Grotto Italian Restaurant

Grotto Italian Restaurant, 9595 Six Pines, The Woodlands, TX (Market Street)R Grotto A 2018
Price: $$$ / $$$$$
Ambiance: 4.0/5
Service: 4.0/5
Food: 4.0/5

When in North Houston we always make an effort to stop by the Grotto for lunch. We’ve been coming here since 2014, if my memory serves me correctly, and I can’t remember a bad experience, either in the food served or the service.  When I think about it that’s an achievement that applies to almost no other place I can think of with the exception of a few extreme, pricey, high-end establishments.

The Grotto, with 7 locations in Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Texas, is one of the 60-some different Landry’s specialty restaurants. The Grotto, serving upscale and standard Italian fare, delivers a diverse menu emphasizing quality cuisine and attention to the details. The restaurant occupies a cavernous open chamber of tile, wood, and plaster in subdued but pleasant colors and stylish decor.  When busy this open area can reach into some fairly high decibel levels. The walls have various poems and quotes concerning Italian food and eating that I have only been able to partially decode with my limited vocabulary in the language. Overall the spirit of the interior is one of understated charm and impeccable cleanliness.

We have always had great service at the Grotto with the exception of parking, which is the fault of The Woodlands, Market Street town square shopping district; there simply is not enough parking in the area to accommodate all the shops and shoppers. We have solved this problem in 2 different ways depending on how lazy I am.  Either we use the adjacent Woodlands Mall parking lot and walk the less than 2 blocks to the restaurant or drive up to the front entrance and make use of the valet parking service. Seating is always cheerful and prompt. We have never had a reservation for lunch and had to wait for a table only once, but we just had a drink at the bar, passed a few moments in irrelevant conversation and in no time the hostess showed us to our table.  Once seated we are promptly served with water and a bottomless assortment of spicy and plain breads along with a very nice olive oil concoction of herbs and spices. The waiter has always been attentive in all our visits, quickly taking our drink orders and following up at appropriate intervals to take additional requests or just inquire about the service and or meal. The manager will usually stop by for a quick chat which is always a nice touch.

W O'Lillo 2014Drinks are always a meal prerequisite with us and the Grotto provides ample supplies of everything to satisfy our whims.  Beers to martinis, wine to mojitos, your thirst can be satiated in multiple venues but we usually just partake in wine and beer. They have my standard Italian beers of Moretti and Peroni and an adequate selection of wines by the glass.  They have a much more extensive selection of wine available by the bottle. For this visit we had a Baracchi O’Lillo Toscana IGT Super Tuscan, possibly a young 2016 vintage, that was very good. It was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese; brimming with full-bodied black fruits and leaving a lasting finish. I would rate this wine 90+, and for $10 a glass, a steal.

We started off our meal with an appetizer of their meatballs priced at $10. A pair of fist-sized monstrosities filled with herbs and breading.  Very flavorful but way too much if you are also going to have a meal.  These spheres of opulence would be a perfect complement for an after-work drink or two. In the past we have also tried their $14 Scampi Grotto: shrimp scampi, that is very good and definitely less filing than the meatballs.

For our entrees I ordered my usual, Meatzza Pizza for $17.  The ingredients have changed over the years; with and without bacon, with and without mushrooms; the current version consists of pepperoni, Italian sausage, and mushrooms all atop a wonderful thin, crisp crust cooked up in an open-fire pizza oven situated in the middle of the bar.  In my mind, close to a perfect pizza, onions instead of mushrooms would be perfect, but too large for one person. We ended up taking half the pizza home with us.  My wife had the Ravioli di Mare for $18. A delicious serving of seafood ravioli, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and shrimp abounding in a wonderfully creamy and smooth white wine sauce.

We usually end our luncheon fare with something sweet but due to the excessive intake of the prior dishes we had to take a pass, but their ever-changing desert cart always  has something irresistible.  Mezzanotte, tiramisu, cheesecake, cookies, strawberry cassata among other seductive treats.  Starting with desert would be an acceptable choice.

The Woodlands Grotto is a fine place, a great place for lunch or dinner.

Wine, Wine, Wine

The Home Winemaker’s Companion B Wine 2000

Written by:  Gene Spaziani and Ed Halloran

Published by:  Storey Publishing

Copyright:  © 2000

Give me wine, wine, wine, all the time, time, time
Give me wine, wine, wine, all the time, time, time
‘Cause when I get it, I feel so doggone fine

Well, a little bit o’ wine is never bad
People drink wine to keep from feelin’ sad
‘Cause when I get it, I feel so doggone fine

Give me wine, wine, wine, all the time, time, time
Give me wine, wine, wine, all the time, time, time
‘Cause when I get it, I feel so doggone fine

Well my grandmother loved wine so much
It even took her off the crutch

Give me wine, wine, wine, all the time, time, time
Give me wine, wine, wine, all the time, time, time
‘Cause when I get it, I feel so doggone fine

Wine Wine Wine by Maxwell Davis and Floyd Dixon ©1976?

Many years ago I read an interview of an Earth scientist, a geophysicist, in a technical journal discussing his life’s work.  I no longer remember the man’s name or much of what he said in that article; in fact the only thing I do remember, and I have absolutely no idea why it has stuck with me, is a comment that he made on the subject of red wine. Why that was germane to the article also remains a mystery to me but the quote was succinct and indubitable, and I believe I can recite it verbatim: “I wish I had started drinking red wine much earlier in life.”  I can only add that I whole heartedly agree.  My red wine drinking days started, regrettably, way too late in life. At my age one realizes that life is short, so let’s get on with it.  Get on with the good things in life that is.

I enjoy all things about red wine; researching, reading, writing, buying and above all else drinking.  The next step in my journey is to start making my own red wine, learning the steps and methods that go into creating a drinkable, and hopefully, a good red wine.  An excellent first step is to study and learn from this book: The Home Winemaker’s Companion.

The book is compendium of need-to-know facts and processes about making wine in your home.  Making wine is not rocket science but discipline and patience are required. It starts out listing and describing the equipment, the hardware, the tools, you will need, both what is essential and what is useful but not entirely necessary.  Some of the materials you may already have in your home such as funnels and measuring cups but likely you will need to invest in some 6-7 gallon food-grade pails and carboys for fermenting and aging your wine plus some basic tools such as stirring paddles and large bottle brushes.

Next come the ingredients other than the grapes themselves; yeasts, cleaning and fining agents and other simple or specialty chemicals needed to ensure a successful wine. The book helpfully lists numerous yeasts that are needed for various varieties of wine.

Cleanliness and sanitation of your equipment is a must for making wine.  The book states over and over the importance of sanitation, and describes the proper methods and chemicals needed to ensure clean and sanitized equipment.

The book then describes the basic steps in actually turning your grapes into wine.  This includes, but not limited to, testing for sugar and acid, racking (transferring to another container) your wine, imparting an oak flavor, and finally bottling and corking your wine.  Save your old wine bottles for reuse but purchase new corks.

Before the book gets into the actual recipes for the various red and white varieties of wine, it discusses the advantages, and disadvantages, of using kits and grape concentrates versus crushing and maceration of your own grapes.  Once you decide your starting point on the initial condition of the grape, you can select the actual recipe, all of which include detailed, step-by-step instructions.

The final, and maybe the first, step in wine making is patience.  Patience to allow the wine to ferment, age and improve.  My initial plan is to allow the wine to age in glass carboys, oak and bottles for at least 2 years.  Success will take some time to determine.  I do hope I have the patience.

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