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Restaurants & Bars 2

Ristorante Da Piero

Robert | Jun 23, 200510:15 PM

This is a cut and paste from my website, but I figured this joint deserved the added exposure. I'm not entirely sure everything is accurate, and I'd certainly appreciate any comments about stuff I got wrong. For example, was the restaurant in Ponchatoula for 6 years or 8? Anyway:

I had lunch today at Ristorante Da Piero. It's an uncommon form of Italian restaurant in the New Orleans area, in that it serves authentic, regional Italian food as opposed to the standard "Creole-Italian" food featured in the vast majority of local Italian eateries.

There's nothing wrong with the local version of Italian food, but for those of us who have an interest in regional Italian cuisine, the playing field has been a little one-sided in recent memory. There are a few places that claim to serve Italian food, and that have aspirations to fine dining. Andrea's being the most noteworthy. I have nothing particularly nice to say about Andrea's. In fact, I have a good bit to say that's not nice, but that's not the focus of this website, so I'll leave it at that.

Ristorante Da Piero was located in Ponchatoula Louisiana for 6 years, then moved to a location in Kenner 2 years ago. It's on the same block as the venerable Creole restaurant Le Parvenu, which is to say it's at the ass-end of Williams Boulevard, near the river and Jefferson Highway in Kenner.

The location probably had something to do with why I haven't eaten there until today, because I don't think fine dining when I think Kenner. But the location will not be an obstacle in the future. The food was outstanding, and as important, was the most authentically Italian cooking I've experienced in the New Orleans area in the last decade. Maybe it's because I'm in an Italian cooking phase at the moment, but that's extremely important to me.

A caveat: this is not the kind of Italian food you'd find at a Mario Batali restaurant. There's no fennel pollen on the menu, which is pretty small, though it is accentuated by a generous daily special menu. This is excellent food, prepared by a trained chef, but it reminds me more of Trattoria cooking than pretentious nouvelle Italian cooking.

The restaurant is set in a converted home, and features a very small bar, a patio, and two dining rooms. The place is decorated in a somewhat baroque style, but pictures of the owners' family on tables and mantlepieces give it a homey feel. I would estimate the restaurant can serve around 40 diners in the interior.

I started with the crostini misti - five slices of good bread with different toppings, all of which were very good. There was a very subtle spinach crostini in which both I and my friend Matt detected pesto;, a mushroom crostini that was equally subtle, and equally delicious; a crostini with cheese and minced peppers; one with a layer of cheese over a slice of salami; and finally a margherita with cheese, basil and tomato. All of them were delicious, and it was a very, very generously portioned appetizer, which it should have been at $9.

My friend Matt had the bruschetta pomodora e basilico. It was another large portion, this time of the same bread, piled with extremely good tomatoes seasoned with balsamic vinegar, salt and basil. ($7.5)

The portions, at least of the appetizers, seemed best suited to dining with a group of people. I think it says something about how much I liked the place that while we were eating the appetizers, we were talking about coming back with a few other couples for dinner.

Matt went with a lunch special for his entree: a crepinette filled with spinach and ricotta. The lunch special (which I believe cost around $9.5) also came with a salad, which was good if not groundbreaking. I got to taste the crepinette, and it was fantastic: a crepe, more or less, with a substantial filling of spinach and cheese, and served in a cream sauce.

I went with the Tagliatelle all Romagnola: fresh pasta with a tomato sauce, prosciutto, and peas. There is just nothing like the taste and texture of fresh pasta, and this was outstanding fresh pasta. The sauce was good, but again, not groundbreaking. The pasta, on the other hand, was just freaking awesome. And when you order real Italian pasta, that should be the focus.

Chef Piero is from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and that's the kind of food he cooks. His wife runs the front of the restaurant with aplomb and grace. I am going to be a regular at this joint, I think.


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