Recent Texas Transplants Bring New Perspective and Fresh Flavors To Acclaimed Sorriso Modern Italian Kitchen At The Westin At The Woodlands

By: Stuart Rosenberg
| Published 04/18/2022

Executive Chef David Buckley

THE WOODLANDS, TX -- A talented trio of hospitality veterans – all recent Texas transplants – have been quietly reimagining food and beverage operations at one of north Houston’s premier Italian restaurants: Sorriso. The newly appointed team, including Executive Chef David Buckley, Executive Sous Chef Brien Paskvan and Director of Food and Beverage Operation Alexandrina Dumitru, are preparing to unveil their culinary and cocktail retelling of the stylish trattoria with a substantially revised spring menu debuting on April 25.

Located on the ground floor of The Westin at The Woodlands and immediately adjacent to Waterway Square, Sorriso –the Italian word for smile – initially opened in early 2019 in tandem with its glam upstairs bar and lounge counterpart, Como Social Club. It has gone on to earn numerous accolades including Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence for the last three years.

A two-story glass entry is a portal to the striking space created by San Francisco-based EDG Design. Timeless Italian craftsmanship and contemporary flair mesh beautifully in an environment that mixes neutral tones, rich leather and wood accents plus industrial metal touches. A focal point is an open-hearth display kitchen that puts diners at the heart of the dining experience.

According to CoralTree Hospitality Group Vice President Scott Spann, who oversees The Woodlands Hotels group, also encompassing The Woodlands Resort and Embassy Suites by Hilton The Woodlands at Hughes Landing, “We are thrilled about the talented food and beverage team we’ve been so fortunate to assemble at The Westin at The Woodlands. We’re not only excited for diners to have a first taste of what’s in store at Sorriso and Como Social Club, but also for the imprint that this trio are making on meeting and event offerings.”

Menu highlights include small plates and sides like Bangs Island Mussels with Nduja and tomato broth, Grilled Octopus with mint Salmoriglio and green meat radish, Veal Meatballs with basil pesto and Pecorino Romano, plus Broccolini with Calabrian chili flakes, smoked garlic & Mimolette; entrees and pastas such as Squid Ink Tagliatelle, Truffle Agnolotti, Dry Aged Ribeye with potato gratin plus black garlic and bone marrow butter; Koji Dusted Duroc Pork Chop with peach mostarda and Ora King Salmon with corn orzotto and caramelized fennel; and signature desserts like a Chocolate Bomb and Carrot Cake utilizing Paskvan’s family recipe.

Helming the restaurant kitchen in addition to overseeing all culinary offerings for the hotel, ranging from room service to special events, Buckley developed his love of cooking from his father and grew up harvesting herbs and vegetables in his back yard garden – a tradition that continues with his family today.

Before joining The Westin at The Woodlands, Buckley was executive sous chef at the hotel’s sister property, The Woodlands Resort. Prior to that, he spent a decade in San Diego. There, he held positions including senior sous chef on the opening team of coastal-inspired Vistal Bar + Restaurant at the InterContinental, chef de cuisine at Town and Country Resort, supporting the development of new dining concepts during a major renovation, sous chef of Michelin Guide recognized seafood restaurant and market The Fishery and general manager of famed Mexican destination Taco Surf –in a role that included oversight of offsite catering in addition to menu and recipe development. A graduate of San Diego Culinary Institute, Buckley was also a sous chef at the award-winning Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, HI.

Fellow The Woodlands Resort alum and native Californian, Executive Sous Chef Paskvan, comes to Houston via way of New York. Overseeing day-to-day culinary operations at Sorriso, he brings a refined and sometimes playful, touch to the menu.

Shortly before departing for Texas, Paskvan had the opportunity to support a residency with chefs Mark Ladner and Wylie Dufresne while working at the Seaport Food Lab. Before that, he trained under chefs Ken Addington at Five Leaves in Brooklyn and David Chang at Pier 17’s Momofuku Ssäm Bar in the Seaport District. Paskvan’s culinary interest was ignited through friendships made while living in Seattle and working for a Geotech engineering firm. His first job in the kitchen was at well-regarded farm to table restaurant Emmer & Rye, whose proprietor went on to be the corporate chef for Google. While cooking came later as a career, food played a big part of Paskvan’s childhood with family that loved to cook, a commercial fisherman grandfather and grandmother who was a professional baker.

An Advanced Sommelier holding a WSET Diploma, Dumitru is putting her stamp on sips throughout The Woodlands Hotels portfolio – including an array of new cocktails debuting at Sorriso – and brings an impressive background to that role. Prior to her appointment, she held food and beverage management roles at luxury properties throughout Arizona and California including Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa (now The Wilde Resort & Spa), Legacy Resort Hotel & Spa, Luxe City Center Hotel, Pacific Palm Resort, Annandale Golf Club and Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa. She also served as restaurant manager at St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa (now Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach).

Sorriso is located at 2 Waterway Square Place and is open for breakfast Monday through Friday from 7-11 am and Saturday and Sunday from 7 am until noon. Lunch is served daily from 7-11am breakfast daily from 11:30 am until 2 pm. Happy hour is available daily from 4-6 pm. Dinner is served Sunday through Thursday from 5-9 pm and Friday and Saturday from 5-10 pm. For more information and reservations, call 832.839.5436 or visit

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