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Does Houston Have A Little Italy Neighborhood?


citykid09

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i asked my dad about why italians are so scattered in houston and he reminded me that all of the "old folks" in our family who got off the boat at ellis island ended up in galveston because back in the early 1900's it was a big port town. of course the hurricane blew it away - almost all of the remaining "old folk" in our family relocated to dickinson. my dad's generation was the last to marry italian, the next generation (mine & my cousins) all married gringo and a few like my sister married into mexican families. so at the annual family reunion italians number fewer than other nationalities - most of our own kids don't even identify with being italian like i did growing up which is a bit of a shame.

debmartin

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The Woodlands opens new park

Grogan's Forest facility features bocce ball court, horseshoe pits

By BETH KUHLES, Chronicle Correspondent

RESOURCES

HORSESHOE RULES

The sport of horseshoes may be played by one individual for practice or by two or more for sport. Horseshoe courts basically require a level area with two stakes located 30 to 40 feet apart.

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There are quite a few Italians but they're scattered about. Personally, many of the people who identify themselves as "Italian" aren't very Italian, to me. I get frustrated by people who identify themselves as such who don't speak any Italian and truly have very few ties anymore to Italy.

As an Italian (born and raised w/dual citizenship) it's a point of contention for me. There's not much I can do other than head to Italy at least once a year to get my annual sanity check (and eat lots of great food)

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  • 2 months later...
In the 1900s the 4th Ward was the first Italian community.

There were also a large community in the 50s off Wayside and Lawndale, in the neighborhood behing the Dinner Bell.  I think this hood is called Idylwood.

FYI, it was Simms Woods which is across Wayside from Idylwood. It is like a baby version of Meyerland. The old timers said it was almost exclusively Sicilian at first.

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FYI, it was Simms Woods which is across Wayside from Idylwood.  It is like a baby version of Meyerland.  The old timers said it was almost exclusively Sicilian at first.

Simms Woods? I live east of there in Pecan Park but am not sure where that is. Is that on the south side of Lawndale behind Villa de Matel or west of Country Club estates? I know that Broadmoor, which is down Lawndale and was built in the 20s was very Italian. The Carrabas are from there and Mandola's Deli is still over nearby.

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  • 2 weeks later...
One of the older Carrabas family members  just sold their house in Glenbrook, on the corner of Glenview & Glen Valley.  That area was heavily Italian in the 50's -70's from what I have been told.

I read that the many Italians came into Texas through Galveston and that Dickinson was originally an early settlement for them. DebMartin confirms this. I also think that the original Houston 'Little Italy' centered around the original Antone's on Taft, near Allen Parkway. I guess this falls into what is was generally called the 4th Ward. Right?

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  • 2 years later...

Take a few moments to check out Forest Park Lawndale Cemetary and see how many markers are of Italian descent. As an addition I would hook up with the IIAA - Italy in America Association. They have all sorts of cool stuff going on al the time. Once a month there are Italian film viewings at the Italian Cultural Center too. You don't have to be a Soprano to join either!

Siamo un gruppo eterogeneo d'individui con un denominatore comune: il nostro amore per L'italia, la sua, cultura, il suo retaggio e le sue tradizioni.

Molti di noi parlano sia L'italiano si I'inglese.

If you are trying to brush up on your Italiano like moi, get on an Intnl forum and speak to folks who live in places like Roma & Tuscany. Who better to learn from? Capisce?

Ciao! & benvenuto! :)

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  • 6 months later...
No Little Italy in Houston??? Ai misera, Per che?!

Majority of fellow paisan's fled to the burbs years ago. As I mentioned above all you will find are the elders that helped build up Houston in nearby Near East End cemetaries.

Time marched on, business's sold or went under. Children said lets get out of here. Rest is historia. Santo cielo!

You will be lucky to find a few pockets of familia inside the city.

Tutti e ora spargere fuori.

Try talking to the family at:

http://www.houstonitaliancenter.com/

Buon fortuna! :)

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I grew up in Houston and had a lot of Italian friends, the Patronellas, Carrabas, Ruffinos, and Mandolas. My next door neighbor attended Catholic school her entire life and through her I met a lot of them. She attended Queen of Peace, and Incarnate Word and was a cheerleader and homecoming queen for ST. Thomas HS. Several of her friends lived near Wayside and Lawndale while the rest seemed to be spread out all around town. The Ruffinos lived in my neighborhood.

The Mandolas deli that is at Cullen and Leeland is I think owned by Joe Mandola who lives (or did) in Pearland because his son played baseball in Pearland at the same time my son did.

