First look at La Griglia
Inside the new La Griglia: Murals are out, tableside touches are in, and more
The name may be the same, but the new La Griglia is a very different place from the restaurant it replaced. Moving about a mile east to a new location at 2817 West Dallas St. has brought a fresh perspective to both the look and menu of the River Oaks staple.
La Griglia senior executive Brandon Busch, who has been involved with the restaurant throughout its history, tells CultureMap that he worked directly with CEO Tilman Fertitta to take La Griglia in a more upscale direction. That includes a design inspired by the Italian Riviera and hiring a high profile chef consultant to rethink the menu.
“When Tilman started talking to me about this, we talked about the fact that over the past 15, 20 years that everybody has tried to make everything a little more casual. Nobody wants to get dressed up anymore,” Busch says. “We thought it was time to reverse that. We took this restaurant a little more upscale. We’re white tablecloth throughout, and that includes the outside courtyard.”
White tablecloths aren’t the only change to La Griglia’s interior. The original location’s colorful murals are gone. Instead, the interior features framed black and white photographs, Art Deco-inspired lighting fixtures, and marble floors. Banquettes make the expanded bar area an option for dining as well as drinking.
“People can’t believe how gorgeous it is. People say it reminds them of New York or LA,” Busch says. “I’ve seen the looks on faces of customers I’ve known for 30 years. They’re blown away.”
Three private dining rooms are located upstairs that can host separate events or be combined into one large room. La Griglia’s covered patio is climate controlled and features a retractable roof. Overall costs for the patio, including its posh landscaping, exceeded $1 million, according to a release.
Even the staff uniforms have gone upscale. Managers wear suits. Captains are in white tuxedo jackets, and support staff are in black tuxedo vests. They’ve adopted old school touches like serving from the left and bringing a cold fork for salads.
To transform the menu, Landry’s recruited chef Mark Ladner. Best known for winning a James Beard Award at New York City’s acclaimed Del Posto restaurant, Ladner introduced a number of new dishes, including Burrata di Puglia with heirloom tomato and Castelvetrano and Taggiasca olives; beef carpaccio with arugula, parmesan, mascarpone cream, and sweet peppers; pasta bolognese; veal piccatine; and frutti di mare that’s made with clams, mussels, and shrimp topped with red clam sauce.
Most of the entrees are served a la carte and can be paired with vegetable sides such as broccolini, sweet corn polenta, and a latke-style seared potato cake. Day to day execution is overseen by chef de cuisine Pat Sommers, who had a well-regarded stint as a sous chef at Houston fine dining restaurant Triniti.
“[Ladner] was a pleasure to work with. He’s very pragmatic,” Busch says. “He’s a great Italian chef. He’s more about the ingredients than to make sure you’ve got flowers all over your food. It’s simple and wholesome.”
Thankfully, some La Griglia classics remain, including the shrimp and crab cheesecake, Snapper La Griglia, and autumn salad. Regulars will be pleased to learn that the signature pizza bread remains, although it has a new crust based on a dough recipe Ladner created.
Along with the new dishes, Busch has brought some theater to the dining room with a few items that are finished tableside. Pasta alla ruota gets tossed in a cheese wheel before getting a generous shaving of black or white truffles. “Hanging Hen” is a whole chicken that’s carved tableside and served with roasted potatoes and chicken jus. Even dessert has a tableside ice cream option.
“[On] our opening night, I must have carved six chickens and served six pasta wheels. I haven’t worked on the floor like that in awhile,” Busch says. “It was fun to watch when I was doing that wheel in the middle of the dining room. Everyone turned their heads to see what I was doing.”
Currently, the restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner nightly. If a full house on a recent weeknight is any indication, the regulars are stopping by to check out the new location.
“La Griglia patrons will discover an elevated dining experience with great attention to detail,” Fertitta added in a statement. “No expense was spared for the restaurant’s design and the creation of the new menus. La Griglia is special to Houston, and it required and deserved a great deal of consideration.”