Last Updated on Sunday, 17 April 2011 07:31
Metairie: 1917 Ridgelake. 504-835-4008. Map.
AE DC MC V
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Those who like hidden, secret restaurants, or those who love Italian food with some local excitement in its flavors, should have this little restaurant of their lists. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but both the interior environment and the eating is terrific.
WHY IT'S GOOD
Although chef-owner Phil Gagliano claims that his recipes are classic Sicilian-New Orleans, in fact his food is quite distinctive. It relies more on herbs and olive oil and careful roasting than on red sauces and melted cheese. He leaves nothing tasty out, but balances all the elements to arrive at some beautiful flavors. Even elementary matters like the Italian salad and veal piccata come out unusually delicious.
Phil Gagliano is part of the current generation of the family that gave us Frank's, a venerable, lusty Italian cafe across from the French Market. In later 2001, he took over the former Napoli restaurant, the last of a series of cafes in a funny building athwart the West Napoleon Avenue corridor near Causeway Boulevard and the Galleria. All of the former occupants did a pretty good business, even though it's hard to figure out how to get to the restaurant the first time you try.
Nothing about the utilitarian exterior suggests the intimate, casually elegant dining rooms inside. (The owner was an interior designer before he became a chef.) All the rooms are small; the upstairs dining room is a shade less atmospheric.
»Oysters al oreganate (baked with bread crumbs, garlic, and herbs).
»Zuppa di Fillipa (seafood soup).
»Pasta aglio olio.
»Trout with crabmeat and lemon butter.
»Veal Sorrentino (with eggplant and Marsala).
Veal or chicken piccata.
Pork chop with risotto (a frequent special).
»Blueberries with zabaglione.
FOR BEST RESULTS
The best way to get to the place is from Galleria Boulevard. Take a right at the end of it, and it's across the street. Some corners of the dining room are better than others. Tables in the bar are more comfortable than you might imagine.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Not enough seafood entrees. The veal needs to be sliced and pounded thinner.
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 +1
- Consistency +2
- Service +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar
- Local Color
- Good for business meetings
- Medium private room
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations honored promptly
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
It's not what you could call a prime location. On what was once the bank of the West Napoleon Avenue Canal, a little over a block off Causeway Boulevard, the restaurant can be seen from that artery. But figuring out how to get to the restaurant is a challenge. By line of sight, you will make at least two U-turns. You will find that the dining rooms look better than the exterior will cause you to suppose. Owner-chef Phil Gagliano was in the interior design business before diving into this, his first restaurant job ever. But he's clearly no beginner in the kitchen. His food shows the taste and polish I'd expect from the best of the local Italian restaurants. The best of the appetizers is oysters al oreganate. It's a personal version of Italian oysters, baked on the shells with bread crumbs, garlic, oregano, Romano cheese, and olive oil. They smell like a thousand bucks and taste like a million. Filippo makes mussels two ways: with the familiar brothy, herby wine sauce or the less common but equally good red sauce. Both are first-rate. The scampi are less successful--not because the simple garlic butter sauce lacks anything, but because the shrimp are way too small. A lighter start, but no less good, is the house soup. It's a fish soup made with big pieces: crabmeat, shrimp, and oysters, in a lusty fish broth with a little cream. A bowl of this makes a fine light lunch. They overdo salads, even the complimentary job that comes with lunch entrees. No complaints about the contents, though: fresh, well-dressed, nicely presented and cool. Filippo covers a lot of range with its entrees. The most impressive is the pork chop. I've had bigger, but I can't remember better. Seasoned with the taste of a New Orleans eater in mind, it's a twelve-ouncer on a single bone, slathered with herbs and olive oil, placed on top of creamy, Romano-cheese-tangy risotto. The pork chop isn't on the menu, but they offer it almost every night as a special. Veal shows up in all the usual ways. The killer is the Sorrentino version, in which the veal is in an open-face sandwich, with panneed eggplant as the bread, and prosciutto and mozzarella heightening the flavors. Chicken dishes in places like this are often the same as the veal, but here they have some variations. The spedini is a pounded-out, rolled-up chicken breast held together with bread crumbs and prosciutto, then sliced into pinwheels. Simple and light as this is, it's a delicious plate of food, and the pasta aglio alio next to it completes a mouthful. They have fettuccine Alfredo, cheese ravioli, penne marinara, and the usual victuals parmigiana, for those who haven't inured their palates to the more adventuresome forms of Italian cookery. The wine list is a list, all right, but it's chosen with care, and many varieties served by the glass. Desserts are four, with the tiramisu being the best and the cheesecake the most ordinary.
|< Prev||Next >|