South Congress Buzz
Recently while having dinner in Vespaio (1610 S. Congress, 441-6100), we noticed the restaurant taking reservations for the early dinner hours and that the waits for a table have dropped from two hours to around 45 minutes. We'd have waited just about forever for the dinner specials of rich garlic broth topped with chunks of crispy duck and polenta-encrusted oysters, and voluptuous saffron seafood risotto studded with shrimp, scallops, crawfish tails, clams, and mussels, however. Chef/co-owner Alan Lazarus told us he'd had his eye on a commercial space in the next block down South Congress (the former Smokin' Grill location) for another business venture but lost the space to siblings Liz and Louis Lambert. The Lambert siblings are real go-getters: Sister Liz is renovating the San Jose Motel on South Congress, and brother Louis is former executive chef at Word of Mouth Catering and owner of the popular Jo's Coffee Shops (1300 S. Congress, 444-3800; in Book People at Sixth & Lamar, 472-5050, x115). Look for the Lamberts to open a neighborhood takeout and catering spot called Liberty Pie Company at 1716 S. Congress on July 4. The menu will offer whole roasted chickens, side dishes, pâtés and cheeses, plus several varieties of pie: pizza pie, chicken pot pie, many sweet and savory pies.
Devoted fans of the UT-area Tex-Mex haven Enchiladas y Mas are thrilled that cooks/owners Roumaldo Hernandez and Mary and Robert Martinez are open in their new location at 1911 W. Anderson (467-7100). The new restaurant offers twice as much seating and will have a full liquor license by mid-June, but the owners promise that the food will remain the same because they're still cooking it... Gelato lovers who lamented the closing of Milano's in the warehouse district several months ago will be pleased to know that gelato maker par excellence Romina Derra has new backers at Binasco Gelateria (829 N. LBJ, 512/353-8488) in San Marcos. The store serves Romina's marvelous gelatos and sorbettos, plus espresso, cookies, and cold sandwiches... Great News: The High Rock Ranch peaches are back at both Whole Foods Market stores. Llano County grower Ann Maples reports they are currently picking smaller cling peaches, but the larger, juicer freestones will start coming in by mid-June. Though crop size is diminished all over the Hill Country due to drought conditions and lack of winter cooling hours, there will be some peaches... Grilling enthusiasts, check out Simply Perfect Grilling, a special interest magazine from Better Homes & Gardens currently on the stands. It carries great tips and recipes from editor and former Austinite Sandy Szwarc.