Richard White has poured more than 30 years of experience and passion into Gratzi Italian Restaurant. A restaurateur who has held every job in the restaurant business, White designed more than just the menu. He even designed the floor plan.
"[Cooking] is my craft, and it's gotten to the point where I'm doing the interior designing and the decorating," White said. "I actually drew the floor plan on graph paper using each little square as one square foot and gave it to a draftsman."
White constructs dishes using recipes he has developed through the course of a long career spent working with Italian food. He serves traditional Italian favorites, such as fettuccine Alfredo, lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs. But White also offers specials that have become customer favorites, such as Chicken Romano.
The chef and owner takes special care with every dish, whether it is bread made from scratch or tiramisu crafted with homemade sponge cake.
"I give the same effort into a cheese pizza as I do to a $27 rib-eye steak," White said. "It's the same effort, so to me they're all equally the same and equally as good. Each dish I make is as good as the next."
Gratzi's pizzas are among the restaurant's more popular dishes. White said the variety of gourmet pizzas and calzones served are cooked in a brick pizza oven and topped with a homemade pizza sauce cooked for hours with celery, onion, garlic and cabernet sauvignon wine.
"Between the sauce and the pizza, we could probably just serve those things and we'd be fine," he said.
After 12 years as the co-owner of Campioni's Restaurant in the Champions area, White split from partner Ric Mausser to create Gratzi in 2005. Although Gratzi struggled a bit through the economic recession after a strong initial opening, White said the restaurant has rebounded thanks to growth in the area.
"I think we broke through the recession and came out on the other side better than we ever were," he said.
White said he began his cooking career at the age of 20. He gained a passion for Italian cuisine working in Nino's Restaurant in Houston in the late '70s before attending the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Massachusetts, where he graduated in 1982. He worked in several other Houston Italian eateries before opening Campioni's with Mausser.
With his restaurant seeing hundreds of customers on a nightly basis, White said he is considering opening other restaurants in the area. In the meantime, White continues to take his craft seriously.
"One thing I learned from [owner] Vince Mandola at Nino's was always keep working on your project," he said. "You keep moving forward with your restaurants, and they'll take care of you."
From the menu
- Chicken Romano: Chicken breast coated with Romano cheese, topped with kalamata olives, marinated artichoke hearts and lemon butter sauce. Served with choice of salad, pasta and fresh vegetables ($17.95).
- Roasted chicken lasagna: Layers of pasta layered with sauted spinach, grilled mushrooms and roasted chicken in a crema rosa sauce ($15.95).
- Seafood special: Grilled roma tomatoes, yellow bell peppers and roasted fennel served over pesto with grilled shrimp and sauted calamari steak and topped with a beurre blanc sauce ($21.95).
- Gourmet pizzas: Homemade pizza options include Alla Greca, grilled vegetable, brie, margherita and scampi as well as calzones ($8.95, 8-inch), ($10.95, 10-inch), ($13.95, 12-inch), ($16.95, 14-inch).
- Tiramisu: Homemade sponge cake with espresso syrup, amaretto, mascarpone cheese and whipped cream ($5.95).
6334 FM 2920, Ste. 110Spring 281-376-4800 www.gratziitalian.com Hours: Mon.–Thu. 11 a.m.–2 p.m., 5–8:30 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.–2 p.m., 5–9 p.m., Sat. 5-9 p.m., Closed Sundays