Photo courtesy of South Shore Harbour Resort

The holiday season is the perfect time to plan a little getaway, and it's even better when that vacay includes enchanting events for everyone in the family.

League City offers up a season of magic and memories with events kicking off in November and running through the end of the year. From the sweetest sleepover weekend with The Nutcracker ballet’s Sugar Plum Fairy to scrumptious breakfasts with Santa, merry markets, big parades, and the Hallmark-worthy event of the year, Holiday In the Park, there are countless ways to celebrate.

Check out all the delightful ways to fill your calendar this season in League City:

The North Pole comes to South Shore Harbour Resort
The wonderment starts with the six-foot-tall gingerbread house in the lobby (through December 24) and continues with breakfast with Santa on Saturdays for the first three weekends in December. Join jolly Old St. Nick for a themed breakfast buffet and snap a photo with the Big Guy himself.

For the adults, South Shore is hosting holiday themed Sunday brunches featuring live music and $3 mimosas (sorry, no Santa at this one). For reservations to either brunch, call 281-334-3078.

Another sweet meal is the popular Breakfast and Tea with the Sugar Plum Fairy, from Bay Area Houston Ballet and Theatre's production of The Nutcracker. It's the most magical day for ages 2 to 92, happening November 18 from 2-4 pm (the breakfast is already sold out, with limited seats remaining for the tea).

Shop at the Nutcracker Boutique, see a preview of The Nutcracker ballet, and have your photo taken with the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The night before, November 17, don your prettiest nightgown and have dinner with Clara and her friends from the ballet. To make your hotel and dinner reservations, call 281-334-1000, and mention "Sugar Plum" to get a special rate on your stay.

The Nutcracker ballet itself runs December 1-3, 8-10, and 15-17 at Bayou Theatre at University of Houston-Clear Lake. Head here for tickets.

Fresh air festivities

Attend the ultimate Shop Small Saturday experience at Nutcracker in the Park, held at League Park on November 25 from 8 am-7 pm.

Enjoy a full day of shopping from local vendors, family-friendly activities, ballet lessons with real Nutcracker ballerinas, and more, all in the heart of League City's gorgeous Historic District.

After a day of shopping at Nutcracker in the Park, enjoy hot chocolate, live music, and get a free League City commemorative ornament to usher in the start of the holiday season at the city's official Christmas tree lighting from 5-7 pm.

From December 1-3, celebrate the 26th year of Holiday in the Park with Magic on Main Street, a weekend of festive family fun in beautiful League Park.

Enjoy a children’s parade, the Grand Night Parade (the largest holiday parade in Galveston County), live music, shopping, food vendors, entertainment, and more during this annual League City tradition.

The next weekend, December 9-10, immerse yourself in the historic charm of the Old League City Christmas and celebrate the holidays with traditional activities like WALKabouts, Porch Parties, Airing of the Quilts, District Strolls with Vintage Vehicles, and historic demonstrations at the League City Historical Society Museum. It happens 10 am-3 pm both days.

A beloved tradition for more than 60 years, the lighted Christmas Boat Parade travels from Clear Lake to Galveston Bay. Boaters go all out to compete for prizes, so you can expect an extravagant show on December 9 beginning at 6 pm. Read more about how this tradition came to be here.

Enjoy a yummy breakfast with Santa, fun activities, crafts, and picture opps at Hometown Heroes Park on December 10 from 8:30-10:30 am. Register everyone attending here, with kids 2 and under free.

Fa la la in the library

Celebrate the season with stories and photos with Santa, festive children’s crafts, cookies and wassail, and more at the Helen Hall Library's open house on November 30 from 5-7:30 pm.

On December 16 from 2-4 pm, enter the world of Harry Potter at the library's Yule Ball, where you can dance among a winter wonderland, join a Potterworld costume contest, and enjoy candy, snacks, drinks, and butterbeer from the famous Honeydukes. Of course, there will also be crafts, trivia, house-sorting, and wands.This event is held at the Johnnie Arolfo Civic Center.

