ROD's 2 new restaurants
River Oaks District heats up with Houston's newest Italian hot spot and fresh, healthy Mexican restaurant
River Oaks District welcomes two new restaurants this week. One is the Italian fine dining concept that development has been missing while the other is an all-day cafe with roots in Mexico City.
Together, Bari Ristorante and Ojo de Agua add to River Oaks District’s status as one of the Inner Loop’s most lively dining destinations, joining everything from Steak 48 and Le Colonial to CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Best New Restaurant winner MAD.
Let’s start with Bari, which opened Monday, May 15. Located in the former Tom Ford boutique, the new Italian restaurant is led by chef Renato De Pirro, a veteran of the Hotel Granduca and the Dallas-based Lombardy Group who is also a certified Italian master chef, according to press materials.
He’s joined by operating partner Thomas “Tommy” Nally, whose resume includes Toulouse and other restaurants. Both men have lengthy careers that also include time at The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. While all of River Oaks District’s other restaurants are part of larger groups, a representative tells CultureMap that Bari is funded by an anonymous group of “private investors.”
Open daily beginning at 11 am, De Pirro’s menu focuses on Italian classics that many diners will be familiar with. Meals at Bari could start with items such as beef carpaccio, frito misto, or steamed mussels. The housemade pastas include favorites such as tagliatelle carbonara, spaghetti vongole, and pappardelle bolognese. Pizzas are produced in an imported oven.
Moving on to entrees, the selections begin with seafood options such as salt-crusted branzino, Dover sole, grilled salmon, and risotto with a range of shellfish. Those with more carnivorous habits may opt for a bone-in veal Milanese, ribeye tagliata, or a chianti-braised short rib. Pair them with Italian cocktails such as the negroni or bellini or selections from an Italian-oriented wine list.
“We look forward to welcoming diners to Bari,” Nally said. “The menu is a fantastic combination of dishes from Italy that are on everyone’s short list when visiting any of the major cities to seaside resorts.”
Turning to Ojo de Agua, the all-day cafe opens this Wednesday, May 17 in a new space that’s across from Hopdoddy Burger Bar. Houston will be the restaurant’s second American city, joining an outpost in Miami and more than 40 locations across Mexico.
The 3,200-square-foot restaurant’s interior features details such as native succulents, wicker chairs, and lamps made from milk bottles. Local graffiti artist Daniel Anguilu contributed a mural of a mockingbird, Texas’s official state bird.
Open daily from 8 am until 7 pm, the menu covers a range of tastes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mornings could start with a fresh juice or smoothie from the juice bar or a breakfast classic such as chilaquiles, acai bowl, or avocado toast. Lunch options include sandwiches, salads, bowls, tacos, and more. They’re paired with wine, beer, and wine-based cocktails.
“We’re excited to give Texas a first taste of Ojo de Agua’s vibrant flavors and fresh ingredients,” partner Rafael Montero said in a statement. “Our healthy menu and our extensive menu of juices and smoothies will resonate with Houston’s diverse clientele.”