Prego specializes in fresh, modern Italian cuisine. We feature handcrafted-pasta, house-cured salumi, hand-tossed pizzas in addition to other Italian specialties. Our menu changes regularly, based on the offerings of local purveyors, artisans and farmers, and we are committed to using the freshest, most flavorful seasonal products available. We also support and use organic, natural, and sustainable ingredients whenever possible.
For more than 30 years, Prego has been a Houston dining tradition, located in the heart of Houston's bustling Rice Village. Our kitchen is led by Executive Chef/Owner John Watt, who perfected his artisanal techniques in his almost four decades in the industry, including award-winning Tremont House in Galveston, as well as Backstreet Cafe and Prego in Houston.
Our menu is complemented by carefully chosen wines, creative cocktails and exceptional customer service. The extensive wine list boasts more than 150 selections of Italian and new world wines, selected by Sommelier Rafael Espinal, Managing Partner David Cook and Chef Watt.
Owner and Executive Chef
John Watt, owner and executive chef Prego, has been one of Houston’s most prominent chefs for more than 30 years, winning awards for his highly touted food at Prego and participating in high-profile, food-related fund raising events in the city.
Previous to moving to Houston, Watt was the corporate executive chef for famed Texas businessman, real estate developer and philanthropist George P. Mitchell and his The Tremont House hotel in historic Galveston, Texas. Watt oversaw the kitchen of its fine-dining restaurant, The Wentltrap, and also hosted a series of highly acclaimed wine and food events, inviting some of Europe’s and America’s most famous chefs to join him in the kitchen. Some of the guest chefs for these weekend extravaganzas celebrating the best in seafood and wild game included the now-legendary Emeril LaGasse, Christian Germaine, Michael Smith, Joseph Lowry, Philippe Jeanty of Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley, and Paris’ acclaimed Michel Rostang, owner/chef of the restaurant of the same name.
In the fall of 1989, Watt was asked by Houston restaurateur Tracy Vaught to help her redevelop the food at her two restaurants, Backstreet Cafe and Prego. Watt was executive chef of both concepts for 10 years, elevating these concepts to become two of Houston’s best and most-loved and –lauded restaurants. At Backstreet Cafe, he helped to teach and develop the skills of Hugo Ortega, a busboy-turned-chef who is now considered one of the city’s best.
Gifted with talents in many creative areas, Watt, who holds a Bachelor of Arts with a major in philosophy, has at various times taught art, sculpture and pottery, composed musical scores for theater productions, played guitar with Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys as well as with The Gap Band. Since an early age, he has composed music for theatre, radio and television. He has created jingles for television commercials with a member of The Platters, the singing sensation of the late ‘50s. Most recently, he has composed scores for shows at Houston’s Alley Theatre and for Mildred’s Umbrella Theatre Company.
Watt is a two-time guest chef at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City, and is also managing partner with longtime associate/restaurateur Tracy Vaught in Trevisio Restaurant & Conference Center.
Watt and wife Susan have been married for 30 years and have a grown son.
General Manager and Operating Partner
David Cook started at Prego as a server/waiter in the summer of 2002. The family atmosphere and commitment to excellence that he found at Prego inspired him to continue learning about food, wine, cocktails and the restaurant business as a whole. Cook moved to management in January 2006, as manager of Trevisio Restaurant & Conference Center, operated by the owners of Prego, Hugo’s, Caracol and Backstreet Cafe. He returned to Prego as general manager in October 2008, and became a partner at Prego in November 2013. Cook is a Houston native, born and raised in the Southampton neighborhood and graduated from St. John’s School in 1998. He studied Comparative Religion at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, is a Level 2 sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers, and a Bikram Yoga enthusiast. He and his wife Annie have 2 young sons, Ace and Sam.
Rafael Espinal, a native of El Salvador, has been a part of the Prego family for more than 20 years. He began working as a busboy, advancing to waiter and manager, all the time growing his knowledge of and interest in wine. Prego Chef/Owner John Watt recognized Espinal’s talent and interest in wine, and encouraged and assisted him in enrolling for the sommelier exam. Espinal is now a certified Level 2 Sommelier.
Espinal has expanded Prego’s New World wine selection, with more wines including wines from Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand. He has also added a nice selection of German wines, especially Rieslings, to the international page, because they match particularly well with many of Chef Watt’s dishes.
Espinal is married and when he is not working enjoys bike riding and competes in the MS 150 fundraising bike ride across the Texas Hill Country each year.