Pearland’s Grazia gains new fans after scoring rodeo win

March 4th, 2016|Press|

Some would have said it was foolhardy of Grazia Italian Kitchen to enter the recent Rodeo Uncorked! Best Bites Competition with a smoked beef dish. After all, the owner and the chef of the Pearland restaurant were barbecue novices, having only acquired their smoker from Home Depot two months before.

But their new toy – coupled with the skill they brought to their new smoking passion – proved to be just the right vehicle for the food and wine extravaganza that kicked off rodeo season at NRG Center on Feb. 21.

Not only did Grazia score with the 5,500 attendees at the event, winning Reserve Grand Champion in the People’s Choice division, the restaurant was a hit with the professional judges: Grazia’s smoked beef short rib served over pancetta risotto and topped with a cilantro/molasses glaze took the Grand Champion prize for the best entrée at Best Bites.

“We went out there just to get a piece of the cake,” says chef Steve Haug. “We came back with the whole cake.”


Grazia Italian Kitchen

9415 W. Broadway, Pearland, 832-230-8873

Indeed, the Best Bites win has thrust Grazia into a sizzling culinary moment. Now people outside Pearland are venturing to the restaurant intent not only on eating that prize-winning dish, but they’re discovering more about the place that took the top award.

“I had no idea it was going to be that big,” says owner Adrian Hembree. But apparently so: Normal weekend waits of one to two hours for a dinner table stretched to three the first Friday after Best Bites. “They just kept coming and coming,” general manager Larry Bates says.

For the restaurant’s principals, the notoriety is golden. The restaurant, opened in September 2014, is now officially on the foodie map.

Grazia’s merger of Italian cuisine and steakhouse classicism is a good marriage for Hembree and Haug. Hembree knows Italian food while Haug, who joined the restaurant in October, brings considerable steakhouse knowledge to the table – for eight years he was executive chef of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse at the Galleria.

The Grazia menu is a merger of their strengths. Starters include crawfish ravioli, goat cheese bruschetta, shrimp scampi and Cajun-dusted sea scallops with black truffle/lobster risotto. Pasta dishes are many, including penne with house-made Italian sausage, spinach and romano cream sauce. From the grill: rib-eye with black truffle butter, Veal Tomahawk chop with roasted garlic, grilled bone-in pork chops with bourbon cherry glaze, Texas redfish with crawfish cream sauce and pecan-crusted halibut with lemon caper beurre blanc.

Chef specialties include Chicken Marsala, Veal Milanese, Chicken Saltimbocca and Shrimp Vienna. And there’s a dizzying list of pizza, too, emerging charred and bubbling from the wood-fire brick oven.

“What I love about the restaurant is the variety we offer,” says Haug.

For his part, Hembree is proud Grazia is now getting the recognition it deserves.

“We’re giving it all we can every day,” Hembree says.

The team must be doing something right: The Grazia brand is ready to grow with a new store slated to open at 1001 Pineloch in the former Perry’s Italian Grille spot in May.

Greg Morago

Greg Morago

Food Editor, Houston Chronicle

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