Ring in 2024

Welcome the New Year at South Shore Harbour Resort's NYE celebration, A Night in Paris. It all comes with live music and entertainment, a delicious four-course dinner, door prizes, dancing, a balloon drop, Champagne toast, and more. Discounted room rates are available fro December 31. To reserve a table, call 281-532-7120 or email nmatthews@sshr.com.

South Shore Harbour Resort gingerbread house

Photo courtesy of South Shore Harbour Resort

Visit the six-foot-tall gingerbread house at South Shore Harbour Resort.

Photo courtesy of the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA)

Hill Country glamping retreat near Austin goes gourmet with new personal chef experience

In-Tents Flavors

Flights to Africa are not cheap right now. The animals may not be the same, but at least Austinites can make a short drive to a very comfortable safari tent for special-occasion jaunts into the wilderness.

"Why does it look like you're in Africa again?" questioned one of this reporter's friends via Instagram DM. It's true, we'd been in a nearly identical landscape in South Africa last winter. But this new glamping retreat was only an hour's drive away. And make no mistake — it's still expensive, but not more so than a upscale hotel room or Airbnb at $450 a night.

Amani (stylized AMANI), the sole safari tent overlooking a vast expanse at Shaffer Bend Recreation Area, officially opened its reservations in June, according to a publicist. But the park has been putting the final touches on the experience outside of the tent, and was finally ready to share the news once the luxe culinary options were finalized. The park invited CultureMap to stay this September, and we were the first to try the new outdoor bites.

This structure, designed and built by glamping purveyors GLAT USA, may pose a philosophical question about what camping entails. If it's being in a remote area, it certainly fits the bill. The tent is situated at the end of a dirt road, off a dirt road. There's practically no chance of seeing even the odd hiker, unless they've taken the incredibly steep trail up the back way and specifically sought out the tent.

The more challenging question, is does camping include a generator? How about a shower, air conditioning, mini-fridge, plush rug, and king-sized bed? Probably not, but it certainly makes it easy to pack up and hit the woods in any weather. And if it's about enjoying nature, it doesn't really get better than being comfortable while doing so — although the noise from the generator, which powers everything including the running water, is a necessary trade-off. (Visitors can technically switch it off, but because of the interaction with the pump, park staff suggested that it remain on.)

Amani LCRA interiorPhoto courtesy of LCRA

A unique idea for honeymoons, girls trips, seniors, or apartment dwellers without much room for storing camping equipment, this is hotel-style travel with the benefit of having absolutely no other visitors in sight. Or earshot. And although the smart interior design gives a glamper anything they'd need to make, serve, and store their own meals (using ingredients from the Marble Falls H-E-B, about 10 miles away), those who want to lean into the luxury may book some gourmet options.

Home chefs who like the idea of remaining separate from the rest of civilization can order a meal prep kit ($55-75 per person, vegan options available) to be delivered to the tent, where they can cook on the grill. The kitchenette, designed with input from a local chef who loved visiting the park before Amani existed, has plenty of grilling tools and dish ware — enough for four people to use even though the space only sleeps two.

More extravagant travelers may consider the most luxurious option: welcoming in a private chef ($300). Chef Cindy Crowe grilled up Amani's first-ever private dining experience on September 16, representing the start of a new partnership between Crowe's company, Bay Kitchens Catering, and the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the government agency that managers the park and rents out Amani.

In fact, it was Bay Kitchens corporate chef, Jay Hunter, who made recommendations on the kitchenette design. And the park is no stranger to luxury dining outdoors; At one fundraising dinner, part of its "Savor the Outdoors" series, park supporters gathered at long picnic tables along the river at Pedernales River Nature Park to enjoy local foods prepared on cool live-fire rigs. The food was delicious, but the friendly breaking of bread between outdoorsy foodies was the highlight of the evening.

The spirit was similar at Amani, although, of course, much smaller in scale. Chef Crowe set up at the outdoor grill and peacefully, efficiently got to work preparing a meal that looked like it came out of an elite, bustling kitchen. Yet, despite all its sophistication, this meal retained the soul of any campsite meal: a simple grilled trout, a summery salad, and a no-bake dessert.

