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The Leonelli brand and concept that created our Italian cafe originated in New York. Led by Michelin Star chef Jonathan Benno, Leonelli has a deep respect for Italian culinary tradition while being inspired to bring something new to the table—something that reflects the nearby community with authentic Italian food made from local ingredients. By featuring local ingredients that are far from Italy but close to Leonelli, the menus at each Leonelli location offer a delicious balance of the traditional and the unexpected.

Chef Benno has developed the menu for Cafe Leonelli at the MFA, Houston, to be unique to the Houston community by partnering with local purveyors, such as Lonestar Mushrooms, Houston Dairymaids, and Homestead Gristmill, and utilizing seasonal ingredients in the creation of each dish. Cafe Leonelli features convenient, attended counter service as well as outdoor dining. 

The Italian cuisine served at the cafe draws from Chef Benno’s earliest food memories, his extensive travels through Italy, and his professional experience honing the craft of classic culinary methods. From La Colombe coffee, lattes, and pastries to fresh focaccia, sandwiches, salads, and a selection of hot menu items like lasagna beautifully displayed in cast-iron Staub cookware, 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. 

We believe that every day is an opportunity to eat well. Share, laugh, love, and live—it’s the Italian way. Celebrate eating well every day with Leonelli.


In Italy, focaccia is often enjoyed as a quick daytime meal, with many “focaccerias” that specialize in serving the thick squares of bread with a variety of toppings. Inspired by famous destinations such as Rome’s Pizzarium Bonci, Cafe Leonelli recreates this experience, while introducing local and seasonal ingredients. The cafe offers a variety of 6 kinds from classic flavors such as Margherita and Pepperoni to a Gluten Free option.  


Leonelli offers a dazzling array of Italian pastries, cookies, and confections from Executive Pastry Chef and Michelin Star recipient Salvatore Martone. Says Chef Benno, “We wanted to bring back the traditional Italian pastry shop—and do it exceptionally well.” This means all confections are made in-house daily utilizing the best products available.

Join Us

And at Leonelli, food is family. Our team, our guests, our suppliers, and our community are part of the Leonelli family. Gathering around the table is about what we eat, who we eat with and so much more. Our food connects people and creates memories. We encourage each and every member of the Leonelli team to be an active member of the community. We want our guests to feel at home in a place that feels like an extension of theirs. Leonelli is a member of the community.