This Week’s Food News: Celeb-Backed Pizza, a Pickleball Sports Bar and More Alfresco Fun

This Week’s Food News: Celeb-Backed Pizza, a Pickleball Sports Bar and More Alfresco Fun

Magdalena’s Prosciutto e Rucola

HOUSTON’S PIZZA RENAISSANCE is still on fire, and continues to march in from other cities (but we’ll take it!). And now that it’s officially spring, there are plenty of chances to get outside and play — and eat and drink — with new pup-and-family friendly communal spaces. Here are our latest discoveries!


PKL Social

PKL Social (photo by Becca Wright)

This week, FM Kitchen opened its new concept next-door, specializing in pickleball. The premiere sports bar, eatery and playground aims to elevate Houston’s bar game with four state-of-the-art pickleball courts and expansive covered patio spaces for casual fare from FM Kitchen. “Pickleball has seen an incredible surge in popularity over the past few years, and we're thrilled to bring this dynamic and accessible sport to Houstonians in our own vibrant and social way," explains operating partner and former Rice University tennis player, Jason Mok. Don’t play pickleball? The team has created a laid-back vibe with a dog-friendly patio and lawn games like ping pong and cornhole, as well as a full bar with sport TVs. Menu highlights include the FM Burger and Smash Burger as well as soft pretzels, and mains like the coconut-shrimp bowl. Also expect happy hour and weekend brunch.

Pizzana

Cacio e pepe pizza at Pizzana

L.A.’s fave pizza from Sprinkles Cupcakes celeb-chef Candace Nelson and partners opens this Friday, March 22, in restaurant-burgeoning River Oaks Shopping Center. The concept got started in L.A. through a pizza party at actor Chris O’Donnell’s home and led to the first Texas Pizzana in Dallas. The secret to success comes from chef-partner Daniele Uditi’s “Neo-Neapolitan” style pizza made with 48-hour fermented dough, which was such an instant hit, Pizzana received a Michelin Bib Gourmand award.

Houston’s new outpost is housed in a former Starbucks space, which has been redesigned in soothing Mediterranean colors with banquettes, tables and a bar. Rejoice in choices like the signature cacio e pepe pizza with fresh Italian mozzarella, Spinaci with basil pesto, Vodka with parsley pesto and smoked coppa, and a Houston-only carnitas pizza. Non-pizza fans can get their fill of antipasti, salads and pasta. Don’t leave without trying the luscious chocolate olive oil cake or an Aperol slushie — the answer to summer heat!

Magdalena's Trattoria & Pizzeria

Owner of Magdalena’s Nicolas Nikic

Surprise, surprise… another Italian joint! Veteran chef Nicolas Nikic, former GM of DaMarco, opened his first eatery a few weeks ago in West U, and singles and families are filing in. Handmade pasta, hand-tossed pizza and grilled items, using some ingredients straight from Italy, headline the menu. The kitchen is helmed by Luis Silva, previously of Vic & Anthony’s, who is using many recipes from Nikic’s grandmother — think osso buco, baked quail with polenta, and sweet corn ravioli with lobster. It gets quite boisterous in the wide-open space, so either come early or late, and maybe bring earbuds.

Stomping Grounds

Stomping Grounds

RE:VIVE, the team behind Stomping Grounds retail space in Garden Oaks, recently announced the launch of After Hours at the Stomping Grounds. The soulful environment comprised of dining, retail and entertainment that revolves around a 10,000-wquare-foot green space, will transform into a vibrant nightlife destination geared towards an adults-only clientele. “The lights will turn down, the music will turn up, and the lawn will flip into an adults-only playground where you can expect more of a beer garden feel, but with excellent food from around the world, accompanied by an array of adult beverages,” said Bryan Danna, principal at RE:VIVE. After Hours takes place Wed.-Sat., starting at 8pm.

Woodland Social

Woodland Social

If wide open spaces are more your jam, check out this two-acre drinking-dining-backyard newcomer in Woodland Heights from siblings Justin Piper, West Piper and Brandon Piper of Piper’s Hospitality Group. The expansive patio bar and casual lounge, complete with games and high-definition TVs inside, provides a new spot for the neighborhood to hang out (and cheer on the Astros). Come thirsty for 20 beers and cider on tap, frozen and handcrafted cocktails, and brick-oven pizza to nosh. “There really isn’t another venue of our size, scope and location to compare it to,” said Brandon Piper. The dog-and-family-friendly patio boasts a grand 20-foot LED screen, lawn games, three regulation-size volleyball courts, cabanas, and swings and hammocks.

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