Marmo, in the new Montrose Collective mixed-use development on Lower Westheimer at Grant, is quite a pleasant, sunny L.A.-style restaurant. Once they tighten a few screws, it will become a great one.
Marmo’s website calls it an “…Italian chophouse concept. Marmo, meaning ‘marble’ in Italian, features fresh hand-rolled pastas, house-made charcuterie, and hand-cut prime steaks.”
A friend and I didn’t sample all that during a recent lunch, but we did order a feast and enjoyed most of it.
My arrival had a few rough edges. There’s complimentary valet parking, but while you drop off your car in front of the restaurant, you’re told you must pick it up at another location. (I cajoled them into making an exception for me.)
Upon entering, the host station had been ghosted. They were looking for someone who could use the “system.” It took a few minutes. Not much of an inconvenience, but at Marmo’s considerable prices, the welcome experience should have been smoother.
We chose two starters. Polpette (meatballs) are served with tomato sauce and ricotta melting over from a carefully placed breadstick. They were also served cold. (Revenge? Non per me!) These were whisked away and replaced immediately. Once bitten into it, we savored the lush beef with its abundant herbs.
Tuscan Fried Chicken was the only real bump in our meal. The nuggets were greasy with a poorly seasoned breading, the accompanying artichokes touted on the menu went incognito and the garlic aioli was bland. This appetizer is best left unordered.
Both of our salads were excellent. In the Roasted Carrot Salad, Marmo gives the tender carrots a fall-like treatment with hazelnut vinaigrette (OMG), truffle honey (OMG again) and smoked ricotta. The mix of flavors is sublime.
If that salad is hearty, then the Sicilian Lobster Salad is as refreshing as a cool front in May. A generous amount of lobster chunks tasted as if they’d been netted that day. The advertised arugula morphed into Boston lettuce, which was fine, but the fennel, Mandarin orange slices, olives and basil-avocado vinaigrette complemented everything perfectly.
We left room for one entrée. Squid Ink Campanelli, that shimmering black pasta, came with blue crab and an Uni (sea urchin roe) cream sauce. There’s a chili kick to this dish, and it’s so buttery and rich and satisfying that a little goes a long way.
Bread service, a not-too-heavy-on-the rosemary focaccia, is available on request and is great for sopping up Marmo’s wonderful dressings and sauces.
At dinner Marmo adds a couple of Crudi options, some additional pastas and a quartet of dinner-only mains. What sets it apart, though, is live entertainment. The lounge has a baby grand piano where Houston’s best-known singers perform nightly.
Parking options are plentiful (as are Marmo’s wine choices, which I’ll peruse next time). You can valet, use the parking garage, or choose an open spot in the back. But I do plan to park at Marmo soon!