The Bastion Collection Announces Opening Date for Cafe Leonelli at MFAH

Michelin Star Chef Jonathan Benno Brings Italian Concept to Nancy and Rich Kinder Building

HOUSTON—March 31, 2021—Today, the Bastion Collection announced the highly anticipated Cafe Leonelli at MFAH is set to open on Friday, April 16, 2021, in the new Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Led by Michelin Star chef Jonathan Benno, Cafe Leonelli embraces Italy’s culinary culture to offer traditional Italian cuisine in a friendly and relaxed environment.

“Houston is the perfect next step for the Leonelli brand and concept, which originated in New York,” said Benno, Cafe Leonelli culinary director and Bastion partner. “The city’s culturally diverse community is bustling, and we are grateful for this opportunity to bring high-quality cuisine and hospitality to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.”                                                                                                                     

Benno has developed the menu for Cafe Leonelli at MFAH to be unique to the Houston community by partnering with local purveyors, including Lone Star Mushrooms, Houston Dairymaids, and Homestead Gristmill, and utilizing seasonal ingredients in the creation of each dish. The Italian cuisine served at the cafe draws from Benno’s earliest food memories, his extensive travels through Italy, and his professional experience honing the craft of classic culinary methods. The menu comprises house-made focaccia with a variety of toppings; sandwiches; soups; salads; baked pastas; and meat and seafood dishes.

Cafe Leonelli will feature convenient, attended counter service with hot menu items beautifully displayed in cast-iron Staub cookware and copper-coated hot pans. Moving through the line, guests may choose from options that include the Porchetta Sandwich with rapini, hot peppers, and provolone; Pepperoni Focaccia with tomato, caciocavallo, and Sicilian oregano; and Eggplant Parmigiana with mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, marinara, and basil. Beverages include a variety of coffee drinks, including Leonelli-blend coffee roasted by La Colombe, teas, espresso, and Italian sodas.

The cafe will offer a selection of Italian pastries, cookies, and confections from Bastion’s executive pastry chef and Michelin Star recipient Salvatore Martone. Cafe Leonelli will also debut an outpost of Martone’s Miami-based ice cream shop Frohzen, offering the innovative dessert concept’s creative treats, including homemade ice cream, signature popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, and milkshakes, all of which are as visually stunning as they are delicious.

Located just off the Kinder Building’s Cornelia and Meredith Long Atrium, with an additional entrance from Main Street, the cafe will offer indoor and outdoor seating in a spectacular setting. Indoor diners will enjoy views through the cafe’s window walls toward the Museum’s Caroline Wiess Law Building as they sit below Spencer Finch’s Moon Dust (Apollo 17), a 2009 suspended lighting sculpture consisting of 150 fixtures and 417 incandescent bulbs. Outdoor tables overlook the art and lush landscape of the serene Cullen Sculpture Garden. Cafe Leonelli is adjacent to and shares a kitchen with Bastion’s fine-dining concept Le Jardinier, which will open later this spring.

“We are delighted for Cafe Leonelli to open on the Museum’s campus. The Bastion Collection restaurants are known for their Michelin Star chefs, premier hospitality, and visitor experience—qualities and commitments to excellence we strive to offer our visitors every day,” said Gary Tinterow, Director, the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “These distinctive eateries are the natural extension of our campus transformation and a wonderful addition to Houston’s innovative culinary offerings.”

About Cafe Leonelli at MFAH
Operated by the Bastion Collection, Cafe Leonelli embraces Italy’s culinary culture and generosity and reflects the nearby community and its local ingredients. Led by Bastion partner and Michelin Star chef Jonathan Benno, Leonelli has locations in New York and Houston. The menu offers quality, house-made options with a focus on the craft of traditional Italian baking methods. From La Colombe coffee and pastries to fresh focaccia, sandwiches, salads, and hot food, Cafe Leonelli offers fast, yet high-quality dishes. In addition, the cafe also features an outpost of Frohzen, where guests can enjoy visually stunning and delicious sweet treats from Bastion’s executive pastry chef and Michelin Star recipient Salvatore Martone.

About the Bastion Collection
With a team of culinary experts and operations leaders dedicated to the highest of standards, the Bastion Collection has conceptualized, opened, and currently operates 10 restaurants across New York, Miami, and Houston, including Benno, Leonelli Restaurant & Bar, Leonelli Bakery, Frohzen, Le Jardinier, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, and La Table. The group’s efforts and commitment to food and service excellence have been awarded with a total of four Michelin Stars in the 2020 Michelin Guide New York.

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Established in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is among the 10 largest art museums in the United States, with an encyclopedic collection of nearly 70,000 works dating from antiquity to the present. The Museum’s Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim main campus comprises the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, designed by Steven Holl Architects and opened in 2020; the Audrey Jones Beck Building, designed by Rafael Moneo and opened in 2000; the Caroline Wiess Law Building, originally designed by William Ward Watkin, with extensions by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe completed in 1958 and 1974; the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, designed by Isamu Noguchi and opened in 1986; the Glassell School of Art, designed by Steven Holl Architects and opened in 2018; and The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza, designed by Deborah Nevins & Associates and opened in 2018. Additional spaces include a repertory cinema, two libraries, public archives, and facilities for conservation and storage. Nearby, two house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi—present American and European decorative arts. The MFAH is also home to the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art.

Media Contacts
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Katie Jernigan, senior publicist | 713.639.7516

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