In April, it was announced that chef Jonathan Jones had left El Big Bad for Cane Rosso, joined by Matt Wommack, most recently of Broken Barrel. But it wasn't until last Friday that the Dallas-born Neapolitan pizza chain debuted its first menu from the big-name team. For now, the more diverse, Houston-style menu is only available at the Montrose location, but will soon be served at Cane's sister location in the Heights, too.
Since pizzas have historically been the focus at Cane Rosso, Jones and Wommack have worked to incorporate local flavor with additions like the Tall Texano, named by Jones in honor of classic dive, Alice's Tall Texan. Composed of porchetta, pickled red onions, Calabrian chiles, fresh mozzarella and a spicy (but not too hot) tomatillo salsa, the Tall Texano really delivered on flavor. The salsa gave the pizza just the right amount of kick. The My Block, Jones' ode to his Southern upbringing, was also a pleasant surprise with a blend of the pickled flavor from the salumi and greens mixing with the freshly fire-roasted sweet potatoes. The New School section of the menu features seven pizzas in total, but the two new additions were definitely worth second helpings.
Consulting beverage director Chris Frankel, lately of Spare Key, created the new cocktail menu. The Grandest Prize, named for the beloved bar, is a very smooth blend of Bourbon, sweet vermouth, amaro Montenegro and orange curaçao served over a giant cube. The Safari Campari is a refreshingly light yet not too sweet, with a combination of blanco tequila, Campari, watermelon-and-lime juices and mint topped off with a cucumber garnish. The Grandest Prize was so good we stayed after the dinner just to order some more.
Lately almost everywhere you eat has a cauliflower dish on the menu, but Cane Rosso's new appetizer of fire-roasted cauliflower is not only Instagram worthy with its three colors of the vegetable, but can be made 100 percent vegan if the chefs leave off the anchovy vinaigrette and simply serve it in a fondue-like bagna cauda sauce. Another appetizer, the marinated heirloom carrots, are sweet and sour with pickled golden raisins, pistachios and a spiced vinaigrette. The chefs have also reimagined the burrata already on the menu with citrus and herb oil to lighten up the cream-spurting mozzarella cousin.
Three new pastas include squiggly edged cresta di gallo (cockscomb) with roasted chicken, arugula and mushrooms in a light sauce of chicken broth, lemon and grana padano. The baked rigatoni is not for the faint of heart, full of steamy melted cheeses and Bolognese. The chefs recommended using the crusting cheese on the edges of the baking dish like crackers to scoop up every last bit. The Coal Miner is a great blend of pecorino and ghost pepper guanciale that gave the bucatini dish just the right amount of heat.
With a great patio, ample bar space and even good parking, the Montrose location of Cane Rosso has a lot going for it. Now with an imaginative new trio making sure we never go hungry or thirsty, the restaurant is likely to become the destination the space deserves.