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I grew up in Houston and had a lot of Italian friends, the Patronellas, Carrabas, Ruffinos, and Mandolas. My next door neighbor attended Catholic school her entire life and through her I met a lot of them. She attended Queen of Peace, and Incarnate Word and was a cheerleader and homecoming queen for ST. Thomas HS. Several of her friends lived near Wayside and Lawndale while the rest seemed to be spread out all around town. The Ruffinos lived in my neighborhood.

The Mandolas deli that is at Cullen and Leeland is I think owned by Joe Mandola who lives (or did) in Pearland because his son played baseball in Pearland at the same time my son did.

The Carrabas that are founders of the resturant Carrabas are origanally from Bryan, TX (well after Italy).

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The Carrabas that are founders of the resturant Carrabas are origanally from Bryan, TX (well after Italy).

Johnny Carraba was raised in Houston and is the nephew of Vincent, Damian, and Tony Mandola. Vincent owns Vincents and Ninos, Damian owned Damians on Smith till he sold it to help Johnny franchise Carraba's, and Tony owns Tony Mandola's Blue oyster bar. Jonny was a few years younger than me but I met him when I was about 15 or 16 through my next door neighbor.

And keeping it in the family Vincent Mandola is married Ninfa Lorenzo's oldest daughter.

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I grew up in Houston and had a lot of Italian friends, the Patronellas, Carrabas, Ruffinos, and Mandolas. My next door neighbor attended Catholic school her entire life and through her I met a lot of them. She attended Queen of Peace, and Incarnate Word and was a cheerleader and homecoming queen for ST. Thomas HS. Several of her friends lived near Wayside and Lawndale while the rest seemed to be spread out all around town. The Ruffinos lived in my neighborhood.

The Mandolas deli that is at Cullen and Leeland is I think owned by Joe Mandola who lives (or did) in Pearland because his son played baseball in Pearland at the same time my son did.

Joe & Lena Mandola's house is in Glenbrook, but it is currently for sale. I was told by some old-timers that Johnny Carrabbas lived on Rockhill near Hollygrove in Glenbrook as well. Rose Marie Carrabbas lived at Glenview & Glen Valley, the house is now owned by one of the sisters of the Taqueria Del Sol clan. One of the Patranellas just sold their house on Glenheath.

The various Catholic shrines that were originally built into many of the homes in there are one of the "artifacts" left over from Glenbrook's days as an Italian neighborhood.

Originally the Provenzano's

IMG_0703-1.jpg

The Mandola's has the kneeling pad

hr2000889-21.jpg

The Carrabba's house was a little larger

IMG_1549.jpg

Sorry for the bad picture (lifted off an old listing) but the one singer Steve Tyrell grew up in had a whole prayer room.

hr1155497-8.jpg

Edited by rps324
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rps, I know that area extremely well as I played Little League Baseball with a lot of those families. I played at Freeway National Little Leage which was located on Wynlea. The fields went to Pony/Colt baseball and I think now no one plays there anymore. All the kids I played baseball with lived in the Glenbrook and Garden Villas area. I also attended high school with all those kids at Milby. Mark Patonella was on one of my teams for several years.

The Joe Mandola I mention in my post would be the next generation and is probably a son of those who lived in Glenbrook. He opened his first deli in the shopping center at the corner of Broadway and Belfort. I have not been by there for a while but long ago there was an Eagle grocery store anchoring one end of it and a Walgreens anchoring the other end. There was a mall type indoor walkway that went from Eagle to Walgreens and he had his deli in there. Later he moved from there over to his current location at Cullen and Leeland.

Edited by brerrabbit
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I played at Freeway National Little Leage which was located on Wynlea. The fields went to Pony/Colt baseball and I think now no one plays there anymore.

you are right. unfortunately it was leveled a couple of years ago.

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The Joe Mandola I mention in my post would be the next generation and is probably a son of those who lived in Glenbrook. He opened his first deli in the shopping center at the corner of Broadway and Belfort.

it was still there in the mid 80's but moved after that.

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you are right. unfortunately it was leveled a couple of years ago.

I wondered what happened to Freeway National. That's where all of our championship ballgames took place. (East End Little League). Drew big crowds then.

There are old EELL pics under East End topic. Most 1968-73

Like the Springsteen song "Glory Days" :D

Some of my team mates/coaches were of Italian descent too.

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Does Houston have a area of town where a lot of Italins live (little Italy)?

You want Italians? Go to Galveston County. Thousands of people of Italian descent live in and around Dickinson and League City. The Texas Almanac says thousands of Italian immigrants moved into Texas just before and just after the turn of the 20th century.

