John Sheely is known for his “Texas Provence” cuisine at award-winning Mockingbird Bistro Wine Bar, which combines his Texas roots with tastes and techniques of the Riviera, including France and Italy. Opening Osteria Mazzantini has allowed Sheely to reach further back in his Italian roots, celebrating the food and traditions of his family, the Mazzantinis.
Sheely’s first job in the restaurant business was during high school in the Memorial area of Houston, working part-time in fast-food restaurants. On a spring break ski trip to Colorado, the chef-to-be set his sights on returning to the area to be “a ski bum,” and after graduation, moved to Colorado to indulge his passion for skiing. He fell in love with Vail where, to support himself, he once again turned to restaurants. Too young to work up-front in restaurants that served alcohol, he fortuitously ended up in the kitchens of several of Vail’s best dining establishments. He stayed in the upscale ski resort for 18 years, eventually purchasing his own restaurant, L’Ostello.
By the mid-’90s, Sheely decided that he had skied to his heart’s content and returned to Houston in August 1995 and opened Riviera Grill. Based on the elegant and irresistible food at Riviera, Sheely was honored as a “Modern Master,” by noted restaurant critic John Mariani and named one of Houston’s “Top Ten” chefs by Houston’s city magazine. Sheely eventually moved Riviera Grill to a Memorial-area hotel where he operated it until spring of 2002.
Sheely opened Mockingbird Bistro Wine Bar in January 2002, naming it for the state bird of Texas. The modern bistro is a popular neighborhood spot for the well-heeled inside-the-Loop diners and foodlovers from across the city, and has been named One of the Best New Restaurants in America by Esquire; a Top Table by Bon Appetit; a Neighborhood Gem in Gourmet; and Where to Eat Now in Texas Monthly, among other accolades.
With the opening of Osteria Mazzantini in September 2013, Sheely has plenty to keep him busy, and that’s just fine by him. “I love sharing my passion for food and gathering at the restaurants,” says Sheely. “There is no better feeling than seeing guests talking and laughing over a great meal.”
Sheely is a member of Chaîne des Rotisseurs, Greater Houston Restaurant Association and Texas Restaurant Association. When he is not cooking in the kitchen or visiting tables at the restaurants, Sheely enjoys traveling and discovering great food and wine with his wife, Violeta, skiing in Vail, Colorado with their son Patrick, and visiting family in Mexico.
is executive chef of Osteria Mazzantini, working alongside Chef/Owner John Sheely on menu creation and in the kitchen. English-born Lewis spent nine years with the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, where because of his extensive and rigorous training and his proven ability in team leadership, the Four Seasons management requested him for hotel restaurant startups and special events in numerous locations including Dublin, Dallas, London and Hawaii.
Lewis gained an invaluable insight and deference for an array of cuisines in which to add to his repertoire. Lewis’ extensive education and travels abroad have shaped his style and whet his appetite for new experiences. Lewis most recently oversaw a talented staff in the kitchen at the award-winning Cullen’s in Clear Lake.
Lewis began his career at the age of eleven when he worked in the kitchen of the Michelin Red M rated Royal Oak Hotel in the tiny village of Yattendon, one hour west of London. His early experience fostered a passion for the culinary arts that Lewis has continued to pursue with dedication and success.
He went on to hone his craft while working under the famed “Great British Chef” Richard Smith at the Beetle and Wedge Hotel on the river Thames. After receiving his diploma in culinary arts at the Thames Valley University in 1996, Lewis moved to the U.S. to work with renowned Chef Tim Keating at the Four Seasons Hotel Houston. He started his tenure with the company as Chef de Partie in the Terrace Cafe and was promoted to handle the hotel’s catering operations at the same level.
In the spring of 2000, Lewis was chosen to be part of the opening team at Four Seasons Hotel Dublin so he traveled to Ireland. He continued on in Dublin as Sous Chef for two and a half years until he got the call to return to Four Seasons Hotel Houston to launch the hotel’s new restaurant, Quattro, alongside Keating as Chef de Cuisine. Lewis was promoted to the position of Executive Sous Chef at Four Seasons Hotel Houston, which features Quattro, Houston’s only Mobil Four-Star Restaurant, a position he held for four years.
In winter of 2007 Lewis joined the new restaurant team at Cullen’s, Houston’s 1st certified green restaurant.
Lewis’s kitchen philosophy is, “close to the product,” he explains. “Farmers, ranchers, fish mongers, cheese makers . . . seasonality is a huge part of my world of capturing products at their utmost perfection of freshness & ripeness. I can use the knowledge and experiences from my world travels – through Europe, the USA & other places—to create simple presentations with super flavors,” says Lewis.
has been named Sommelier for Osteria Mazzantini. Porter is a native of Lake Jackson, Texas who studied Restaurant & Beverage Management at the Hilton School of Hotel & Restaurant Management at the University of Houston. It was a wine appreciation class that opened her eyes to the intellectual side of the wine, and she began researching its history and production methods with great veracity. This led her to Europe for four months to work and learn at a biodynamic vineyard in Alsace, France. She traveled throughout Europe, developing her palate and learning all she could about wine.
Back home in Houston, she has worked at 13 Celcius wine bar and completed her CSW (Certified Specialist of Wine), she has also worked at t’afia, Downhouse (as opening sous chef) and created the wine program at Coppa Ristorante.
Porter admits a leaning towards Old World wines from France, Italy, Slovenia, and Germany, with an emphasis on wines that are not chemically enhanced. “I have a love of and am an advocate for natural wines and small producers,” she says. “True talent is making wine from pure juice.”
The wine list she has created for Osteria Mazzantini will be extensive with an emphasis on Italian wines from all regions that will have “big names” alongside small producers. The wine list is set up as both a list and a resource, with details to help guests learn about each wine and make easy, informed selections. “I want people to have a wine experience while they are here, and the menu and our knowledgeable staff will assist with that,” says Porter.
will oversee the spirits side of things as Osteria Mazzantini’s bar manager. Paul, a Texas native, worked front-of-house at restaurants for many years before taking bartending classes on whim while living in Southern California. “It opened my eyes to a whole new part of the craft that I was already doing and I was inspired,” says Paul. Previous jobs saw her mixing cocktails at Gustav’s in Vancouver, Washington and at Medicinal Purposes in Galveston, Texas. The self-described “competition junkie” loves participating in cocktail competitions, and has taken home many top awards, including ones held by Bullet Bourbon and Buffalo Trace, and is competing in an upcoming Bombay Sapphire competition. Paul describes Osteria Mazzantini’s bar program as “very fresh, real cocktails without colorings or shortcuts, with a good mix of cocktails but with a strong Italian influence.”
Tonics, bitters and limoncello will be made in-house, and the limoncello will be available on-tap. There will be a Grappa cart and a make-your-own aperitif program.
“We’re all about having fun with your cocktails and not taking it too seriously,” says Paul.