Christmas at Candelari’s

by Shawnda on January 7, 2007

in Restaurant review

Location: Washington Ave
Verdict: Might go back

We finally were able to catch up with our about-to-be-married friends Brooke and Scott last night. Between the holidays, tummy problems, wedding plans, and colds, we hadn’t seen them in quite a while. We borrowed a table at Candelari’s Pizza to catch up, exchange Christmas gifts, and try out a new restaurant.

I took 10 minutes to jump online and checkout the reviews for Candelari’s before we headed out. The reviews were weird but intriguing – they were voted “Best Italian Sausage” in Houston. In Houston. I can’t be the only one from this area who gets a strange look on her face to hear that award category… “Best Italian Sausage.” Perhaps it might have made sense as the Chronicle is currently running the Ultimate series in which readers vote for the ultimate everything in Houston, from tater tots to weathermen. But this award was given completely independent of that series.

I was excited to see how Candelari’s had transformed the building from the Mexican restaurant that previously owned the space. When I moved from the Memorial Park area a few years ago, rennovations had just gotten underway. That entire area has transformed, with old buildings now housing trendy higher-end casual eateries. Tables are hard to come by at Candelari’s, even at 6:15 on a Sunday evening, but the atmosphere is a nice bistro-casual dining hybrid.

I ordered their Anti-Pasto plate, which is a yummy gathering of pesto crostini, bruschetta & capers, black and green olives, pastrami & provolone, and Insalata Caprese. I’m a total sucker for a good Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella. My husband ordered the pizza they’re locally “famous” for – their home-brew family-recipe Italian sausage pizza.

The sausage has a pretty good flavor and was surprisingly sweet, not spicy. Overall an interesting taste. Candelari’s will even sell you some of their secret-recipe sausage if you fall in love with it enough to want to whip up a batch for yourself at home. The crust was disappointing, though. We ordered the thin crust and I’m really glad we did – I probably would have been far more irritated if all those yummy toppings were ruined by an inch of crust completely void of all flavor. It was as if the baker had skipped over the line of the recipe that read “add the salt.” Our friend noted the blandness of the crust as well, mentioning that it only tasted of flour.

The atmosphere suits the Rice Military/Heights area and the price is right at $14 for a 16-inch pizza. And when they start adding flavor to the crust, we’ll be the first in line to go back.

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