Generations of experience and history from the Orioli family can be found at Via Emilia, a restaurant in The Woodlands that offers authentic Italian dishes from northern Italy.
General Manager Giullian Steele said Via Emilia, which has been in The Woodlands since 2009, offers a wide array of Italian menu options made from Orioli family recipes passed down over decades.
“This restaurant is 100 percent family owned, and you have all three generations working here with us,” Steele said. “We have the grandmother, Elda Orioli, who comes to work five days a week, and she stays in the kitchen where she makes sure the food quality is up to her standards. We also have another who is responsible for making all the pastas and sauces—he’s the only one who knows the recipes and has been with the family for 20 years.”
Steele said everything on the Via Emilia menu, which includes lunch and dinner options, is made from scratch, including sauces, pastas and raviolis. Popular menu options at the restaurant include the vitello osso buco—or veal shank—and ravioli di vitello osso buco, which is handmade pasta filled with veal and mushrooms. Popular dessert options at the eatery include tiramisu, limoncello cake and raspberry bread pudding.
“If it’s a resident’s first time coming here then they should definitely try the Lasagna de la Nona, which is like a meat-sauce lasagna and is the grandmother’s recipe,” she said. “The pear in the gorgonzola salad is also definitely a must.”
Steele said dinner is more popular at the fine dining restaurant and making reservations are highly recommended, especially during the weekend. However, lunch options are also available and include salads and lighter pasta options for customers.
Elda’s son, Carlos Orioli, said in addition to pastas and lasagna, Via Emilia also offers a variety of braised meats and seafood options, such as pork shank, red snapper and Chilean sea bass. Carlos said the variety of Italian dishes, the extensive wine list and the atmosphere of the restaurant is what has made it a success in The Woodlands community.
“We have the ambiance; we have tablecloths, live entertainment and we have 500 types of wine,” Carlos said. “On Wednesday and Sunday we also have all Italian wines sold for half price for the bottle.”
Steele said Via Emilia also offers happy hour from 4-6:30 p.m. from Sunday through Friday and features select appetizers, wine and cocktail specials. Special events, such as wedding receptions, parties and corporate events, can also be held in private dining rooms. Private and semiprivate dining areas at the restaurant accommodate groups ranging from six to 90, she said.
Steele said live music, which includes a piano player, is also featured Wednesday through Saturday from 6-9 p.m. near the bar area, which features rare and aged scotch, bourbons and other spirits for customers to enjoy.
While the Orioli family does not have any current plans to expand or open another location of Via Emilia in the future, Janiel Orioli, Carlos’ son, said he believes the restaurant remains a popular option for residents of The Woodlands, even after nearly a decade of service.
“The response from [The Woodlands] community has been very positive since we’ve been here,” Janiel said. “We have a lot of regular customers that come in here.”
Janiel said he believes his family’s restaurant is different from other Italian options in the area due to the authenticity of the meals offered and the wide variety of menu options that customers can choose from.
“The fact that we’re family owned and operated is what makes us unique,” he said. “My grandma still works in the kitchen, and she takes control of the quality of food, and she’s here daily. So I guess that really sets us apart.”
10700 Kuykendahl Road, Ste. F, The Woodlands
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10 p.m, Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.