April 19, 2024


Free For All Food

Michelin-star chefs bringing Italian, French cuisine to MFAH

From left: Chefs Salvatore Martone, Jonathan Benno and Alain Verzeroli—all Michelin star recipients—are part of a team bringing two restaurant concepts to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 2021. (Shannon O’Hara/Bastion Restaurants)

Michelin-star chefs are expanding their New York City restaurants to new locations in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in the coming months, a New York-based restaurant group has announced.

“We have been in Houston for the past decade with our concept La Table and have seen firsthand how this city is such a great incubator of culinary talent,” said Antonio Begonja, chief operating officer of Bastion Restaurants, in a news release Jan. 12. “To that end, we wanted to bring the brands we developed in New York and Miami to this culturally-diverse community so they can continue to grow.”

Chef Jonathan Benno’s Cafe Leonelli will offer traditional Italian cuisine with buffet-style service and showcasing local and seasonal ingredients in each dish. The cafe will also feature Italian pastries from Bastion’s Executive Pastry Chef Salvatore Martone—also a Michelin star honoree—as well as Martone’s ice cream shop, Frohzen.

“Houston is bustling, and we are excited to seize this opportunity with The Museum of Fine Arts to bring our combined expertise of high-quality cuisine and hospitality to the area,” said Benno, Bastion Restaurants partner and Cafe Leonelli culinary director. “We are thrilled to be in a premier location and are confident that both restaurants and our culinary creations will offer a natural extension of the world-renowned art at the museum.”

Chef Alain Verzeroli’s Le Jardinier will bring French culinary techniques with a focus on using ingredients in their peak seasonal form and working closely with local partners. The restaurant will also allow patrons to dine outside, allowing views of the adjacent sculpture garden.

Cafe Leonelli is slated for opening in March followed by Le Jardinier in April. Both will take up residence in the new Nancy and Rich Kinder Building.

Both restaurants will be accessible from an entrance on Main Street after museum hours.