Houston's restaurant of the moment, Ostia, opened in September and has already made a name for itself in the culinary dense Montrose neighborhood. The casually elegant venue is the brainchild of Houston native Travis McShane, a University of Texas and CIA grad. For more than a decade, McShane has been cooking in kitchens nationwide under the tutelage of acclaimed chef Jonathan Waxman and ultimately ended up overseeing all culinary operations for Waxman's restaurants in New York City, San Francisco, Nashville, and Atlanta.
Ostia, which means host in Italian, is McShane's first solo venture, and although he has cooked all over the country, the decision to open his first restaurant in Houston was an easy one. "No matter where I have lived, I have always claimed Houston as home," said the chef. "It's a massive city full of culture and diversity with some of the most genuine people I've ever met. There are tons of restaurants and a lot of people who want to dine out, so the market is not saturated and allows healthy competition between chefs. Between the market, people, and my family, it was an easy decision to make."
A confluence of Mediterranean and Italian inspired flavors from McShane's extensive travels fill the menu at Ostia. The chef focuses on local and sustainable food, with the cornerstone being seasonality and simplicity. McShane’s elevated flavor profiles coupled with the ambiance, created by star designer Jon de la Cruz of DLC-ID, could easily fit in a stuffy restaurant. However, McShane was adamant that Ostia have a neighborhood feel. "We want our guests to feel like they can come join us on an impromptu weekday evening yet still want to come to celebrate the special days in their lives," said McShane. "Ostia should feel like a place they can just come and have a great time no matter the occasion."
As we are all drinking and carb-loading away the stresses of late, the promise of indoor/outdoor seating, delicious handmade pasta, and a robust beverage program are the prerequisites of a good dining experience. Prepare yourself Houston, because Ostia distinctly delivers on those and so much more.