It was prom season when Mediterraneo Café & Pizza opened on Falcon Pass, just a stone’s throw from Clear Lake High School. But you could call it a homecoming for Magdy and Sonia Kotb, who also run Nassau Bay’s Mediterraneo Market & Cafe.
Ever since the couple’s two daughters attended CLHS more than 20 years ago, the couple has supported student activities personally and through group sponsorships via their restaurant. With the new satellite location, the Kotbs are diving back into campus life.
And this time, they brought pizza.
It’s a savvy move, with thousands of hungry students just up the street, including the University of Houston – Clear Lake. It’s also good news for the other half of town, where many friends and fans of the existing location live. Not only is Mediterraneo’s time-tested menu and neighborly vibe available around the corner now, but also their handmade Mediterranean-style pizza is a phone call or click away.
What’s the key to Mediterraneo’s 17-year-long success? “We serve what we eat,” said co-owner Magdy Kotb. “It’s not a commercial thing. It’s happy, homemade food.”
You could also add “prepared with care and a bit of flair.” For example, in pizzas, you can order a straightforward Margherita with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil. On the other end of the spectrum, the Shredded Beef and BBQ pizza satisfies those Texan taste buds.
Other Mediterranean staples such as kebabs, spanakopita, dolmas, falafel, hummus and baba ghanoug are rendered expertly and with style whether at lunch or dinner. American-style sandwich standouts include the half-pound hamburger and Tuna Melt Panini. Prices are modest. Choose from appetizers, salads, pasta or Moussaka. Don’t forget dessert! Choose from tiramisu, flaky baklava or Sonia’s signature chocolate tart with almond crust.
That warmth and honesty flows from the kitchen, through the dining room and out the front doors at both locations. On Falcon Pass, an ingeniously designed leafy outdoor space makes dining or sipping a beverage a pleasure year-round. Kotb said he hopes to receive their beer and wine license for the new location by Labor Day.
Inside, guests are welcomed with smiles from staff, bold colors on the walls and decorative pillows on bench seats, affirmation that guests are expected to get comfortable and stay a while.
On recent visits, Sonia Kotb was on hand to greet guests and direct staff. There is pride and warmth here, carried over from the Nassau Bay original.
To Kotb, the original location “isn’t just a restaurant. It’s a gathering place” for the Johnson Space Center and Clear Lake communities. He said he and his wife decided to open 17 years ago after witnessing the boom in international residents and visitors – thanks, in part, to the space program.
“We were successful from Day One,” Kotb said. “There was nothing else like it around in 1999, and we became a destination for foreigners and locals.”
The market inside the Nassau Bay location offers international delights such as fresh olives, cheeses, spices, dried fruits and nuts, olive oil and imported chocolates. There is a lush and spacious outdoor patio and ample seating inside. On Fridays and Saturday nights the indoor stage hosts live musicians such as Mickey Hobbs, Jeff Lopez and Roberto del Torro. Be dazzled by the belly dancers at 7 and 8 p.m. on those nights.
On rare and extraordinary occasion, stand by for bands featuring NASA personnel.
“It can only happen when they (the band members) are all here on Earth (not in space),” Magdy explained the intricacy of the coordination. “And when they are all on Earth, they call me, and they play here.”
That sounds a lot like a party with friends, where every day is a homecoming.
Mediterraneo Café & Pizza is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Order online at mediterraneomarket.com for free delivery or pick up at the Falcon Pass location.
- By Jason Goodrich