Brother-sister chef duo plan LA-inspired all-day cafe for the East End

A new all-day cafe is coming to the East End. Louie Cafe will open in late summer inside Giant Leap Coffee at The Plant, the redeveloped East End industrial site home to the famous How To Survive on Land and Sea wine bar.

The restaurant is the latest project of chef Angelo Emiliani, whose Angie’s Pizza pop-up was a resounding success. Emiliani will partner with his sister Lucianna – the restaurant’s namesake – on the project. She is a pastry chef who has worked for the famous Tartine bakery in San Francisco and locally at Tiny Boxwoods. Pastry chef Erica Valencia (Emiliani’s girlfriend) will also be there.

Initially, Tlauhuac, the Mexican concept of chef Nicholas Vera and pastry chef Stephanie Velasquez, had been planned for the space, but the duo are focusing on Papalo Mercado, their restaurant in the Finn Hall food court in downtown city. When the owner of Giant Leap approached him to reclaim the space, Emiliani says he jumped at the chance.

“I’ve always wanted to make a concept like this, an all day breakfast that’s super light and fun,” Emiliani told CultureMap. “It just happened to fall on my knees. It also gives me the opportunity to show my sister a little bit because she is really amazing.

The menu has been stocked with what Emiliani describes as “delicious” dishes made with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. In the morning, Café Louie will serve freshly baked pastries such as viennoiseries (croissants and other puff pastry), morning rolls and kolaches as well as breakfast sandwiches. In the afternoon, look for dishes like candied lemon chicken with vadouvan rice, a poached egg and a salad of dried carrots and a white Sonoran roti with honeycomb, salted butter and canned roasted peaches, a dish he made while working at Emmer & Rye in Austin.

Other dishes on Emiliani’s tentative menu include croissant sandwiches, fresh corn polenta with marinated tomatoes and Portuguese sausage, and spiced roast chicken with fries inspired by a dish he ate at Dino’s in Los Angeles.

“I don’t mean to say it’s the best chicken on the market, but it’s pretty good,” says Emiliani. “As [James Beard Award-winning pizzaiolo Chris] Bianco would say, ‘as good as anyone.’ “

Overall, Emiliani’s time in Los Angeles shaped the direction of Cafe Louie. The chef cites restaurants such as Sqirl, the famous café known for its jams, toast and salads, as a major influence on Café Louie. Emiliani says he hasn’t found many similar restaurants in Houston and sees an opportunity to bring the concept here.

“I’ve been editing this menu for a while,” he says. “I can’t take things away because I want people to eat there. It had been a long time since I had been so excited about a menu.

As for the pizza, Emiliani says he’s put his oven away for now to focus on Café Louie. He has identified a space for a pizza place, but it probably won’t open for a year or more.

“I’m focusing on Café Louie from now on,” he says. “I hope it comes faster, but you never know.”

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement