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Bucatini alla carbonara from Avo
Sam Hanna/Avo

Here Are the Best Italian Eats in New Orleans

Celebrate New Orleans’s Italian roots at these restaurants

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Bucatini alla carbonara from Avo
| Sam Hanna/Avo

Creole Italian food has a particular slant in New Orleans, informed by a wealth of Gulf seafood and the local creed that more — sauce, cheese, cheese on seafood — is better. The city’s influx of mostly Sicilian immigrants in the late 19th century (an estimated 290,000 settled here) expanded the New Orleans table to embrace Southern style cuisine from the boot. That Italian influence, which at one point transformed the French Market area into “little Palermo,” is still apparent on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19, when altars made of pastry, fruit, and bread honor the patron Saint of Sicily.

New Orleans diners can celebrate the city’s Italian roots any day with a visit to one of these restaurants, a wide-ranging sampling of the area’s best regional Italian, Creole-Italian, and American-Italian cuisine, from the Westbank to the French Quarter.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Mosca's

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Cross the Huey P. Long Bridge to the West Bank and keep going, and going, until you get to Mosca’s, an esteemed family-run Creole Italian roadhouse that sits along a dark stretch of Highway 90 West. Opened for business in 1946, the unchanged menu includes garlic-infused specialties like barbecued shrimp, baked oysters and of course the Chicken ala Grande, roasted with tons of fresh garlic, herbs and white wine.  

A plate of chicken drumsticks and thighs served with a plate of spaghetti
Mosca’s spaghetti and chicken a la grande
Mosca’s Restaurant/Facebook

Vincent's Italian Cuisine

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Chef Vincent Catalanotto opened the Metairie location of his fine dining Italian restaurant 30 years ago, followed by this Riverbend spot, with many of the dishes reflecting his Sicilian roots. Beyond favorites like veal parm and chicken Marsala, Vincent’s house special is seafood cannelloni, tender pasta stuffed with shrimp, crawfish and crab simmered in a delicate rosa sauce — think the love child of red sauce and Alfredo.

There’s nothing Creole Italian about chef Nick Lama’s upscale Avo, which means “grandfather” or “ancestor,” in Italian. The third generation Sicilian spotlights regional Italian cuisine and ingredients like figs, gorgonzola, Calabrian chilies and every manner of homemade pasta. The food is gorgeous and informed by passion and allegiance to pristine ingredients. Get the meatballs, get the charred octopus, get yourself to Avo.

Charred Octopus with black garlic, pineapple, and Calabrian chiles
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Rizzuto's Ristorante & Chop House

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This family-run swank spot in Lakeview has date night written all over it. Rizzuto’s dishes the likes of shrimp fra diavolo, homemade crab and lobster ravioli along with an array of prime beef that includes a big ticket 14 ounce prime spinalis steak. Expensive but worth it. Executive chef Jason Caronna is third generation — his immigrant grandparents ran a small grocery store in the Quarter.

An eggplant parmesan dish is served on a white plate
Eggplant Valentin at Rizzuto’s
Rizzuto’s/Facebook

Mandina's Restaurant

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A neighborhood staple since 1932, Mandina’s serves comforting, old school Creole Italian seafood and other New Orleans classics (like po’ boys, gumbo, and red beans). Get the daube spaghetti, or Thursday’s bruccialone (veal rolled and stuffed with spinach, egg, and seasonings) with shell pasta.

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Josephine Estelle

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Josephine Estelle is an osteria from James Beard Award-nominated Memphis chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, their first foray into New Orleans. A season-driven menu includes homemade pastas (get the simply wonderful cacio e pepe), soft shells if it’s your lucky day, and the wagyu. Impressive cocktail and wine list too.

Cacio e pepe from Josephine Estelle
Josephine Estelle/Facebook

If images of gorgeous Sophia Loren aren’t enough to inspire you, take a look at Sofia’s menu. The pretty and casual Julia street restaurant serves menu of modern Italian, with an emphasis on salads, small plates, and pizzas. Those are delicious, same goes for the pastas and the blue crab risotto. The bistecca fiorentina is as good as you’d get in Florence.

Sofia’s margherita pizza, shrimp scampi, beet salad, and squid
Sofia’s margherita pizza, shrimp scampi, beet salad, and squid
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Gianna Restaurant

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Warehouse District stunner Gianna, from the prolific Link Restaurant Group, serves smartly conceived regional Italian specialties — refined but homey versions of ribollita soup, spaghetti and clam, and veal saltimbocca. Although the menu is rustic, the setting is not — this is a stylishly modern restaurant. Take advantage if there’s a prix fixe option to get the chef’s choice from soup to nuts.