Many moved into the Brazos Valley area around Bryan-College Station, others moved to the Rio Grande valley, while others moved to Galveston County.

I'm a cemetery walker, who loves exploring old cemeteries. The Catholic Church cemetery in Dickinson is one of the most fascinating and beautiful I've seen. Most of the people buried there were Italian immigrants, many from Sicily.

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Vertigo, you're one of my people!

What FilioScotia says about Galveston is true of SE Texas (and Louisiana) as well. Basically New Orleans to Houston is chock full of us Sicilians. My mom's family (LaRocca) is in the Beaumont area, with a branch in Dickinson. (grandpa was an electrician, who hung most of the neon in downtown Beaumont.) Came in through the port of Galveston right before WW1. Some in the family say they were headed to Argentina but got off the boat early. I grew up as a small child in Friendswood and we used to go to Dickinson occasionally for church, where they still said a Latin mass.

Oh, and the Fertittas were known since way back among the Beaumont families to 'run' Galveston. Don't know how much truth there is to that, but let's just say I'm not surprised. Tillman is still in the gambling business.

Just like the Sopranos, we call it spaghetti 'gravy'. It's also been pointed out to me on more than one occasion, that the sterotypical Sicilan/Irish woman really is crazy. Naturally, I protest! :D

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My maiden name is Manganiello. My dad is full Italian from NE PA. Living in San Antonio and outside Houston, I can say there are actually better Italian restaurants in San Antonio than there are in Houston. Olive Garden and Carrabas don't count. They taste nasty to me. The proof for me is when I ask if they have gnocci. There's nothing comparable in the US to the NE USA style of Italian food.

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My maiden name is Manganiello. My dad is full Italian from NE PA. Living in San Antonio and outside Houston, I can say there are actually better Italian restaurants in San Antonio than there are in Houston. Olive Garden and Carrabas don't count. They taste nasty to me. The proof for me is when I ask if they have gnocci. There's nothing comparable in the US to the NE USA style of Italian food.

Right on!

We had The Lasagana House cater our Christmas Luncheon (wonder who was behind that) :blush: and everyone flipped over the scrumptous lasagna and the side dishes. Just thinking of it ...

It was kind of neat passing by the old Mandola's over on the near east end, (on Leeland and Cullen) and I noticed several of the older crowd shuffling in for a bite. As I mentioned in past threads we sure miss Ballatorri's Restaurant on Leeland opposite corner from this Mandola's. It was one classy place.

Tante cose and siate felici! or All The Best & be happy!

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There was a small Italian community along S. Post Oak Rd south of San Felipe down to around Alief Rd. These families sold out to developers and land speculators (aka Bob Smith) one by one in the late 50's and early 60's. Mrs. McCue who ran the cafeteria at St. Michael's catholic school was Italian. Her maiden name was Santa Maria. We were good friends with them and visited their house several times. I watched the apartments go up around them until they fianlly retired and sold out themselves.

There is an Italian society that runs a benevolent hall "Whitney Oaks" located on Whitney Rd. near Airline. Not only does the name try to sound unItalian, the group is technically called the St. Joseph's Society. They serve spaghetti lunch on thursdays and it's always crowded. During election season it's really enjoyable, because politicians can speak for five minutes but they have to buy a bottle of wine for each table for the priveledge. I've gone back to work needing breath mints many a time. Haven't been in awhile since I work in the Med Center now.

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  • 4 months later...

I was reading an old review in the Press about Buon Appetito, on Holcombe just east of Kirby, and it says that was an old Italian neighborhood where the owner of Candelari's grew up. Just across the street is Fred's Italian Corner and around the corner on Kirby is Prima Pasta - all 3 of those restaurants have been there since the 70s at least.

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  • 11 years later...
On 1/28/2008 at 8:44 PM, plumber2 said:

There was a small Italian community along S. Post Oak Rd south of San Felipe down to around Alief Rd. These families sold out to developers and land speculators (aka Bob Smith) one by one in the late 50's and early 60's. Mrs. McCue who ran the cafeteria at St. Michael's catholic school was Italian. Her maiden name was Santa Maria. We were good friends with them and visited their house several times. I watched the apartments go up around them until they fianlly retired and sold out themselves.

There is an Italian society that runs a benevolent hall "Whitney Oaks" located on Whitney Rd. near Airline. Not only does the name try to sound unItalian, the group is technically called the St. Joseph's Society. They serve spaghetti lunch on thursdays and it's always crowded. During election season it's really enjoyable, because politicians can speak for five minutes but they have to buy a bottle of wine for each table for the priveledge. I've gone back to work needing breath mints many a time. Haven't been in awhile since I work in the Med Center now.

