If you watched the last season of The White Lotus, you know the island of Sicily is as much a character on the show as it is its vast cast of well-heeled antagonists. Interspersed with the series’ slowly simmering drama were some great shots of the sunny island, as well as incredibly awkward scenes in which the show’s characters sit down to seemingly picturesque southern Italian meals. which almost always reveal that they are all in possession of everything that is the complete opposite of la dolce vita.
While the show made me question America’s penchant for putting the rich on pedestals, it also started giving me weekly cravings for authentic Italian food. In order to satisfy my culinary wanderlust and taste this life of dolce vita myself, I paid a visit to the new Italian restaurant Highland Village Number28, which prides itself on its authentic southern Italian cuisine. The restaurant ended up charming me somehow The White Lotuses privileged characters never could.
Numero28’s new Houston outpost, which opened in September, is the New York restaurant’s third location in Texas (Numero28 Austin opened in late 2014 and Numero28 Dallas opened in late 2020). The restaurant’s locations in Texas are all co-owned and operated by Sicilian native Bernardo Nolfo, who brought Numero28 to Texas after receiving the endorsement of longtime friend and collaborator Rolando Biamonte and the Biamonte family, the founders of Numero28 in New York.
The restaurant’s Houston outpost, like others in the group, represents a crossroads of Italy – from Rome to Naples, Calabria to Sicily – while showcasing the best of southern Italian cuisine. italy through a menu rich in pizzas, pastas and enough passion to make Jennifer Coolidge bend and break. (OK, we’re mixing our Tanyas and Paulettes now.)
Although Numero28 has a rather inviting (and heated) outdoor patio, we opted to have our meal inside, which to our surprise was much smaller than expected. After finding our seats in a cozy corner of the pipsqueak restaurant, which has a major European street cafe vibe, my guest and I perused the menu while listening to the restaurant manager converse in Italian with the table next to us, which we took for a very good sign that we were going to live an authentic experience.
To start, we opted for the caponata, a mixture of sweet and tangy vegetables with aubergines, served on a crostini; and the arancina tradizionale, a saffron-spiced risotto ball that, at Numero28, is stuffed with a hearty beef Bolognese sauce and peas. These two antipasti were quickly followed up with the prosciutto e mozzarella, which included a massive helping of Parma ham, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, arugula and chipotle aioli.
Because Numero28 is known for their pizza, we opted for their signature Numero28 pizza for our next course. The pizza features delicately shaved spek, mozzarella, mushrooms and a rich truffle cream sauce that made us savor every bite. Although we were already quite full by then, we decided we couldn’t leave without sampling some of the restaurant’s pastas and other dishes, so we treated ourselves to an order of cacio e pepe, served at the table. in a little show that involves tossing the noodles into a wheel of pecorino cheese and the Melanzane alla parmigiana, a classic eggplant parmigiana prepared lasagna style with a rather delicious tomato sauce accompanied by fresh basil and mozzarella. Both dishes hit quite well.
We ended the meal the way all meals should end: with Numero28’s ultra-tasty tiramisu, which was, in another little show, dubbed tableside with a Vatican-sized dose of cream and cinnamon powder. The tiramisu served as the perfect ending to a meal that, with the help of a few limoncello cocktails, made us embrace la dolce vita enough that when we left we were saddened when we remembered we’d be driving home rather than by car. Vespa – a classic case of scoot-and-switch.