It’s just before 1 p.m. on Postino WineCafe’s official opening day and the patio is already packed. Not to the gills, mind you, in a way that would necessitate shouting your order or detract from the leisurely ambiance, but in a way that bodes well for a very new restaurant trying to make its mark on the competitive Houston dining landscape.
The Heights location is the first Texas outpost of the group of Arizona-based all-day wine cafes primarily led by restaurateur Lauren Bailey, CEO and Co-founder of Upward Projects. When scouting locations, Bailey had a hunch about Postino’s potential in the Heights, a belief that was later substantiated when neighbors who passed by the construction site repeatedly (and often impatiently) inquired as to when they would open.
I was not among them (EaDo is my current ‘hood), but I also got a good feeling immediately upon interacting with my server Christian, who needed no notes when describing in detail the origins and tasting points of the various meats and cheeses of the Butcher’s Block starter. Accompanying this array of hard and soft, salty and tangy cheeses and charcuterie was smoked almond hummus, lightly grilled asparagus, olives, nuts, and crunchy crostini.
Although in comparison the Pub Board appetizer was ostensibly less sophisticated with regards to components, there was a lovely je ne sais quoi (irony noted, insert Spanish equivalent here) to the pairing of malty soft pretzels whose exterior was browned to a buttery crispy with pert cornichons, heady chorizo, and hunks of sharp aged cheddar. It evoked the traditional ploughman’s lunch, with some obvious deviations, e.g., the addictive “giant Spanish corn nuts” (not a euphemism).
Postino offers customers the option of pairing a half-panini with a salad and while I would usually demur from such conservative ordering and just have a salad and a whole panini, the generous portions of my starters necessitated some austerity. Doing so saved me from a belly ache, for I found myself tearing rapidly into the Brussels sprouts salad upon trying that first crunchy, nutty forkful of sauteed sprouts tossed with kale, crumbly bits of manchego, almonds, chopped bacon, and dried cherries. The lemon manchego dressing became but an afterthought in the midst of these bold aforementioned elements, though I appreciated the addition of citrus tang. I managed to slow down (somewhat) with my salad to try my panini (technically, panino, but whatever) layered with prosciutto and a deliciously gooey—and just a wee stinky—belletoile brie. A heavy drizzle of piquant balsamic vinegar as well as emerald green olive oil pleasantly moistened the toasted bread as well as added some botanical fattiness.
Postino takes special pride in its bruschetta and a sampling of four ($15) is a terrific way to round out the main event for a group meal. Of the options, I recommend those topped with fig spread, brie, and thinly sliced green apples; creamy ricotta dotted with dates and pistachios; and the uber-moist burrata with tomatoes, arugula, and bacon.
This gal had to return to work, so I cannot attest to the quality of the other major division of Postino’s menu (wine!), but their diverse listings combined with recommendations from the knowledgeable, helpful but never officious waitstaff suggest you’re likely to will be pleased with whatever bottle you pair with your meal.