LCRA Amani private chef dinner troutPhoto by Brianna Caleri

Amani LCRA aerial

Photo courtesy of the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA)

Amani is the Lower Colorado River Authority's experiment in ultra-secluded glamping.

More specifically, the three-course meal — called the "Serengeti Menu" — included a very tender baby greens salad with toasted pecans and feta, sweet strawberries, perfectly soft orange supreme (essentially naked orange segments), and a refreshing peach-pecan vinaigrette. The very lemony trout was served with crispy skin, a healthy sprinkling of chives, and an almost-rustic side of roasted Yukon gold potatoes and Chardonnay and honey-spiked baby carrots. Chef Crowe rounded out the menu with her Key lime cheesecake, which she dressed with a berry compote and torched Italian meringue, for a low-maintenance, high-payoff finish.

Other menus include bourbon and honey-glazed Atlantic Salmon with marble potatoes and broccolini, or a choice of steak cuts with asparagus and a twice-baked potato. Crowe points out that although the menu isn't very limited, she did have to think about what could be cooked without an open flame. (It'd be hard to cook on something other than propane during a burn ban.) Things like twice-baked potatoes and mini cheesecakes are easy to prepare ahead and hit with a finishing touch at the campground.

"It's simple food, still done well," says Crowe. "Even though I'm out here with these beautiful views cooking on a grill you could buy at Lowe's, I still want to put my stamp on the dishes."

This particular tent design is new for the LCRA, according to Crowe and Cheyrice Brumfield, the park host and Cherokee grandmother who appeared at my tent in full glam makeup at 10:20 am to get the water turned back on after a repair before I arrived. If Amani is as successful as the glamping trend of the past few years would suggest, the LCRA plans to bring similar tents to other parks.

Crowe, during her first run-through of this particular catering experience, was not sure how many people would be able to join in, but she guesses she could accommodate four. Bay Kitchen Catering also does bridal brunches and even bulk prep for other restaurants, so the scope depends more on what LCRA is willing to host than the volume the catering company is capable of achieving.

Amani LCRAPhoto by Brianna Caleri

A private chef experience is obviously not required to enjoy a stay at Amani, but it certainly elevates the occasion, and could be a nice way to mark a special occasion beyond just staying in a nice room. Amani also offers a cold cowboy pool (basically a large trough for seated dip) that a glamper can choose to heat as a hot tub, an electric bike rental for conquering the very hilly roads and exploring Shaffer Bend's 508 acres, and of course, spectacular views all around the park.

It's as easy to scoff at the extreme luxury as it is to fantasize about it (if you, like most of us, contain multitudes), but what is really special about Amani is that people like Crowe and Brumfield are making it happen. It's not one of a dozen new purchases by an international hotel chain; It directly benefits Texas parks, and it's taken care of by warm, relatable Texans.

Amani and the park's other campgrounds can be reserved at reserveamerica.com. The safari tent has a two-night minimum, bringing the minimum rental cost to $900 before tax and fees. Culinary reservations must be made at least 72 hours before the stay. More information about Shaffer Bend Recreation Area is available at lcra.org.

Photo by Getty Images

Game-changing $1 billion proposition to fund future state parks hits the ballot in November

the future of state parks

A statewide proposition establishing a constitutional amendment to create a $1 billion fund for future state parks will be in the hands of Texas voters in November. The total value has been authorized by the state legislature.

About 10 million visitors flock to Texas State Parks every year, and the ever-expanding population means there is not enough supply of parks to meet the demand. The Centennial Parks Conservation Fund created by Proposition 14 would help the state acquire new parks from landowners without raising taxes on Texans, according to a release.

The measure has received bipartisan support from the Texas Legislature, and statewide polls have yielded overwhelming support for state parks within the last two decades. State Senator Tan Parker filed the Senate bill laying the groundwork for the conservation fund to make it on the ballot.

