Fine Dining and Live Music Nightly
By Betha Merit
At Claudio’s Restaurant & Piano Bar in League City, it’s all about authentic Italian cuisine. No, on second thought, it’s all about amazing music. Scratch that. Claudio’s is an environment unlike any other. Yes, the food and music are in a class by themselves, and it’s the combination of these things with the special touch of hospitality and welcome that exudes from owner Claudio Sereni and his staff. “People show up for dinner at 7 and end up staying all night,” says Claudio. And that’s just the way he likes it.
Claudio Sereni has a rich history of music and food. Born in Italy, where he lived for 28 years, Claudio was selected to sing in the Sistine Chapel Choir where he had the privilege of singing for the Pope for seven consecutive years. The Vatican paid for Claudio to attend music school at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome to study bassoon and voice. He credits his time in serving food as a waiter in the Vatican for training him in “the most beautiful presentation and taste of fresh Italian food.”
At 17, Claudio was chosen to be on RAI national television’s small chorale ensemble, named “4 x 4 of Nora Orlandi.” He sang with the most popular singers and stars from all over the world. Claudio performed with Garinei and Giovannini productions and has also voiced over characters on Italian versions of many Walt Disney movies. He performed as a vocalist in Italian and American movies such as “Once Upon a Time in America” with Robert DeNiro, “Popeye” with Robin Williams, “Conan the Barbarian” and “Red Sonja” with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many more.
In 1981 Claudio visited his father in the U.S. and loved it so much, he decided to stay. He worked in Houston in the restaurant business doing a variety of work related to food and music, naturally. In 1989, NASA asked Claudio to perform at a surprise party they were giving for a visiting Italian astronaut. “I saw the lake and the beautiful area, and decided I wanted to move here.” And so he did.
Originally, Claudio worked in various Bay Area restaurants in management and performing musically. Then, in 1996, he opened his first Piano Bar in Kemah to great success. So successful, that there were too many people, too many cars, and the area could not sustain the volume of traffic. Claudio moved his business around to Clear Lake for several years, and then returned to Kemah, at the request of the city, as it built up and traffic was no longer an issue. And then came Hurricane Ike in 2008. Claudio’s Piano Bar was five feet under water and Claudio shut the door.
For the next several years, Claudio performed at various restaurants and to private parties in the area. Until his great love for creating an environment where his love of music, Italian cuisine, and hospitality mix together for an almost magical experience for his guests was resurrected. And Claudio’s reopened in a brand new location, with a cast of 25 employees, innumerable musicians, and an environment that makes you feel like family. “I want to make people happy and have the best time. They eat, they dance; I am here for them,” says Claudio.
Every night there is something different, from both the music and food points of view. Musically, the one thing that stays the same is quality. Sunday highlights top-notch local bands, and six nights a week Claudio and Christa Sereni both jam with Abel Salazar, “our most talented local artist,” who plays keyboards, saxophone, flute, and sings. Monday is open mic and many weeknights highlight special guest entertainers, friends of Claudios, who feel free to stop by and take the stage for a song or two. “You never know who you will see perform,” says Claudio. You just know it’s going to be fabulous.
What about the food? Daily, there are new dishes, always taste tested by the staff. And, you can request any food from the talented chefs. You have your choice of handmade pasta. The sauces are made daily. The herbs are fresh. In fact, everything is fresh and the recipes are authentic Italian. Claudio speaks glowingly of his staff. Paolo and Chef Loredana Merli are a couple from Italy, who own a restaurant near the Adriatic coast, currently run by their son and daughters. They love Bay Area Houston so much, they prefer to live and work here for Claudio. Executive Chef Luis Hernandez, Chef Marvin Flores, and Chef Alberto Patlan, have each worked for famous or five star restaurants and top resorts. Claudio speaks of each person as family.
Speaking of family, three of Claudio’s children work here. Daniel is a waiter, Gina hostesses, and Christa sings. “Music is a family affair,” says Claudio. “Their mother is a pianist and teaches music, so they got it from both sides.” Claudio also has a musician son, Alex, who lives in Austin, Texas. His daughter, Jessica, still lives in Italy and has made Claudio a proud grandfather of three. Claudio is engaged to a lady named Summer Winter Camp. There was a decided twinkle in his eye when he gave up this information. Upon further questioning, he conceded that almost every time he introduces her, people do a double take regarding her unique name. You can meet her at the restaurant, and perhaps mention that “Summer Sereni” sounds quite lyrical if she chooses to change her name.
Claudio’s Restaurant and Piano Bar offers special events featuring magicians, Elvis and Johnny Cash impersonators, wine dinners and more. Go to their website at www.ClaudiosPianoBar.com for more information. They are located at 3202 Marina Bay Drive, League City, Texas 77573, phone: 281.957.9262.