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Louie’s Italian American (3401 Harrisburg Blvd.) – a new Italian red sauce concept by the brother/sister chef team Angelo and Lucianna “Louie” Emiliani – will open its rebranded doors on Sunday, December 11 in the space formerly occupied by Café Louie at the 20,000-square-foot converted warehouse – dubbed The Plant – in the East End District, a historic gateway neighborhood for Italian families emigrating to Houston at the turn of the 20th century. Spawned by the popular Red Sauce Sunday series that first launched at the all-day café progenitor, Louie’s Italian American will feature fresh interpretations on Italian American classic dishes and cocktails.
The newly branded restaurant represents the evolution of the Emiliani’s Café Louie, which did not find its footing with weekday dinner crowds. “My sister and I remain eternally grateful for all the love we received with Café Louie, but the all-day café concept just didn’t work after we rolled out our dinner service,” said Chef Angelo in a statement. He added, “Louie and I grew up with Italian American cooking, and we launched Red Sauce Sundays at Café Louie to honor that tradition. Little did we know it would resonate so much with seemingly everyone, and we had to take a good look in the mirror when Sundays started to regularly outperform Saturday nights. We poured our hearts into Café Louie, but we must be responsible as small business owners and give the people what they clearly want.”
Within that context, Chefs Angelo and Louie remain committed to sourcing ingredients from local Texas farms and producers on a menu that has evolved from prix fixe to a family-style a la carte format, beginning with Antipasti classics like Chop, Radicchio and Caesar Salads, along with some Café Louie fan favorites like the punched-up Shrimp Cocktail in verde cocktail sauce and lemon aioli.
The heart of Louie’s menu remains firmly rooted in handmade pastas – Rigatoni, Tajarin, Tagliatelle and Spinach Ravioli – served up with a choice of sauces. Think: vodka sauce, meatballs and gravy, cultured butter-based sauces and, of course, red sauce. Italian American classics take center stage in the form of Chicken Parm, Redfish Piccata, Steak & Shrimp Fra’ Diavolo (Wagyu NY strip), house made garlic Sausage & Peppers and Vinegar Chicken along with inspired sides like Roasted Pumpkin, Seared Cauliflower and Braised Greens.
Pastry Chef Louie Emiliani, whose credits include Los Angeles mainstay Tartine and, more recently, Tiny Boxwoods, will sweeten up the totality of the Louie’s experience with Tiramisu, Meyer Lemon Posset, Carrot Cake Bundt and Gelato of the Day. She has also created the restaurant’s first-ever cocktail program featuring Italian aperitif standards such as Frozen Negroni, Hugo Spritz and Aperol Spritz along with a House Martini that pays homage to her favorite flavor, the Passion Fruit.
Upon arrival to the 65-seat restaurant, guests will literally be seeing red on the formerly all-white exterior before entering Louie’s decidedly cozy interior from the floral wallpaper and textured walls personally installed by Chef Angelo and his mother, made all the warmer by mismatched bistro-style wood chairs, vintage hand-illustrated recipes set in reclaimed wood frames, and wainscoting throughout. Other homey details that evoke feelings of a nostalgic past include vintage hand-painted plates of angels making pizza; up-cycled Bianco diNapoli tomato cans used as silverware holders; and lace curtains peering through the kitchen windows, to name a few.
Located at the 20,000-square-foot converted warehouse dubbed The Plant, which anchors The Plant/Second Ward in the Second Ward neighborhood, Louie’s Italian American is directly adjacent to the micro-grocery store, Little Red Box Grocery as well as the wine bar and retail shop, How to Survive on Land and Sea and the hyperlocal frozen treat shop, Popston.