I am always interested in the latest twists in Houston's creolized cuisine, but the Italian nachos on the appetizer menu at Ciro's Italian Grill in Memorial City made me wince. "Only in Houston," read the description under the name of the dish. It sounded like a terrible idea. But I ordered them anyway out of curiosity.
The chips turned out to be Ciro's signature flat bread cut into triangles and toasted in the pizza oven until each piece was very crispy. The toppings were sauteed spinach, confit garlic, olives, red peppers, blistered tomatoes, mushrooms, black beans, corn, and melted mozzarella, all arranged around a bowl of marinara "salsa." Some of the nachos on top were gloppy. But by fishing naked chips out of the bottom of the pile and composing them like mini pizza slices, you could craft some tasty bites. Washed down with a glass of super Tuscan red wine, it was a much better appetizer than I was expecting.
Ciro's Italian Grill
9755 Katy Fwy
It wasn't the first time Ciro's Italian Grill surprised me. From the highway, the top of the restaurant building peaking over the railing of the elevated portion of I-10 looks like a chain restaurant. But the first time I ate here, I was greeted at my table by Ciro Lampasas, Sr., who explained that his son, Ciro Lampasas, Jr. is a cousin of Damian Mandola and one of the original partners in Damian’s Italian restaurant on Smith Street in Midtown. The charming Italian restaurant is a one-of-a-kind independent establishment.
On my previous visit, I was sampling seafood salads, and it turned out Ciro's seafood wedge salad—a whole head of romaine dressed with tomato slices, jumbo shrimp, and steamed mussels, dressed with a luscious mixture of marinated chopped baby squid, shrimp chunks, and herbs in olive oil—was the best deal on a seafood salad in town.
I'll be visiting Ciro's again soon. There are a lot of other menu items I want to try, and I love the giant oval bar.