feelings, but I'd go to Da Marco. The food is always number one for me, but it's the atmosphere, the wine, all of the above.
Favorite meal: The mole poblano enchiladas at Otilia's. They're just terrific.
Breakfast/Brunch favorite: There's a little place — like a service station on Memorial Drive by Bayou Bend — it's called Sunrise Taquitos. They've got the best breakfast tacos — they cook them in the old cast iron skillet, it's just so gorgeous. There are several ladies back there with magical hands.
Dessert: Gelato Blu. If you want to taste Italy, you just go there. I like to try different flavors but he's got a fig that I think is wonderful.
Other articles in the Houston Chef's Table series: