Dolce Vita (Houston)

When I lived in Houston from 2007–2009, Dolce Vita was one of my favorite restaurants—as much for the relaxed vibe as for the good, crusty pizza from the wood-burning oven and regional Italian vegetable appetizers (bagna cauda, deep-fried vegetables, great salumi). Casual vibe, no tablecloths, good cocktails and house-infused grappa at the bar. The place gets crowded at peak times, but it’s worth the wait.

In May 2012, the restaurant had a fire and is now closed indefinitely for repairs.