 

Way up Airline there is little St. Joseph's Cemetery...Pretty much all Sicilian with a few Poles. Because of racial strife up on the Brazos around Waco and Bryan in the early 1900s, white landowners imported Sicilians to work in their fields. Those Sicilians bought their own land as soon as they could, but most of it was crappy land that had been passed over by everybody who'd gotten there before them, so they ended up moving to Houston. Those that didn't join their cousins or friends in Galveston County or on the east side of town settled up on the north side. Canino, as in the farmer's market and the road, is an Italian name...I think some are buried in that cemetery on Airline. 

 

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There did seem to be a concentration of people of Italian decent in the area around Assumption Catholic church (corner of Little York and Airline Drive). I attended Mass at that church with my parents in the 1960's through the mid-1970's. It seemed most of the parishioners had Italian surnames. There were also those with Czech and German last names but in smaller numbers.

 

As Poppahop wrote, there were Italian families in the area, - farmers, raising mostly vegetables, many of which found there way to Canino's farmers market - but that was many years ago. I remember as a very young child riding in the back seat of my parents car as we drove along Airline between Little York and Gulf Bank roads looking out the window to see rows and rows of crops just across the ditch from the road.

 

It's been a few years now, but I often met with friends on Thursdays  at the Sacred Heart Society of Little York on Whitney (Knights of Columbus Hall) for pasta and meatballs lunch. There were mostly Italian-American men running the show. I believe it was a fundraiser for  their charitable activities. 

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4 hours ago, Specwriter said:

It's been a few years now, but I often met with friends on Thursdays  at the Sacred Heart Society of Little York on Whitney (Knights of Columbus Hall) for pasta and meatballs lunch. There were mostly Italian-American men running the show. I believe it was a fundraiser for  their charitable activities. 

 

Sadly, they wound up being yet another casualty of Harvey. The organization is still in existence, and I think you can still buy their famous sugo (sauce), but the weekly pasta luncheons are no more. 

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  • 1 month later...
On 5/23/2020 at 10:03 AM, Specwriter said:

There did seem to be a concentration of people of Italian decent in the area around Assumption Catholic church (corner of Little York and Airline Drive). I attended Mass at that church with my parents in the 1960's through the mid-1970's. It seemed most of the parishioners had Italian surnames. There were also those with Czech and German last names but in smaller numbers.

 

Yes, Assumption Catholic Church was founded by Italian immigrants and was the church of the "Little York" community, so called because it was like a "little New York" with all the Italians and Sicilians. Really more Sicilian than Italian. Lots of truck farms and dairies. St. Joseph's was their cemetery and still is. There were never enough of them to build up the concentration of commercial buildings that would have made a visible "neighborhood"; Assumption church is really the enduring site and monument to their memory, with a nice apse mural in the Italian style. The church is more Hispanic now than Sicilian but they still get priests from Italy and have a big St. Joseph's Day meal, along with some other traditions.

 

Another Italian church on the north side of town was St. Joseph Catholic Church on Kane Street off Houston Avenue in Sixth Ward. Some connections I believe between this community and the Little York/Assumption community.

 

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  • 3 months later...
On 1/20/2008 at 10:49 PM, Mom22Blessings said:

My maiden name is Manganiello. My dad is full Italian from NE PA. Living in San Antonio and outside Houston, I can say there are actually better Italian restaurants in San Antonio than there are in Houston. Olive Garden and Carrabas don't count. They taste nasty to me. The proof for me is when I ask if they have gnocci. There's nothing comparable in the US to the NE USA style of Italian food.

 

I feel like there used to be a lot more really good old-school Italian restaurants in Houston when I was a kid in the early 80s. A few that managed to limp into the 21st Century but are now gone were Pino's on Westheimer at Hillcroft, and Buon Appetito on Holcombe, which just closed last year. And then of course DiBella's in Galveston sadly closed last year too. I wonder if Mom22Blessings was just more familiar with the good Italian in San Antonio than she was that in Houston, and I also wonder if, like in Houston, many of the stalwart good old school Italian places in San Antonio have closed since she posted in 2008. 

 

 

On 1/21/2008 at 8:13 AM, Vertigo58 said:

Right on!

We had The Lasagana House cater our Christmas Luncheon (wonder who was behind that) :blush: and everyone flipped over the scrumptous lasagna and the side dishes. Just thinking of it ...