"The Centennial Parks Conservation Fund would provide dependable, long-term funding for new park acquisition that will protect the unique natural and cultural treasures of Texas, creating the opportunity to ensure our state parks thrive for generations to come," Senator Parker said.

According to Ballotpedia, funds would be "appropriated, credited, or transferred by the legislature; gifts, grants, and donations received by the Parks and Wildlife Department; and investment earnings." It would also not count against the state's appropriation limit.

State Representative Armando Walle, who sponsored the bill in the Texas House, also expressed his support for the bill. He called it a transformational, "Teddy Roosevelt kind of initiative."

Nearly 80 statewide organizations including the Austin Parks Foundation, Austin Outside, and Austin Ridge Riders Mountain Biking Club have come together in support of the measure through the Texas Coalition for State Parks. The coalition focuses on educating Texans about the benefits of developing the statewide park conservation fund.

If the proposition passes, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will be able to use the funds to purchase land and unique properties for future state parks.

Joseph Fitzsimons, the coalition's co-founder and the former Chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, shared his endorsement for Prop 14 in a statement.

"Open spaces are critical to our quality of life," said Fitzsimons. "The Centennial Parks Conservation Fund would help protect the places we love to hike, bike, fish, picnic, view wildlife, and spend time with family."

Voters will see Prop 14 on the ballot on November 7.

More information about the Texas Coalition for State Parks and its members can be found on growtexasparks.com.

Photo courtesy of Memorial Park Conservancy

Memorial Park Conservancy presents Park Conversations: Remembering the 1917 Houston “Mutiny and Riots” opening reception

As stewards of historic Camp Logan - the former World War I training camp which is today’s Memorial Park - Memorial Park Conservancy will commemorate the anniversary of the 1917 Houston Mutiny and Riots with its inaugural interactive audio exhibition on August 23, 2023 - the 106th anniversary of that tragic day in Houston’s history - as part of its Park Conversation Series, in partnership with Buffalo Soldiers National Museum.

A free educational exhibition, Park Conversations: Remembering the 1917 Houston “Mutiny and Riots” will feature six onsite audio experiences situated throughout Memorial Park’s Clay Family Eastern Glades. Participants can connect their personal headphones to listen to words of descendants and community members who have a personal connection to these events and have used their experience to examine and address them over 100 years later.

The opening reception will feature refreshments, live entertainment by saxophonist Kyle Turner, and the first opportunity to experience the month-long interactive audio exhibition, listening to the words of decedents and community members whose reflections humanize this tragedy.

The self-guided interactive audio exhibition will be available for the public to experience through September 26.


Cool clubs and nonstop fun events abound at luxe new Cypress community

Lucky to Live Here

When you live in Cypress there's plenty to do nearby, whether it's Playstreet Museum, Copperfield Bowl, or Star Cinema Grill.

But when you live at Marvida, you don't have to go far for family-friendly activities and entertainment thanks to the dedicated lifestyle director.

It's this person's lucky job to find out what residents love and love to do, then plan events, clubs, and activities to suit those interests.

Ready to spike your way into a volleyball league, or play a few rounds of Bunco? How about gather all the ladies for a women in business meet-up, or organize a group dedicated to volunteering? The lifestyle director is there to help make it happen.

But that's not all — they also spearhead community-wide celebrations like a fall festival, cookies with Santa in the winter, and an Easter egg-stravaganza in the spring.

Movie nights, casino nights, and even Fajita Fridays are also perks for homeowners, who don't have to lift a finger to enjoy the fun.

Residents can have the option to get social at any of the three clubhouses, the shaded pavilion, or gather around the fire pit or the event lawn with fellow families and friendly neighbors.

Four playgrounds make forming a playgroup a given, and when kids are ready for school the neighborhood is zoned for the highly coveted Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District — Cy-Park High School is less than ten minutes away.

With Marvida's new lazy river set to open on September 1, residents can expect lots of splashy fun centered around the pool and splash park.

Why even bother going on vacation when there are resort-like amenities all around, and someone dedicated to making sure you get the most out of them?

