After almost fist fighting one block of scary shoppers, we finally found a parking spot not far from Prego. All appeared peachy until my dining companion’s lack of limb control took its toll. How hard is it to open your mouth, eat, and control your arms as if to not do the stretch yawn combo every 14 seconds?
This is the same service industry rule breaking rookie that performed the server attention getting menu wave only weeks ago. This mini menu wave is comparable to whistling while finger snapping, only to use one foot for chef kicking, while the other swiftly trips a hostess with the mostess.
Moving right along…
As we perused the menu, all ears began to burn while snooping our closest table neighbor’s drink order conversation. I’m sorry, if it takes almost 2 minutes to explain 1 drink order to your server, you should be forcibly escorted out of the building, placed inside a non courtesy cab, only to be thrown out directly in front of Burger King’s drive thru. Eww.
Excuse me, um, you need to invest in a drink card. This card possesses the appearance of a business card, yet has the power to instantly help service industry workers understand the specific steps necessary to create your high maintenance drink, thus ending all day dreaming of your spontaneous combustion.
Owner Tracy Vaught, with Hugo Ortega always by her side, shines brightly in the industry. Whether it be Prego, Hugo’s, or Backstreet Cafe, the precedent has been solidly set. From the vegetarian menu options at their many restaurants, to the fantastic feeling achieved from simply entering the building, they seal the deal as restaurateurs. It would be simple to go on for days about the tremendous impact this couple has made for years in the Houston dining scene.
Executive chef John Watt is partners with Vaught at Prego and can be seen cheffing daily. Watt is also responsible for helping establish Trevisio, located inside the John. P. McGovern Commons at Bertner in the Texas Medical Center. Prego, as well as Trevisio, now offer a gluten-free menu with a variety of options for healthy hearted Houstonians.
Ready to get your insalata e zuppa on? Bring it. All ingredients are freshly plated to perfection. Choices such as caprese, Caesar, and mista, as well as Burrata, having creamy burrata cheese, heirloom tomatoes, watercress, pickled yellow beets, and hazelnuts.
Another salad, listed as “Prego,” arrives with arugula, radicchio, grilled organic portobello mushroom, oranges, peppered goat cheese, and apple walnut vinaigrette. Chicken breast eaters rejoice, for there is a salad available with mixed greens, candied walnuts, gorgonzola, poached pear, and the always producing jaw joy… wood grilled chicken breast.
Prego’s gluten-free gifts can be found on a special page placed all comfy in the middle of the menu. Start with the tricolore salad with Texas hazelnuts, shaved grana, and citrus vinaigrette. Lentil soup is also available with roasted root vegetables and ricotta salata.
Being a gnocchi fanatic, life became exciting seeing two choices at Prego. Gnocchi dolce is a sweet potato gnocchi with brown butter and sage, while the non dolce gnocchi is simply plain Jane potato gnocchi with fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce.
Dita di Granchio is a seasonal dish of spicy crab fingers in a lemon garlic bianco with grilled Tuscan bread. Word to the wise skinny young people… Keep eating all this bread and (pause) one day… all dreams of skinny jeans be gone, for you will wake up with four legs instead of two. Fact. Be scared. Be very scared.
Prego’s pasta haven has, of course, lasagna, ravioli, and spaghetti. Hop, skip, and jump past the braised veal stuffed pasta and head on over to the corn flour penne with Gulf shrimp, roasted peppers, capers, olives, and garlic dish of total delish. A definite pip step producer is the Penne Norma with roasted eggplant, olives, capers, onion, and ricotta salata. Equally appealing is Prego’s butternut squash stuffed pasta with brown butter, sage, and walnuts.
Risotto is an ingredient having 7 letters which quickly cause an abundance of buffalo dancing with tap shoe intensity to instantly erupt. Prego’s options for risotto begin with goat cheese, leeks, roasted corn, asparagus, and mushrooms, with the next having organic crimini & porcini mushrooms. Most importantly is the risotto di zucca with roasted butternut squash, gulf shrimp, housemade Berkshire pancetta, and scallions.
As with almost every dining experience, there seems to be a bit of ever so necessary pig intervention. Most commoners are aware pancetta is unsmoked pork belly cured in salt and spices, then dried for a few months. Throw in the word… Berkshire… and research becomes reality.
After a full blown Berkshire pancetta investigation, Google has once again elevated the AVH pork product glossary to a more educated level. Certain humans maintain Berkshire pigs are a heritage breed of pig originating from Britain. Pig perkiness peaks upon news that, unlike suckling pigs that are sacrificed between 2 – 6 weeks of leaving the piglet hospital delivery wing, the Berkshire pigs get to become… adults. Joy. During this pork product research, a picture of a real live championship Berkshire boar from 2005 was pleasantly placed upon the computer screen. Please & Congrats.
Prego’s menu feels never ending while moving into the fruitti de mare section. Cacciucco will catch your eye & keep it, having gulf shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, calamari, and scallops, in a tomato-saffron broth. There is also a linguini pescatore with gulf shrimp, scallops, mussels, calamari, and clams in a fra diavlo sauce or bianco. Spaghetti con vongole is a semi carcass show stopper with little neck clams, onion, house made Berkshire pancetta (!!!), and the always exciting acronym… EVOO.
Prego’s gluten-free corn and potato flour-crusted branzino entrée is topped with Gulf shrimp & scallion bianco and served with sautéed spinach & corn flour penne arrabbiata. Also gluten-free is the wood grilled rainbow trout topped with lemon and salsa verde, which is served with sautéed rapini & corn flour spaghetti agliolio. There is one moo, I mean more, item. Veal scaloppini topped with local mushrooms is served with sautéed spinach and roasted butternut squash. Triple Baby Cow Sniffle.
Flourless chocolate cake, vanilla bean panna cotta, raspberry crème brûlée, and three different flavors of sorbetto are all gluten- free desserts now being offered at Prego. Other dessert choices are chocolate soufflé, strawberry shortcake, bread pudding, and yada. Your server delivers a dessert tray in which at least 15 delicious desserts call home.
Management stands out at Prego, which is impressive. Often managers are glorified servers on a ridiculous power trip. To see management working with servers & bartenders when they are slammed is exciting. Prego’s solid management and service, as well as their warm atmosphere, gives this restaurant a welcoming neighborhood vibe.
FIVE: High 5!
FOUR: Please & Thank You
TWO: Double Wow
ONE: Wow + Ouch = Wouch