If Caracas had direct flights to New York, there would be no Borgo Food Station. When Monica Fallone stopped in Houston in 2014, it was on the way to start looking for locations in New York in which to open a prepared food market. But the March weather didn't cooperate and she was stuck in Mutt City for five days. She loved Houston, and soon her husband, Luis Mancera, and their two teenagers had left Venezuela to join her. This February, they opened Borgo at 3641 W. Alabama St. Their gourmet market specializes in the same Italian food that fed Gabriel Garcia Marquez and a slew of presidents at Fallone's family's Via Appia restaurants.
"Monica grew up in restaurant kitchens," says Mancera. When they met, he was a stockbroker, but her father hoped he would join the business that he started in 1984 after realizing his livelihood of making Jordan almonds wouldn't fly in South America the way it had in Italy. Now Fallone is executive chef at their "gastro market," while Mancera mans the counter. The concept is simple: There's a grab-and-go case filled with salads, as well as jars filled with homemade meatballs (we especially liked the breaded chicken ones blended with ricotta and tarragon), veggies and grains, ready to be shaken and thereby covered in dressing. A freezer section includes salmon-and-couscous croquettes, chicken scaloppine and tenderloin stroganoff, as well as pasta made from scratch onsite.
Fallone's antipasti are exceptional, particularly slices of marinated eggplant covered in fresh mint. Blended salads are far from everyday, too. The chicken Toscana salad, for example, blends fontina cheese, apples, celery, walnuts and chicken for a Euro-inflected take on the Waldorf.
Pastas are available already combined with sauces and ready to heat at home or as ready-to-eat daily specials. Today, there was penne bathed in beef Bolognese sauce and covered in Parmigiano and ricotta-and-spinach-filled ravioli served in an ethereally smooth basil pesto cream.
Today's special chicken was a breast stuffed with spinach and cheese and served with blistered potatoes and sautéed veggies. The bill of fare also encompasses panini, including a veggie version stuffed with Fallone's grilled, marinated selections fresh from the farmers market.
But she hasn't forgotten dessert. Cannoli piped full of Nutella are $1.75 each, but there are sit-down sweets, too. Boozy tiramisu is bedecked with flowers and mini Key lime Napoleons are just subtle enough to cleanse the palate without crossing over into the too-acidic. It's the ideal preparation for tasting the dark, intense chocolate mousse crafted from Venezuelan manufacturer Chocolates El Rey. And thanks to that long layover two years ago, El Rey isn't Venezuela's only culinary import worth seeking out in Houston.