T-Fitz bedazzles the Italian Barrel's sweatpants with the near-unattainable FIVE WHOLE STARS this week, but it's hard to tell why. "Unless you have limited your Italian dining to Venezia or Tony Angello's," Fitz cranks, "you will not find a lot of new ground broken here." Wait, what? FIVE WHOLE STARS despite the prices, which are "significantly higher than one might guess, stopping just short of outrageous" like "$$$$$" specials "deep into the $40 range" (-1 for Value on the Tom Tom Scale)? FIVE WHOLE STARS despite the old, "cramped" and "drafty" building that "has some problems?"
The Fitzcriticism turns to the menu? Northern Italian cuisine created by owner/chef Samantha Castagnetti? which he notes as lacking in Northern Italian-ness ie. "risotto and polenta are scarce." While T-Fitz does say, "everything is well made from vividly fresh groceries and first-class imported pastas, cheeses and salumi," apparently the servers didn't realize he wanted to split a pasta with his dining companion (intriguing), saying, "be sure they know you're doing this or you'll wind up with two hot courses in front of you." FIVE WHOLE STARS despite a cringe-worthy ordering snafu? This only leaves one thing left to win over old Morris the Cat at the Italian Barrel, the "Crab Martini," and apparently it's just crabby enough. [City Business, sub req]
The Advocate's Scott Gold reviews Green Goddess this week, noting that they are still very much "inventive" and going strong in the post-Debarr days with "one of the most audacious desserts in the city, a bacon caramel ice cream sundae that's every bit as good as it sounds." The chef at Green Goddess these days is owner Paul Artigues, who held down the lunch menu during the Debarr days, and is also a well-known musician and actor, playing drums for Guitar Lightnin Lee and appearing on numerous Treme episodes as a sort of bad boy musician type. Gold describes the menu as "wordly" ie. "inspired by cuisine from Vietnam to the Middle East, Mexico, South India, Cuba and, of course, South Louisiana":
A recent meal there began with two heavenly sweet potato biscuits, served simply with pepper jelly and cane syrup.... Following that came a mofongo salad... Artigues plates the griddle-crisp plantain cake under a bed of arugula, corn and black bean salsa, crema, shrimp sautéed in coconut milk, lime juice and chili sauce, and garnishes the dish with rose petals.If you're looking for something heartier, you'd be remiss not to order the shrimp and pork belly banh mi.
Don't go lookin for Artigues at the Green Goddess on Mardi Gras day though. The restaurant will be closed, and Artigues will be backing Guitar Lightnin Lee at the Mother In Law Lounge. [Advocate]
· Customers Embrace Italian Barrel's Quirks [City Business, Subscription Required]
· Green Goddess Owner-Chef has Music and Acting on his Plate [Advocate]
· All Week in Reviews[-ENOLA-]
The Italian Barrel [Photo: Official Website]