“We are not restaurant people. It’s not our background,” Gerry said.
The couple has lived in Cy-Fair since they got married in 2004. Adriana wanted to move to a quiet area to start a family. The couple realized there were not many restaurants in Cypress at the time, and they often drove to other parts of the city, such as the Galleria or downtown Houston area, for dinner.
The Sarmientos opened Mezzanotte Ristorante in 2005. They considered serving Peruvian food since Gerry is from Lima, but they did not see demand for that among Cy-Fair residents.
They ultimately decided to open an Italian restaurant with no intent to operate it; they only planned to finance the business and let someone else run the restaurant. However, those plans changed after a few years of operation.
In 2007, the couple had a rough year of business and debated closing the restaurant. However, Gerry said he wanted to continue the business and decided to take matters into his own hands by learning how to cook. He became the head chef at the restaurant, and Adriana stepped in as the general manager.
“It was very, very challenging because I had never cooked professionally in my life,” he said. “Somebody had to do it, so I learned very fast, and it came natural to me.”
Gerry had taken a few classes at the Culinary Institute in New York and the Culinary Institute of America. However, most of the recipes came from his own desire to cook and try new foods.
“I’ve always been into cooking, so my inspiration for recipes comes from years of eating,” he said.
Mezzanotte serves Italian dishes and has specials weekly. On Wednesday nights, they serve tapas plates; Thursday nights have a three-course petit filet mignon special; and live entertainment is held on weekends. Gerry said about 80% of customers who dine at Mezzanotte are regulars and know the waiters, who are longtime employees of the restaurant. Most servers have been with Mezzanotte for at least seven years, he said.
Gerry said he does not have any plans to expand Mezzanotte or turn it into a franchise.
“We’re very happy with just this operation,” he said. “We just plan to stay like this.”
Mezzanotte Ristorante, 13125 Grant Road, Ste. 1200, Cypress. 832-717-7870. www.mezzanotte.tv
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-9 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-10 p.m.; Sat. 5-10 p.m.; closed Sun.