Leonardo's Trattoria. CBD: 709 St. Charles. 504-558-8986.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 November 2010 17:01
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Leonardo's posture is that of a casual Sicilian restaurant (trattoria=bistro), and it captures that style reasonably well. The style of the pastas and red-saucy dishes will be very familiar to New Orleanians. But the menu is full of little-seen dishes, some of which are very welcome (arancini, for example). They're heavier in the roasted-meat department than most local Italian restaurants--and I mean that in both senses of the word. There's a good bit of fish, most of it grilled or broiled. But. . .
WHY IT'S GOOD
Although the rest of the menu seems to beg for most of your attention, the the major specialty here is pizza. It emerges from a wood-burning brick oven, and it's in the top rank. The crust is thin, crisp at the bottom, lightly burned and bubbled here and there, and covered with an unimpeachable sauce and excellent cheeses and other ingredients. The rest of the menu is good and ample, but if you pass on the pizza, you've missed it.
After spending a number of years in first-class restaurant in Las Vegas, chef-owner Leonardo Daniele opened this restaurant in 2008. This space has hosted restaurants--many of them Italian--for almost a hundred years.
The old building was only lightly renovated for Leonardo's, and its brick walls wear their age well. The tables and booths form an L around the oversize bar. The tiles in the high ceiling look like a gigantic chessboard. The busiest tables are always those on the sidewalk, even in the summer heat. Service is always lagging a beat or two behind one's dining rhythm, but the servers make up for this with eager accommodation.
»Bruschetta with tomatoes.
Mozzarella in carozza (a kind of sandwich).
Roasted peppers stuffed with cheese, garlic, and bread crumbs.
»Arancini (fried rice balls stuffed with meat and tomato sauce).
Panzanella (bread salad).
»Mozzarella salad Caprese.
Rigatoni with meat sauce and mushrooms.
Pansotti (stuffed pasta with ricotta and spinach, like a rolled lasagna).
Ravioli with beef.
Cheese tortelloni with peas.
Fettuccine with seafood.
»Fish fra diavolo (spicy tomato sauce).
Chicken or veal medallions with fennel, Marsala, piccata, or parmigiana.
Lamb shank osso buco
Scottadito (lamb shops with rosemary)
»Wood-fired oven pizzas.
FOR BEST RESULTS
The restaurant is eight blocks from the Superdome and Arena, and they open two hours before all Saints and Hornets games. Did I mention that pizza is essential?
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The pasta dishes in my experience need to go on a diet, both in the sauce and noodle department.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Service -1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar +1
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Sidewalk tables
- Good for business meetings
- Small private room
- Open Sunday dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Reservations accepted
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