Franca’s Real Italian

A Clear Lake Legend

By Rick Clapp

Franca’s Real Italian Restaurant’s legend began in 1971 by Franco and Domenica Pignataro.  The Pignataros had instant success as they served only the freshest authentic Italian food and pizzas.  Fondly known as Mama and Papa, they had regulars come from all over Houston and Galveston to enjoy a true “Roman Experience.”

The dynamic hardworking couple had restaurant locations in Houston, Galveston and Santa Fe, Texas.

After the unfortunate passing of both Pignataros, youngest daughter, Franca, took over the stewardship and continued the tradition her family started. Consequently, the name was changed from Franco’s to Franca’s Real Italian Restaurant with the blessing of her tight knit family, sisters Nuccia and Lina Pignataro.

Franca’s now offers a unique combination of the family’s traditional dishes served in a contemporary ambience.  For the sports enthusiast, Franca’s has a small pub and dining area that is filled with authentic NFL and college football helmets and memorabilia. The restaurant also features an entertaining dinner theatre once a month.

When it comes to food and service, Franca’s Italian Restaurant excels and has a value priced menu.  Their talented chef prepares delicious Italian food with the freshest ingredients.  Franca’s menu is vast and includes traditional dishes as well as salads, appetizers, entrees, pizza and signature dishes.

During the dinner theatre, which shows every other month, they offer an awesome menu for only $35-$45. Some of the choice items include Surf & Turf, which is filet medallions topped with fresh gulf shrimp and a cream marsala sauce served with fettucine alfredo and sauted vegetables and a fresh Snapper Entrée which is only $45.

Some of the other delectable items include Eggplant Parmesan, Pollo Franca, Franco’s Combination and are only $35. Also, try one of their specialty drinks — the Italian Margarita, Francatini, Italian Sangria or an Italian beer or a select glass or bottle of wine — all at reasonable prices.  Your dinner theatre package is all inclusive and includes entrée, salad, bread, dessert, tea or coffee and a show.

The dinner theatre is acclaimed and features local actors and actresses.  It is coordinated by Lina Pignataro, who is also an actress. Upcoming performances include Sunshine Boys by Neil Simon, May 18-19, 25-26, June 1-2; Born Yesterday by Garson Kamin, July 20-21, 27-28, Aug. 3-4; Mama Won’t Fly by James Hope and Wooten, Sept. 21-22, 28-29, Oct. 5-6. Every Christmas Story Told, Nov. 29-30, Dec. 1,6,7 and 8.

Make your reservations for the dinner theatre at Franca’s as space is limited.  For more information on auditions and performances go to  A dining bonus is “The Piano Man” – Claudio, who performs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6:30 p.m. To 10 p.m.

In true Italian family fashion, you may be greeted by Franca’s nephews, Francesco or Domenico, as you enter the eatery. Franca’s Real Italian Restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and is located at 1101 NASA Parkway in Clear Lake. Reservations are a must for all dinner theatre performances. Call 281-488-2207.

Stop by and enjoy a true “Roman Holiday” experience at Franca’s Real Italian Restaurant.  You will not be disappointed.  Tell her I sent you.  Bon Appetite! Ciao!

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