There's a notable new Italian place on the dining scene, and it's in an area of town that really needs more great restaurants.
La Baraonda is a great example of what a small restaurant can be when the front of the house and the back of the house are in sync. It's the antithesis of the soulless chain restaurant, a wonderful, family-owned establishment that's infused with the skill and attention of the proprietors.
Located in a strip center behind a Whataburger, the location is not one that says fine dining. But step inside, and your opinion changes instantly.
The lovely, jewel-like interior is divided into small areas for a more intimate feeling. The design is tasteful and restrained, beautiful fabrics, nice quality tableware, and an eye for detail complete a very good first impression. It's a great spot for a romantic dinner, or a quick lunch in a lovely setting.
And it lasts. Gus (one of the owners) took care of us on our recent visit, and was both professional and warm. A veteran of the Houston restaurant business, his expertise shows in thoughtful recommendations and an eye that anticipates a customer's needs.
And the food is outstanding. At Gus's recommendation, I tried the Chicken Marsala. The Marsala reduction was superb; clearly a very good quality wine was used, and the thyme and other flavors complemented the wine. Plenty of crimini mushrooms topped this delicious dish.
Everything is made in-house, from all the sauces to the excellent Italian sausage, rich with fennel. Notable is the delicious garlicky pesto that is served with the bread. It's even better with the superb garlic bread, made from pannini bread, fresh crushed garlic, and toasted in the pannini press.
Prices are very reasonable, and considering the quality of the cuisine, it's a genuine bargain.
The FM 1960 area has a new star for fine dining. If you've not tried La Baraonda, you're missing out. Make sure to tell Gus hello when you stop by.