First look at Postino Wine Cafe, opening April 11 at Heights Mercantile

Postino Wine Cafe traffics in good food, wine, service and vibes. But none of that would be possible if it weren’t for good bones.

Upward Projects, the Phoenix-based restaurant group that is bringing Postino to Houston, is dedicated to restoring and revitalizing architecturally significant buildings. The latest example of the company’s handiwork is its first Postino in Texas – opening April 11 at Heights Mercantile.

Occupying a chunk of a building that used to be a former distribution center for the Pappas family restaurants, Postino in the Heights is 150-seat space with a patio designed in a cacophony of colors, textures and fabric that’s heavily influenced by mid-century iconography.

It’s an ideal backdrop for the brand’s premise of interesting, affordable wines paired with fresh bites of bruschetta, panini, and cheese and meat boards.

The Heights Mercantile project provided the perfect opportunity for the Postino brand to grow outside of Arizona, where it has multiple locations in the Phoenix metroplex (there’s also a store in Denver). Postino co-founder Lauren Bailey said it was an easy decision to green-light the Houston location after her initial visits here. She said she fell in love with Houston – its people, its neighborhoods, its easygoing nature. Though the company also looked at the Dallas, San Antonio and Austin markets, Houston stood out.

“It was very clear to me this neighborhood had its own unique identity. It really feels like this is our place. We got goosebumps,” Bailey said. “We’re home.”

Postino’s food menu features a handful of starters and a collection of bruschetta, sandwiches, soups and salads. The signature dish is bruschetta, the shareable antipasti of grilled bread topped with assorted cheeses, meats, fruit and spreads — think fig spread with brie and apples; mozzarella, tomato and basil; prosciutto, figs and mascarpone; warm artichoke spread; smoked salmon and pesto; burrata, bacon and arugula; almond hummus with chopped tomato; and salami with pesto.

“This menu in a lot of ways is very simple,” Bailey said. “But simple is hard.”

Weeks were spent sourcing the ideal sourdough loaf for its bruschetta (Kraftsmen Baking got the nod); the mozzarella comes from a vendor in Los Angeles; and produce is locally sourced.

The wines, curated by beverage director and advanced sommelier Brent Karlicek, trot the globe and are priced between $27 and $150 per bottle.

“We represent exceptional quality at a wide range of price points,” Karlicek said.

That includes some pretty sweet deals: $5 glasses of wine from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; and $20 “board and bottle” Mondays and Tuesdays after 8 p.m. when a house bottle of wine and a bruschetta is priced at 20 bucks. Postino is set up for retail sales, too. There are also eight beers on tap and 22 can and bottle selections.

While Bailey said that further expansion of the Postino brand in Texas and in Houston is possible, they are aren’t rushing things.

“Right now we’re just excited to be here in Houston, it has such a special feeling,” she said. “We’re not in a hurry.”

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First look at Postino Wine Cafe, opening April 11 at Heights Mercantile