Italian and Mediterranean dishes with a rustic flair are the brand at Ostia.

Image: Jenn Duncan

New restaurant openings are fewer and farther between because of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, but the good news is the highest-profile launches have been some of the best in 2020. We'll see if that continues with Ostia, which will begin service Friday at 2032 Dunlavy St, according to an announcement made Tuesday.

Ostia is the brainchild of Travis McShane, a Houston native who cut his teeth at the Culinary Institute of America before working under celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman. As Waxman's culinary director, he oversaw all of the chef's restaurants in New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Nashville, but now he's come home to open his first true venture.

The chef will be showcasing Italian and Mediterranean flavors at the upscale Ostia, which he's calling "a neighborhood restaurant."

“My wife, Charlotte, and I have had amazing culinary journeys, many of which have shaped me personally and guided my vision. Our goal is to bottle those experiences up and serve them to Houston diners in a unique, approachable, and thoughtful environment," McShane says. "We aim to be an every-occasion dining destination that happens to serve remarkable tastes in a memorable atmosphere."

McShane will rely on a seasonally changing menu that will feature handmade pasta like chitarra, fusilli, bucatini, and gnocchi. The opening menu has whole fish with Meyer lemon tapenade; ribeye with anchovy-garlic butter; and pork chop with apricot mostarda and escarole hearts. A $60-per-person, family-style tasting dinner and curbside meals will be available from the onset.

Accompanying that will be a full-beverage program. Its wine list, curated by McShane and master sommelier Jack Mason, who also helped fill out the program at the new Bludorn, will balance both Old World and New World bottles.

Inside the dining room at Ostia.

Image: Jenn Duncan

At 4,500 square feet, the restaurant seats 164 in total between a main dining room, a greenhouse room, and a patio. It combines modern industrial touches (an exposed, sloped ceiling; terra-cotta brick walls; copper light fixtures) with warmer neighborhood-restaurant elements (beige leather banquettes, hardwood floors). There's also an open kitchen and stone-deck oven and grill. Jon de la Cruz of California-based firm DLC-ID led the design of Ostia.

"I'm thrilled to collaborate with Chef Travis in realizing his vision for Ostia," says de la Cruz. "The inspiration for my first-ever Texas project came from Travis’s experiences cooking in different regions around the country. The overarching design is meant to capture the industrial mood in the West Village and the casual elegance of a coastal California bistro, with a heavy dose of Southern hospitality mixed in for good measure."

Ostia will be open from 5–10:30 p.m. Tuesday–Thursday, from 5–11:30 p.m. Friday–Saturday, and from 5–9 p.m. Monday. Brunch is anticipated down the line.

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