Future Marvida homeowners are bound to find their perfect home with unique features that fit their lifestyle thanks to the 15 new homebuilders in the neighborhood. Every nationally recognized builder was chosen for their state-of-the-art design, floorplans, and superior customer service.

Find your future tropical paradise home by visiting marvidahouston.com, and then watch this sneak peek of the lazy river that's opening over Labor Day weekend:

Courtesy of Levy Park

Familiar food truck serving tacos, tortas, and refreshing snacks parks it at beloved Upper Kirby green space

new food in levy park

A Houston food truck is bringing hot dogs, tacos, tortas, and more to popular Houston park. Gaspachos Mexican Bites will open this spring in Levy Park, the six-acre park located near the intersection of Kirby Dr. and Richmond Ave.

Located in the park’s kiosk next to its dog park, Gaspachos replaces Love Shack, celebrity chef Tim Love’s burger joint that closed last summer along with his upscale barbecue concept Woodshed Smokehouse. Park visitors are already familiar with the future kiosk’s offerings, as the Gaspachos Fruits and Cravings food truck makes regular appearances there.

Founded by Jennifer Perez in 2016, Gaspachos Fruits and Cravings serves mangonadas, natural fruits, ice cones, elotes, and other snacks. Perez currently operates three trucks across the Houston area.

The Mexican Bites kiosk will build on that success with the addition of tortas, flautas, hot dogs, and tacos. They’ll paired with beverages such as micheladas, margaritas, and agua frescas. Dog owners will even find a couple of snacks for their pets.

Levy Park Gazpachos dog ownersPark visitors already enjoy Gazpachos.Courtesy of Levy Park

“Food should taste and feel good. It should be healthy, have the freshest ingredients and flavors,” Perez said in a statement. “We like to surprise each guest with a unique experience and look forward to bringing our heavenly bites to Levy Park.”

Gaspachos Mexican Bites should give park visitors a refreshing, casual option for quick meals. It joins restaurants in the adjacent Kirby Grove building, including coffee shop Slowpokes, modern Japanese restaurant Money Cat, and Indian fine dining institution Kiran’s.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jennifer in this expanded capacity” Levy Park director Stephanie Kiouses added. “Gaspacho’s Mexican Bites will be a great addition to the park as we continue to enhance Levy Park’s amenities and appeal.”

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Retro Montrose pizzeria scores coveted spot on Esquire's Best New Restaurants in America list

Esquire best new restaurants

Two Texas restaurants are basking in the national spotlight. Both are recognized on Esquire magazine’s new list of The Best New Restaurants in America, 2023.

They are Este, a Mexican seafood restaurant in Austin, and Nonno’s Family Pizza Tavern, a pizzeria in Houston that’s not on the main list but earns a shoutout for being the Pizza Joint of the Year. The 50 restaurant list is led by Ilis, a New Nordic-inspired restaurant in Brooklyn whose name is adapted from the Danish words for “fire” and “ice” (ild and is, according to the magazine).

Este, the only Texas restaurant on the main list (down from three in 2022), earns recognition for its ceviche, oysters with salsa negra and chiltepin mignonette, fried fish tacos, and more. The Austin restaurant is no stranger to these kind of lists, having earned similar shoutouts from the New York Times, Bon Appetit, and Texas Monthly.

“You might think you’re on the Mexican coast, but alas, you’re in good ol’ landlocked central Texas. East Austin, to be exact,” Omar Mamoon writes. “While the fish has a bit of a journey, many of the vegetables and floral garnishes are plucked from the garden behind the restaurant.”

Mamoon heaps similar praise on Nonno’s, citing its retro design, comprehensive wine and cocktail lists, and Chicago-style cracker-thin pizzas. “Nonno’s in Houston evokes the retro pizza parlors of my youth, Pac-Man and all, but the pizza is much, much better,” he writes.

