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Chef's Corner: Felipe Riccio

Dai
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Felipe Riccio

FELIPE RICCIO A native of Mexico, Goodnight Hospitality partner-executive chef Felipe Riccio immigrated to Houston as a teenager and started his career with French master chef Frédéric Perrier before sharpening his knife at REEF and The Pass & Provisions. 

Find out about your favorite chefs in our Chef’s Corner column. This month, restaurant writer Dai Huynh interviews Goodnight Hospitality chef-owner Felipe Riccio.

Three years ago, Felipe Riccio was living the dream of a young chef, jumping from one esteemed restaurant to the next, bouncing from kitchen to kitchen, honing his skills, and traveling through Europe. Goodnight Hospitality’s 29-year-old chef-owner said these are just a few of the benefits of stage (a French term, pronounced stazhjer). Here, Felipe explains what stage entails and why it is one of the best resume builders for toques, young and old. The Veracruz-born, Missouri City-raised chef also offers us a glimpse of one of 2019’s most anticipated openings.

In late December 2017, with master sommelier David Keck and developer Peter McCarthy, you opened the honky-tonk-themed Goodnight Charlie’s (2531 Kuester St). Now, Goodnight Hospitality is opening three concepts adjacent to your music venue/restaurant along 1600 Westheimer.  

Long story short, it went from one restaurant to two restaurants and a retail shop for multiple reasons. Mainly, we got to rebuild the building. So, the first one is Rosie Cannonball. It is an homage to the great dining cultures of Southern Europe. The anchor of the kitchen is this wood-burning grill. It has about 70, 75 seats or so. We want it to be this lively, energetic place with lots of sharable items. 

How did you get the name? It’s a cool-sounding name, but I can’t make the connection with Southern Europe.

Rosie Cannonball comes from Pete’s daughter, Grace. We spent weeks trying to figure out names for these places. We weren’t getting anywhere. There were Spanish, Italian and French names being thrown around. One night, Pete asked Grace, just kiddingly. She said, “Rosie Cannonball.” The name stuck. We kept coming back to it week after week, until our designer said, “Let’s just call it that.”

And so, the chef de cuisine for Rosie will be Adam Garcia. We worked at Pass & Provisions together. 

Your retail concept, like its name, Montrose Cheese & Wine, is straightforward, but what about the March concept?  

With 26 seats, March is intimate, ideal for a tasting menu. It’s immersive, relaxed. There is back and forth as to whether fine dining is dead. Obviously, I don’t think it’s dead, but people want it a little differently than they did in the ’80s and ’90s, and even the early 2000s. March will be a research menu, and the core question is what does Mediterranean mean from the perspective of food?  

Stage is “the thing” these days with chefs, even among established ones, who take a break from their stovetop to labor and learn at another restaurant in a different city, or even country. Define stage. 

You’re unpaid help basically. Each restaurant has its own way of deciding what a stage does. Sometimes, you peel carrots. Other times, you help with a lot more. I got lucky with my stages. In 2016, I spent three months in Modena, Italy, at Osteria Francescana, doing everything from prep work to private events with Massimo. I even helped on a photo shoot for their newest book.  

Wait a minute. You worked with chef Massimo Bottura? Last year, his restaurant was considered the best in the world by more than 1,000 restaurateurs, food experts, chefs and restaurant critics.

I had some phenomenal experiences. I also staged at Erba Brusca in Milan; Belcanto in Lisbon, Portugal; and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, New York. It was definitely an opportunity of a lifetime. 

Your mom, Patricia, is Spanish, and your dad, Luciano, is an Italian who loves to cook. You started cooking with your dad, making tomato sauce. It’s a cuisine close to your heart, so where do you go for Italian? 

I still love Giacomo’s (3215 Westheimer). I love sitting on the patio. It’s simple. It’s delicious. I order a little bit of everything, but I love the mozzarella in carrozza. You got to eat it right away, and her meatballs are always awesome.  

Any other places you like? 

UB Preserv (1609 Westheimer) across the street is fantastic. What Nick Wong is doing over there with Chris Shepherd is incredible. It’s singing right now. One of my favorite flavors right now is the tomatillo sauce with the salt-and-pepper fried calamari. It just encapsulates what UB is. 

And as delicious as the tacos at Goodnight Charlie’s are, they’re not truck tacos. I love Taqueria El Palomo (401 Westheimer) in the parking lot of Avant Garden. That is my guilty pleasure right there. 

Editor’s note: Buzz dining columnist Dai Huynh is a James Beard food-journalism award winner and longtime Houston-based restaurant writer.

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