News & Press

Houstonia Magazine - Reinventing Rice Village

— August 13 2014

For the past 14 years, the Rice Design Alliance has opened a suggestion box for local architects, designers, planners, and students to weigh in on various areas around the city that need a little TLC.

Organized by RDA’s young professionals group, rdAGENTS, the annual juried design charrette challenges teams of five to produce renovation plans for a selected site. And they do it all with the stopwatch running, in an eight-hour-straight power planning session.

This year’s mission, should they choose to accept, is to improve the overall accessibility of Rice Village. Participating teams toured the site on July 26, but they won’t know their exact assignment until they convene at Rice University’s Hanszen College on August 2.

A charrette is a gathering of people for an intense period of brainstorming and design. Faced with a challenge or goal, the participants pool their talents to produce plans and drawings, according to RDA.

 “We select a different site every year, and we saw Rice Village as an area of interest and need.” said Mary Beth Woiccak, RDA’s assistant director for programs. “Rice Village is considered one of the city’s most desirable areas, but as Houston continues to grow, the area has limitations in mobility, walkability and accessibility.”

Image: Courtesy of the Rice Design Alliance
Charrette participants on site visit

In addition to picking the brains of Houston’s design community, RDA also works closely with various City of Houston agencies. The results of the charrettes are shared with the managers of the chosen site; past competitions generated the ideas for Sesquicentennial Park and the pedestrian bridge in Memorial Park.

Last year’s victors, Brave Architecture, won Best Overall Design for their vision for a new campus and street presence for the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. A team from Brave has participated in the charrette for the past five years, and they plan to compete again this year.

“The RDA charrette gives us an opportunity to put ourselves in a design bubble and really focus on getting the best design possible in a short period of time,” said Peter Ho, an associate at Brave. “When you're racing against the clock, you start to challenge your conventional strategies and things become very interesting. We try to mix it up and send different groups each year as it helps work on team building and collaboration.”

For many of the participants, the charrette offers the chance to stretch their expertise beyond the scope of their daily jobs.

“Participating in these charrettes allowed us to face issues that are, in fact, prevalent throughout the city,” Ho said. “Although the solutions may be site-specific, the methods and strategies involved can be applied to a variety of projects."

Awards will be announced at a reception on Monday, August 4 in Anderson Hall on the Rice University campus. The reception, where guests can browse through the charrette boards, is free and open to the public.

A Celebration at D’Amico’s Italian Market Cafe

— July 30 2014

Flag waving and a toss in the straw and the hay, Aug. 4-8

When they first met in Rice Village, he had already been on the scene for 21 years. No one was sure how it would work out. A few even doubted it would last at all.

But for him, it was a dream come true, love at first sight. They moved in together and 18 years later, there’s going to be a celebration.

Yes, on Aug. 7, Nash D’Amico and D’Amico’s Italian Market Café this year (now co-owned by his daughter, Brina) are going toast the 18 years that have passed since first opening the doors at 5510 Morningside in Rice Village.

The celebration naturally involves food and Italy – and it will go on for a week.

For the week of Aug. 4, Nash and Brina are offering two special dinners of two off-menu items for $18. There will also be selected bottles of wine for $18 each.

The dishes are Flag of Italy, a three-in one pasta dish featuring pasta with pesto, pasta with alfredo and then pasta with red sauce. The result is the green, white and red colors of the flag. The second dish is Straw & Hay, better known in Italy as Pagilia e Fieno Papalina.

This favorite pasta dish got its less glamorized American name of Straw and Hay because of its mixture of light yellow egg fettuccine and green spinach fettuccine, reminding some of a stack of dried straw and greenish hay.

Nash first started his restaurateur career in 1975 in Huntsville, with his cousins, Tony and Damian Mandola. His cousins later made their own mark on Houston with Damian’s and Tony Mandola’s Gulf Coast Kitchen, among others.

In the 1977 Nash took his love for authentic Northern Italian and Southern Sicilian cuisine, all stemming from his family heritage, and opened the upscale D’Amico’s Ristorante Italiano. The restaurant thrived for almost 20 years, but as the city grew and the number of Italian restaurants grew even more, he began exploring the idea of opening a more casual style restaurant that took advantage of Houston’s Gulf Coast foods.

In 1983, the doors opened to Nash D’Amico’s Pasta & Clam Bar in the Rice Village. The combination of fresh seafood, Sicilian recipes and reasonable prices were an instant hit. Two years later, there was a second location on Westheimer and not long after that, a third location on the Strand in Galveston. A fourth location opened in 1992 in Clear Lake, and in between the third and the fourth, he opened D’Amico’s West End in Galveston’s Pirate Cove and expanded the Strand restaurant to a second floor.

By 1996, however, the time and energy it was taking to run a chain of restaurants while staying active in raising a family and church and charitable events, made the successful restaurateur re-evaluate the course of his career. After long consideration, he made the decision to return to what he loved best - running a casual, family restaurant where he could greet customers by name and still have a life outside of the kitchen. Going Old World, he decided to also add a market to his new restaurant where customers could purchase carefully selected Italian ingredients like dried pasta, spices, olive oil (he has his own line), sauces and sweets. Thus was born D’Amico’s Italian Market Café returning to the area where it all began in Rice Village.

Only the Rice Village location will be celebrating the anniversary, but there is a second restaurant in Katy, which opened in 2013.

The restaurants are open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. The Rice Village location is at 5510 Morningside (713-526-3400) with the second store located 2643 Commercial Center Blvd. in LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch in Katy (281-769-9682). For more information, check the web site, www.damico-cafe.com.

Round Top to Rice Village

— June 3 2014

Cuatro Furniture Consignment was featured in a Houston Tidbits "First Look" article. The consignment store is home to 3,000 sq.ft. of antiques from the same vendors that frequent the famous Roundtop Antiques festival. The feature confludes: "You're sure to fall in loveseat."

Read More @ Houston Tidbits

“Hidden treasures of Rice Village”

— May 6 2014

The Bayou City Daily featured Myth & Symbol, Ten Thousand Villages, The Class Room, and other Rice Village businesses in their Shopping section.

Author Courtney Laine writes:

One of Houston’s oldest shopping districts, Rice Village, is home to a wide variety of small and eclectic shops, boutiques and restaurants just two blocks from Rice University campus. The immediate 16-block area allows you to walk around perusing from shop to shop and end your day at one of the global-cuisine restaurants the district offers.

Read More @ The Bayou Daily