What's Eric Eating Episodes 300 and 301
Ostia's owner reveals his must-try, off-menu pasta dishes, plus our list of main-course-worthy potato sides
On this week’s interview episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” chef Travis McShane joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss Ostia, his Italian restaurant in Montrose. The restaurant will celebrate its third anniversary in September.
McShane begins the conversation by explaining how he made the transition from commercial real estate to a career in restaurants that saw him spend several years working for New York-based celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman. Ultimately, he and his wife decided to return home to Houston to open a restaurant and start a family.
Sandler and McShane cover a range of topics, including Ostia participating in Houston Restaurant Weeks for the first time, how the restaurant has evolved over three years, and McShane’s aspirations to open additional restaurants in the future. One aspect of the restaurant that McShane takes particular pride in is that customers can order a small group of classic pastas such as carbonara, cacio e pepe, or all'amatriciana even when they aren’t listed on the menu.
Still, the kitchen sets certain limits on what it will make for people, as McShane explains:
Ultimately, our philosophy is we’re not going to make whatever when a guest starts spouting off random ingredients. If we don’t know that it will be to our standard, we might not take a shot. But if it’s something they’ve had here before or it’s pretty common and we have the ingredients, I push my chefs to say that’s part of being a chef.
You have a curveball thrown at you, and you look in the walk-in and figure out how to make a dish on the fly. On the business side, you lock that guest in for a long time. That’s being hospitable.
We’re pretty particular about a couple things. We’ve had guests ask for peas in carbonara. I’ll make you something different, because there’s no peas in the carbonara. I’ll make a pea pasta that will blow your socks off.
On this week’s first episode, Sandler and co-host Felice Sloan discuss the news of their week. Their topics include the restaurants coming to West On West, a new development in West Houston; City Cellars HTX closing its original location to relocate to a larger space; and Sandler’s list of his favorite potato dishes.
In the restaurants of the week segment, they discuss their recent meal at the Rado Market, chef Chris Williams’ new eatery that’s part of the renovated Eldorado Ballroom complex. Then, they discuss their experience at Rockhouse Southern Kitchen, a comfort food restaurant and live music venue from the owners of The Warwick.