If you watched the latest season of The White Lotus, you know the island of Sicily is as much a character on the show as its expansive cast of well-heeled antagonists. Mixed in with the show’s slowly smoldering drama were stunning shots of the sunny island, as well as startlingly awkward scenes in which the show’s characters sit down for seemingly quaint southern Italian meals that almost always show they’re all in possession of everything, which is the exact thing opposite of la dolce vita.
While the show has made me question America’s penchant for putting the rich on pedestals further, it’s also started giving me cravings for authentic Italian food on a weekly basis. To satisfy my culinary wanderlust and to get a taste of the Dolce Vita life myself, I visited the new Highland Village Italian Restaurant Numero28, which prides itself on its authentic southern Italian cuisine. The restaurant charmed me in a way Those of the White Lotus Privileged characters never could.
Numero28’s new Houston outpost, which opened back in September, is the third location for the New York restaurant in Texas (Numero28 Austin opened in late 2014 and Numero28 Dallas opened in late 2020). The restaurant’s Texas locations are all co-owned and operated by Sicilian-born Bernardo Nolfo, who brought Numero28 to Texas after gaining the support of his longtime friend and collaborator Rolando Biamonte and the Biamonte family, the founders of Numero28 in New York City. had received.
The Houston outpost of the restaurant, like others in the group, represents a crossroads of Italy — from Rome to Naples and Calabria to Sicily — and showcases the best of southern Italian cuisine through a menu heavily based on pizza, pasta, and enough passion to get around Getting Jennifer Coolidge to a bend and snap. (OK, we’re going to mix our Tanyas and our Paulettes now.)
Although Numero28 has a fairly inviting (and heated) outdoor patio, we chose to enjoy our meal inside, which to our surprise was much smaller than we expected. After finding our seats in a cozy corner of the Pipsqueak restaurant, which exudes the atmosphere of a large European sidewalk cafe, my guest and I perused the menu while listening to the restaurant manager conversing in Italian to the table next to us took it as a very good sign that we were about to have an authentic experience.
For starters, we chose the Caponata, a sweet and savory vegetable mix with aubergines, served on crostini; and the arancina tradizionale, a saffron-spiced risotto ball stuffed with a hearty Bolognese beef sauce and green peas at Numero28. Those two antipasti were quickly chased down with the Prosciutto e Mozzarella, which featured a huge helping of Parma ham, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, arugula, and a chipotle aioli.
Since Numero28 is known for its pizza, we chose the signature Numero28 pizza for our next course. The pizza is made with finely shaved speck, mozzarella, mushrooms and a rich creamy truffle sauce that made us savor every bite. Although we were already quite full by this point, we decided we couldn’t leave without trying some of the restaurant’s pasta dishes and other appetizers, so we treated ourselves to an order of Cacio e Pepe, which was served in a little show at the table which involves tossing the pasta in a pecorino cheese wheel and the melanzane alla parmigiana, a classic eggplant parmigiana made lasagna-style with a rather delicious tomato sauce alongside fresh basil and mozzarella. Both dishes hit the point pretty well.
We ended the meal the way all meals should end: with the ultra-delicious tiramisu from Numero28, christened to the table in another little show with a Vatican dose of cream and powdered cinnamon. The tiramisu served as the perfect end to a meal which, with the help of some limoncello cocktails, we embraced the dolce vita to the point that upon leaving we were sad, remembering we would be driving home by Vespa – a classic case of scoot-and-switch.