Irene's

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Long ensconced on St. Phillip Street, Irene’s moved to Bienville a few years back, taking its garlicky goodness along for the ride. Namesake and proprietor Irene DiPietro, in business since 1993, sets a high bar with specialties like the Sicilian antipasti — big enough to share — and oysters Irene made with pancetta and pecorino Romano. Regulars were happy to see that the piano bar survived the move.

Irene’s
Irene’s/Facebook

Mona Lisa

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This easy-to-miss gem in the French Quarter is a longtime favorite for Italian-American classics in a funky setting, complete with red and white checkered tablecloths and walls covered in hundreds of versions of the Mona Lisa. Expect huge portions of simple but satisfying garlic bread, calzones and subs, pizzas, and entrees like eggplant parm, shrimp scampi, and baked ziti.

The Italian Barrel

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Try a negroni — they are excellent here — and enjoy the Italian Barrel’s Northern Italian accent just steps from the French Market. The menu is pricey but never disappoints, with dishes like veal meatballs in red sauce, penne a la vodka, and osso bucco. Sit at a sidewalk table and people watch or inside in the understated dining room.

Fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms & truffle topped with a creamy white wine sauce and splash of extra virgin white truffle olive oil
Porcini & Truffle Ravioli
The Italian Barrel/Facebook

Adolfo's

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Adolfo’s might just be the king of Creole Italian food in New Orleans. Situated above the Apple Barrel on Frenchmen Street, this no frills joint draws legions of loyal fans. Almost everything is tasty and sizable, rich with cream and slathered with cheese. Try the shrimp alfredo, mussels marinara over spaghetti and of course the cannelloni. It’s currently open Thursday through Sunday only, so plan ahead.

Paladar 511

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This noisy trattoria is a neighborhood gem in the Marigny, a reclaimed warehouse space perfumed with garlic, tomato sauce, and pizza. The Paladar 511 menu is inventive — charred okra with Calabrian chili, squid ink spaghetti with crab meat — as well as nodding to the classics. Get the pork saltimbocca.

Margherita pizza from Paladar
Paladar 511/Facebook

Arabella Casa Di Pasta

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Have your pasta your way at Arabella’s, a laid-back and affordable Italian spot where diners build their own, combining a pasta shape, a sauce (puttanesca, tomato cream) and add ons like meatballs, mushrooms, roasted red peppers and more. There are house specialties too, including the John Lemon, which tosses shrimp, arugula and lemon infused extra virgin olive oil in fettuccini, or the Yolko Ono, a riff on carbonara that includes pancetta, roasted garlic and lots of black pepper over spaghetti, all topped with a runny egg yolk.

Mosca's

Cross the Huey P. Long Bridge to the West Bank and keep going, and going, until you get to Mosca’s, an esteemed family-run Creole Italian roadhouse that sits along a dark stretch of Highway 90 West. Opened for business in 1946, the unchanged menu includes garlic-infused specialties like barbecued shrimp, baked oysters and of course the Chicken ala Grande, roasted with tons of fresh garlic, herbs and white wine.  

A plate of chicken drumsticks and thighs served with a plate of spaghetti
Mosca’s spaghetti and chicken a la grande
Mosca’s Restaurant/Facebook

Vincent's Italian Cuisine

Chef Vincent Catalanotto opened the Metairie location of his fine dining Italian restaurant 30 years ago, followed by this Riverbend spot, with many of the dishes reflecting his Sicilian roots. Beyond favorites like veal parm and chicken Marsala, Vincent’s house special is seafood cannelloni, tender pasta stuffed with shrimp, crawfish and crab simmered in a delicate rosa sauce — think the love child of red sauce and Alfredo.

Avo

There’s nothing Creole Italian about chef Nick Lama’s upscale Avo, which means “grandfather” or “ancestor,” in Italian. The third generation Sicilian spotlights regional Italian cuisine and ingredients like figs, gorgonzola, Calabrian chilies and every manner of homemade pasta. The food is gorgeous and informed by passion and allegiance to pristine ingredients. Get the meatballs, get the charred octopus, get yourself to Avo.

Charred Octopus with black garlic, pineapple, and Calabrian chiles
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Rizzuto's Ristorante & Chop House

This family-run swank spot in Lakeview has date night written all over it. Rizzuto’s dishes the likes of shrimp fra diavolo, homemade crab and lobster ravioli along with an array of prime beef that includes a big ticket 14 ounce prime spinalis steak. Expensive but worth it. Executive chef Jason Caronna is third generation — his immigrant grandparents ran a small grocery store in the Quarter.