Published Tuesday, November 28, Esquire writers Jeff Gordinier, Joshua David Stein, Omar Mamoon, and Kevin Sintumuang compiled the 50 restaurant list by visiting more than 200 establishments across the country, according to the magazine. In addition to Ilis, New York City claims eight more spots on the list, including Top Chef alum Kwame Onwuachi’s Caribbean restaurant Tatiana and Torrisi, an homage to New York City’s food culture from the restaurant group behind acclaimed Italian restaurant Carbone.

“Honest innovation doesn’t always work in the kitchen, but when it does, it’s like rocket fuel for the soul,” Sintumuang writes in the article’s introduction. “You leave not just full, not just filled with delight, but with a spark. It’s a rare thing, but it’s worth chasing. Consider this your map.”

Iconic rapper Busta Rhymes brings all the lyrics to Houston's ears on new tour

rhymes in ya ear

Effortlessly clever and a born performer, iconic rapper-actor-performer Busta Rhymes is a living link to the early days of NYC/East Coast hip-hop's origins and modern entertainment. Next year, Houston fans can catch all his lyrics inside their ears when he hits town.

Busta Rhymes will bring his energetic brand of showmanship and raspy-voiced rhymes to 713 Music Hall on March 28, 2024 as part of his just-announced Blockbusta North American tour. Supporting his acclaimed new album of the same name, the Blockbusta tour will also head to Dallas' South Side Ballroom on March 24 and Austin's Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater on March 26.

Tickets are available via Citi presale now, with more presale promotions running the week ahead of the general on-sale, beginning at 10 am Friday, December 1at LiveNation.com. Fans can look forward to VIP packages and experiences, including general admission tickets, individual Meet & Greet, photo op, and Q&A with Busta Rhymes, autographed item, early entry with priority access to the floor & more. Those interested should check out more at vipnation.com.

Fresh off supporting 50 Cent on the historic, global Final Lap Tour, Busta will drop a feast of new Blockbusta material from the Busta co-produced with A-listers Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, and Swizz Beatz. Check out new tracks — including the latest single “OK” featuring Young Thug — here.

The NYC native boasts 12 Grammy Award nominations, more than 10 million albums worldwide, seven Top-10 debuts on the Billboard 200, and a "greatest performer of all time" title glossed by none other than one JAY-Z. He has also starred in notable roles in films such as Higher Learning and Finding Forrester and has even rubbed elbows with Former President Barack Obama.

But he still keeps it real from his East Flatbush Brooklyn early days, with cred such as BET Jams crowning his "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See" as the "Greatest Hip-Hop Video of All-Time." Busta also recently scored the 2023 BET Icon/Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Here is the full list of Blockbusta 2024 tour dates.

3/13 San Francisco, CA The Masonic

3/15 Los Angeles, CA Hollywood Palladium

3/16 Anaheim, CA House of Blues

3/17 San Diego, CA SOMA

3/19 Las Vegas, NV House of Blues

3/20 Phoenix, AZ The Van Buren

3/22 Denver, CO Fillmore Auditorium

3/24 Dallas, TX South Side Ballroom

3/26 Austin, TX Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater

3/28 Houston, 713 Music Hall

3/30 Atlanta, GA Coca Cola Roxy

4/1 Orlando, FL House of Blues

4/2 Miami Beach, FL Fillmore Miami Beach At Jackie Gleason Theatre

4/4 Raleigh, NC The Ritz

4/5 Charlotte, NC The Fillmore Charlotte

4/7 Philadelphia, PA The Fillmore Philadelphia

4/8 Silver Spring, MD The Fillmore Silver Spring

4/9 Boston, MA House of Blues

4/11 Detroit, MI The Fillmore Detroit

4/12 Toronto, ON HISTORY

4/14 Chicago, IL Radius Chicago

4/17 Nashville, TN Marathon Music Works

4/18 Cincinnati, OH Andrew J. Brady Music Center

4/21 Brooklyn, NY Brooklyn Paramount

Inside the new La Griglia: Murals are out, tableside touches are in, and more

First look at La Griglia

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 exterior

Courtesy of La Griglia

La Griglia is now open on West Dallas.

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.”