Crafty new family-friendly neighborhood restaurant sprouts up in Garden Oaks

A veteran operator will open a new, modern American restaurant in Garden Oaks. Daut Elshani tells CultureMap he’s leased the former Liberty Kitchen space for d’Alba Craft Kitchen & Cocktails (3715 Alba Rd.).

Tentatively slated to open in July, d’Alba Craft Kitchen & Cocktails will feature a come-as-you-are, family-friendly atmosphere and a menu designed by consulting chef Geoff Hundt (Benjy’s, Local Foods). Elshani explains that he became interested in the space once he started visiting friends who had moved to the neighborhood and after another group canceled its plans to open there.

“What gravitated me towards this area is that it’s missing something: a full service, dine-in restaurant. All of my friends are in this neighborhood. They’ve gotten to a place where they’re seeking stability, but they miss a lot of dining and different services,” Elshani says. “This is an up-and-coming area, and I definitely wanted to be a part of it.”

Introduced through mutual friends, chef and proprietor agreed on a concept that would suit the neighborhood. Specifically, they envision an establishment that utilizes locally-sourced produce, Texas meats, and Gulf seafood at prices that would allow people to eat there as often as two or three times a week.

“I live here in Garden Oaks with my wife. We always complain about GOOF being a food dead zone,” Hundt says. “To be a sustainable neighborhood restaurant while using Texas ingredients, Gulf seafood, and focusing on vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options as well — I think that’s a very important part of dining in Houston now.”

Hundt adds this his menu will be Italian in the sense that it will offer relatively simple, ingredient-focused dishes. D’Alba will serve items such as pizzas with freshly made dough, housemade pastas, and vegetable plates. Expect dishes like snapper crudo, grilled Caesar salad with curly kale, cold smoked salmon with purple potatoes, and braised meats.

“I want to keep it simple. I didn’t want to get too far into the Italian side of things,” Hundt says. “I want to focus on the idea of what Italian food is, which is trying to find the best ingredients we can and treating them respectfully.”

All that eating and drinking will happen in an eclectic environment. Elshani envisions a spacious patio that includes a gazebo for private events, a more intimate space for date nights or weekend brunches, and a spacious backyard that’s both family and dog-friendly. Inside, expect a higher energy bar area, banquette seating in the dining room, and a private dining area.

“The decor is going to be very simple yet modern,” Elshani says. “We want to stay away from being busy and more or less [allow people to] focus on the food and the great company you’re around.”

Elshani has been a presence in the Houston food scene for several years. During his time with the Salt N Pepper group, he opened projects such as Beer Market Co. in Midtown and The Moonshiners and Boots N Shoots downtown. Last year, he opened Underground Food Hall in the former Conservatory space downtown as his first solo venture. Still, d’Alba will be his first restaurant. It’s a big change for someone who’s thrown parties professionally for the better part of a decade.

“This is [me] seeking stability, seeking long term. Following my peers and what my generation wants. I know where I like to go and what I like to enjoy,” he acknowledges. “Being able to combine that energy that I bring from my previous experience and concepts and come into a neighborhood with great food, a great setting, and as always top notch service.

“Once I combine these three, it’s always a great recipe for success. I’ve always believed in that whether it’s a bar, restaurant, or a club. The same recipe remains for any type of concept.”

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