When the pandemic hit 2020, Chef Angelo Emiliani loaded his life into his 2003 Toyota Sequoia with a custom-built, mobile 3,500-pound pizza oven in tow. He trekked his way from California back to his native Houston. Nearly two years later, the scrappy chef, who put the time in at Houston’s Uchi before making career stops in San Francisco, Austin, and Los Angeles, has a new café opening in Houston’s burgeoning East End neighborhood.
Café Louie (3401 Harrisburg Blvd., Suite G), now open, is in a converted warehouse known as The Plant and will feature a rustic menu spanning sandwiches, soups, salads, and pastries. The all-day café, open Wednesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with plans to expand hours to 11 p.m., will be helmed by Angelo and his sister, pastry chef Lucianna “Louie” Emiliani. Angelo and Louie’s mother, a private chef, inspired the brother-sister duo’s love for cooking. They knew their way around a kitchen long before stepping into one on a professional basis.
The duo’s creative synergy is evident all over Café Louie’s menu, and that’s perhaps in no small part because this isn’t the first time that the two have found themselves in the same kitchen. After falling in love with baking as a form of meditation, Louie was pulled in full time during a busy holiday season by Angelo. After spending some time baking at Tiny’s Milk & Cookies, she eventually followed him to California to hone her pastry skills in mainstays like Tartine — where Angelo also worked — and Lodge Bread. Now, local foodies will have the opportunity to fall hard for the siblings’ charming collaboration.
“The great part of cooking professionally is the creative aspect –– to make something that’s delicious and work with local producers and nationwide artisans,” Angelo Emiliani said. “It gives us such pure joy to provide hospitality to people –– and means a lot to us to give people a good time. That is what we want Café Louie to be.”
“It’s like we’re pinching ourselves the whole day to make sure this is happening –– and it is,” Louie Emiliani added. “Because of the pandemic, we’ve been waiting and talking and planning for over a year. We are just so happy to be here.”
Housed in a light and airy 2,300-square-foot space designed and built by root lab, Café Louie features an 800-square-foot kitchen and 1,200 square feet of bar and dining space, enough room for 60 guests to be seated comfortably. A 750-square-foot patio is also in the works, and when it’s complete in a few weeks, it will have enough space to accommodate an additional 30 diners.
Café Louie has a playful and warm vibe and sports an interior decked out in terracotta bricks and industrial elements that have been painted in feminine shades of pink and blue, lending the restaurant a softer feel than most industrial-inclined spaces.
The menu, created by Angelo, includes breakfast options like the McLouie with redneck cheddar from Dublin, Texas; a house-made maple sausage patty; cheese curds soaked in local beer; a sunny side egg and dijonnaise, and the Adventure Bread with salted butter, and a soft-boiled egg. The all-day menu includes options like the Veg Sammich with griddled yuba, sesame dressing, herbs, roasted onions, broccoli, and the Ham Sammich with French ham, mustard, Duke’s, cornichon, and fried shallots. For dinner, guests will be able to dine on treats like carbonara, shrimp cocktail, and chicken liver parfait.
The pastry menu, created by Louie, includes offerings like butter croissants, ham and cheese croissants, a date and sesame sugar morning bun, cinnamon rolls, cookies, a pine nut coffee cake, and a sausage kolache with cheese and caramelized onions. The pastries will pair well with treats on Café Louie’s ambitious beverage menu, Vanessa Garcia and Christian Guadiana created, and will feature Amaya coffees and beans from a rotating cast of guest roasters. The beer and wine list at the café will lean heavily on natural wines and beers from local breweries.
Café Louie, which will also house nonprofit grocer Little Red Box Grocery, sports a diverse lineup of neighbors at The Plant. The space includes a buzzy natural wine bar, How to Survive, vintage clothier Second Shop, sneaker retailer Frost Town, and HAM Barber Studio. It will also soon be home to the first brick-and-mortar location of popsicle cart Popston.