An eggplant parmesan dish is served on a white plate
Eggplant Valentin at Rizzuto’s
Rizzuto’s/Facebook

Mandina's Restaurant

A neighborhood staple since 1932, Mandina’s serves comforting, old school Creole Italian seafood and other New Orleans classics (like po’ boys, gumbo, and red beans). Get the daube spaghetti, or Thursday’s bruccialone (veal rolled and stuffed with spinach, egg, and seasonings) with shell pasta.

Shutterstock

Josephine Estelle

Josephine Estelle is an osteria from James Beard Award-nominated Memphis chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, their first foray into New Orleans. A season-driven menu includes homemade pastas (get the simply wonderful cacio e pepe), soft shells if it’s your lucky day, and the wagyu. Impressive cocktail and wine list too.

Cacio e pepe from Josephine Estelle
Josephine Estelle/Facebook

Sofia

If images of gorgeous Sophia Loren aren’t enough to inspire you, take a look at Sofia’s menu. The pretty and casual Julia street restaurant serves menu of modern Italian, with an emphasis on salads, small plates, and pizzas. Those are delicious, same goes for the pastas and the blue crab risotto. The bistecca fiorentina is as good as you’d get in Florence.

Sofia’s margherita pizza, shrimp scampi, beet salad, and squid
Sofia’s margherita pizza, shrimp scampi, beet salad, and squid
Josh Brasted/Eater NOLA

Gianna Restaurant

Warehouse District stunner Gianna, from the prolific Link Restaurant Group, serves smartly conceived regional Italian specialties — refined but homey versions of ribollita soup, spaghetti and clam, and veal saltimbocca. Although the menu is rustic, the setting is not — this is a stylishly modern restaurant. Take advantage if there’s a prix fixe option to get the chef’s choice from soup to nuts.

Irene's

Long ensconced on St. Phillip Street, Irene’s moved to Bienville a few years back, taking its garlicky goodness along for the ride. Namesake and proprietor Irene DiPietro, in business since 1993, sets a high bar with specialties like the Sicilian antipasti — big enough to share — and oysters Irene made with pancetta and pecorino Romano. Regulars were happy to see that the piano bar survived the move.

Irene’s
Irene’s/Facebook

Mona Lisa

This easy-to-miss gem in the French Quarter is a longtime favorite for Italian-American classics in a funky setting, complete with red and white checkered tablecloths and walls covered in hundreds of versions of the Mona Lisa. Expect huge portions of simple but satisfying garlic bread, calzones and subs, pizzas, and entrees like eggplant parm, shrimp scampi, and baked ziti.

The Italian Barrel

Try a negroni — they are excellent here — and enjoy the Italian Barrel’s Northern Italian accent just steps from the French Market. The menu is pricey but never disappoints, with dishes like veal meatballs in red sauce, penne a la vodka, and osso bucco. Sit at a sidewalk table and people watch or inside in the understated dining room.

Fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms & truffle topped with a creamy white wine sauce and splash of extra virgin white truffle olive oil
Porcini & Truffle Ravioli
The Italian Barrel/Facebook

Adolfo's

Adolfo’s might just be the king of Creole Italian food in New Orleans. Situated above the Apple Barrel on Frenchmen Street, this no frills joint draws legions of loyal fans. Almost everything is tasty and sizable, rich with cream and slathered with cheese. Try the shrimp alfredo, mussels marinara over spaghetti and of course the cannelloni. It’s currently open Thursday through Sunday only, so plan ahead.

Paladar 511

This noisy trattoria is a neighborhood gem in the Marigny, a reclaimed warehouse space perfumed with garlic, tomato sauce, and pizza. The Paladar 511 menu is inventive — charred okra with Calabrian chili, squid ink spaghetti with crab meat — as well as nodding to the classics. Get the pork saltimbocca.

Margherita pizza from Paladar
Paladar 511/Facebook

Arabella Casa Di Pasta

Have your pasta your way at Arabella’s, a laid-back and affordable Italian spot where diners build their own, combining a pasta shape, a sauce (puttanesca, tomato cream) and add ons like meatballs, mushrooms, roasted red peppers and more. There are house specialties too, including the John Lemon, which tosses shrimp, arugula and lemon infused extra virgin olive oil in fettuccini, or the Yolko Ono, a riff on carbonara that includes pancetta, roasted garlic and lots of black pepper over spaghetti, all topped with a runny egg yolk.

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