It was kind of neat passing by the old Mandola's over on the near east end, (on Leeland and Cullen) and I noticed several of the older crowd shuffling in for a bite. As I mentioned in past threads we sure miss Ballatorri's Restaurant on Leeland opposite corner from this Mandola's. It was one classy place.

Tante cose and siate felici! or All The Best & be happy!

 

Eh, at one job I had coworkers who thought the Steak Country buffet was scrumptious, but I wouldn't consider their opinions indicative of the quality of steak restaurants in Houston. Same with Lasagna House, I've actually used them for a cub scout blue and gold banquet, they did the trick of providing large trays of food for a lot of people cheaply, which it sounds like Vertigo's company was going for too. Everyone was happy with the food at the blue and gold banquet, but I don't think anyone was under any illusions that it was anywhere near the best Italian Houston has to offer.

 

Recently I've been enjoying BB Italia which opened up by me where the venerable old Carmelo's used to be. It is really good. I always thought Carmelo's was overrated, so glad for the change. I see Damian's is still in business, it was a favorite of mine but I haven't eaten there in forever, is it still good? I was meaning to try it again this year, since they offer shuttle service to downtown theatres, but then Covid hit, so no theatre.

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54 minutes ago, Reefmonkey said:

And then of course DiBella's in Galveston sadly closed last year too.

Ah, Di Bella's; I thought the food was very good and I felt like I was in a scene from "The Godfather" when I ate there. It wasn't on Seawall Blvd. so there were few, if any, tourists.

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2 hours ago, Specwriter said:

Ah, Di Bella's; I thought the food was very good and I felt like I was in a scene from "The Godfather" when I ate there. It wasn't on Seawall Blvd. so there were few, if any, tourists.

 Exactly, the food was very good stick to your ribs old school red check tablecloth Italian, and the atmosphere was like a place you might go in Chicago or New York's Little Italy back in the day. And not being on the Seawall (and also being cash-only) kept it mostly a secret of the BOI. There was another restaurant that was tucked on a side street off Broadway so it didn't get tourist traffic - Leon's World Famous Barbecue. Good stuff.

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47 minutes ago, Reefmonkey said:

 Exactly, the food was very good stick to your ribs old school red check tablecloth Italian, and the atmosphere was like a place you might go in Chicago or New York's Little Italy back in the day. And not being on the Seawall (and also being cash-only) kept it mostly a secret of the BOI. There was another restaurant that was tucked on a side street off Broadway so it didn't get tourist traffic - Leon's World Famous Barbecue. Good stuff.

 

Shrimp N Stuff's another good one in Galveston that mostly gets local traffic as it's off the beaten path of tourist spots.

 

Going back a bit further in time re: old school Italian places in Houston, Joe Matranga's was probably first among equals. And not exactly a restaurant, but the Sacred Heart Society's legendary spaghetti dinners were still active up until Harvey killed them off.   

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4 minutes ago, mkultra25 said:

 

Shrimp N Stuff's another good one in Galveston that mostly gets local traffic as it's off the beaten path of tourist spots.

 

Going back a bit further in time re: old school Italian places in Houston, Joe Matranga's was probably first among equals. And not exactly a restaurant, but the Sacred Heart Society's legendary spaghetti dinners were still active up until Harvey killed them off.   

Yeah, Shrimp N Stuff is good. Never heard of Jo Matranga's. I was sad when Doyle's in Oak Forest closed last year. Kind of a unique "Goodfellas" midcentury atmosphere about it. Speaking of church spaghetti, I love St. Basil the Great Greek Orthodox Church on Eldridge's Thursday spaghetti lunches. Their sauce is really good, I think it has cloves or something in it, that makes it taste more like the sauce for Greek pasticchio than typical American-style spaghetti meat sauce.

 

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43 minutes ago, Reefmonkey said:

Yeah, Shrimp N Stuff is good. Never heard of Jo Matranga's. I was sad when Doyle's in Oak Forest closed last year. Kind of a unique "Goodfellas" midcentury atmosphere about it. Speaking of church spaghetti, I love St. Basil the Great Greek Orthodox Church on Eldridge's Thursday spaghetti lunches. Their sauce is really good, I think it has cloves or something in it, that makes it taste more like the sauce for Greek pasticchio than typical American-style spaghetti meat sauce.

 

 

Pretty sure Joe Matranga's has been mentioned a few times in the long-running defunct Houston restaurants thread. His obituary has most of the relevant background:

 

Joseph George Matranga

 

Also lots of relevant info here:

 

A PASSEGIATA THROUGH HOUSTON’S ITALIAN RESTAURANT HISTORY 

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