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. But celebrate the city’s Italian roots any day with a visit to one of these abbondanza eateries.Read More
Here Are the Best Italian Eats in New Orleans
Celebrate New Orleans’s Italian roots at these restaurants
Chef Vincent Catalanotto opened his Metairie fine dining Italian restaurant 30 years ago, 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.
2. 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.
3. 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. Closed Tuesday, open for dinner every other night and brunch on the weekends.
4. The Italian Barrel
Order 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.
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Long ensconced on St. Phillip Street, Irene’s moved to BIenville last year, taking its garlicky goodness along for the ride. Namesake and proprietor Irene DiPierto, 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.
6. Josephine Estelle
Love this real deal Italian in the Ace. Josephine Estelle is an osteria from James Beard Award-nominated Memphis chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, their first foray into New Orleans. Executive chef Chris Borges shines with a season-driven menu that includes homemade pastas (get the simply wonderful cacio e pepe!), softshells if it’s your lucky day, and the hanger steak with okra. Impressive cocktail and wine list too.
7. Marcello's Restaurant & Wine Bar
Known for its refined Italian comfort fare, Marcello’s, with another location in Metairie, serves satisfying versions of the classics. Try the eggplant ravioli, mini pork meatballs, Bolognese and all things parmigiano. The well priced wine list speaks to the owner’s roots - the family started with a wine store in Lafayette and their kin run Elio’s Wine Warehouse and Vieux Carre Wine & Spirits.
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8. Gianna Restaurant
When James Beard award winning chef Rebecca Wilcomb imagined an Italian restaurant with partners Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski, she thought of her grandmother Gianna. The result, Gianna in the Warehouse District on Magazine, channels the comfort foods of her childhood along with smartly conceived regional Italian specialties. Although the menu is rustic, the setting is not - this is stylishly modern eatery. It’s worth noting that most of the management team running Gianna, from the chef to the GM, are women. Order the $50 “Feed Me” option, served family style, to get the chef’s choice from soup to nuts.
If images of gorgeous Sophia Loren aren’t enough to inspire you, take a look at Sofia’s menu. The pretty Julia street eatery boasts a warm and informed staff, a terrific happy hour, and a menu of modern Italian classics. The pizzas are delish, same goes for the pastas and the blue crab risotto. The $58 Creekstone Bistecca Fiorentina is as perfect as you’d get in Florence.
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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, Oh and check out the redone outdoor courtyard space, deputing at the end of September.
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.