Union Kitchen owner swaps comfort food for Italian at new Washington Avenue restaurant
A successful Houston restaurant has brought its Italian concept to Washington Avenue. Gr8 Plate Hospitality opens Passerella Italiano this Tuesday, May 9.
Located in the former Union Kitchen space at 6011 Washington Ave., the second Passerella builds on the success of the original location that opened last year in Cypress at the Boardwalk at Towne Lake development. The restaurant serves an approachable menu of both Italian and Italian American fare paired with a wide-ranging wine list and Italian-inspired cocktails.
Gr8 Plate co-owner Paul Miller tells CultureMap that the second location will benefit from lessons learned at the original. When Passerella opened, he thought the area would embrace a fine dining, seafood-focused restaurant, but it didn’t resonate the way he wanted it to.
“They wanted a something little more casual with a [lower] price point,” he explains. “We opened with $30-50 entrees. Although we got really good feedback, we weren’t seeing guests as often as I was used to . . . Now we have regulars that are coming to happy hour two or three times a week. It’s great.”
Specifically, they’re coming for dishes such as meatballs made with a blend of wagyu beef and wild boar; lobster mac and cheese; and seven-layer lasagna. Pizzas come from four-deck, Italian stone oven. The original seafood focus lives on with flounder that’s stuffed with crab and topped with grilled shrimp, crispy skin salmon with Calabrian pesto cream sauce, and an Italian riff on New Orleans-style bbq shrimp that uses a deep fried polenta cake and Calabrian barbecue sauce.
Passerella’s wine list reflects another lesson learned from the Cypress opening. Initially, the restaurant only served Italian wines, but Miller quickly switched things up to include a more diverse array of options, particularly from California. Happy hour features $5 wines by-the-glass and $15 bottles.
“Wine is not just an afterthought at Gr8 Plate concepts,” Miller added in a release. “We delight in offering customers the best wines at the best prices, and this Passerella location will be a destination for wine lovers on Washington Avenue.”
Doris Miller, Paul’s wife and business partner, oversaw the restaurant’s interior renovation. She began by swapping the high top tables in the bar area for lower tables that allow diners to linger over another glass of wine. She turned pieces she found at a shop outside College Station into 65 custom chandeliers that give the space a rustic, romantic look.
“My electrician hates me,” she quips.
Passerella will be open for dinner beginning at 4 pm Tuesday-Sunday. Weekend brunch service will be added in the coming weeks. It joins five locations of The Union Kitchen and three locations of Jax Grill in the Gr8 Plate family.
“We love the Rice Military neighborhood and its vibrant energy and diversity,” Miller said. “It’s exciting to be a part of a growing and changing dining landscape along Washington Avenue. We want to be this area’s neighborhood dining room.”