There is a large historical Sicilian presence in New Orleans. Sicilian food informs neighborhood New Orleans Creole cuisine. In our neighborhood, I can point you to Liuzza’s, to Mandina’s, to Venizia, all good red sauce places in which to stain your neck tie. Really good. Where is the best Italian food in New Orleans, though? Well, that depends on what you are looking for. Italian-American? New Orleans Italian? Creole Italian? Or authentic Italian?
The list goes on and on.
THE BEST ITALIAN FOOD IN NEW ORLEANS.
There are 1300 restaurants in New Orleans and New Orleans has deep Italian roots going back over a century. Frau Schmitt, who is the better half of this operation, and I, your humble narrator have dined at a little over 600 of New Orleans’ restaurants. It is almost impossible to have a bad meal in this wonderful city we call home.
We went to The Italian Barrel the other day, in the French Quarter. We don’t often dine in the Quarter because, frankly, there is only so much gumbo and shrimp and grits two people can eat. I know you think that people in New Orleans live off gumbo and jambalaya, and oyster po’ boys but we don’t. We also don’t dress in costume every day or walk down the street with trumpet in hand. Well, when I say we don’t walk down the street in costume, I may be exaggerating. I know someone who is a colorful character:
We went to the Italian Barrel a few years ago and we left non-plussed. Not that the good wasn’t good, but it was very expensive for what we ordered. This time, it was still expensive but we felt we got what we paid for: quality. As I always say when people ask me about the prices here at La Belle Esplanade, I say that it is hard to put a price on quality. This is true and it was proven again at the Italian Barrel the other day.
They’ve been open 11 years. When they first opened, they only had five or six tables inside and three or four tables outside. A few years ago, the owner expanded into the shop next door so there is a lot more space inside, now. It’s really lovely inside: airy, bright, clean (something on which I always put a premium) and like, well, like a trattoria in Italy.
I ordered a bottle of Peroni and a plate of penne all’arabbiata. If you don’t speak Italian, that means pasta cooked by an angry woman. It’s supposed to be spicy, which it rarely is. This one was spicy. It reminded me of the penne I had when I lived in Naples (the one in Campagna, not the one in Florida). It was tasty. Frau Schmitt, who is the better half of this operation, ordered a spaghetti with olive oil, capers, garlic and black pepper. I had a bite. It was delicious.
When you live in Italy, the food is simple, relying on the freshness of the ingredients and the preparation—-much like the food in New Orleans, I should add. This was a very, very good lunch. We ate with gusto, which, in Italian, means ‘taste’ but in English means ‘enthusiasm.’
85% of the ingredients used at The Italian Barrel are imported from Italy. The flavor shows, as do the prices, but the prices are worth it. There. I said it. I’m a convert. We’ll be going back.
You probably don’t come to New Orleans to eat Italian, but if you have a hankering for some authentic Italian food in an authentic Italian atmosphere, I know where to send you. Whatever you are looking to eat, Frau Schmitt and I know where to recommend. This is what we do every morning: we talk about all things New Orleans. We have been everywhere all over the city and, as I think I mentioned above, we have dined at over 600 restaurants. Whatever interests you, we can point you in the right direction. It is almost impossible to have a bad meal in New Orleans but it can be a bit overwhelming to decide where to go. That’s what we are here for in our role as New Orleans goodwill ambassadors.
When you are ready to visit our fair and interesting city, you know where you should stay, don’t you? Just plug your dates into our calendar to see what we have available. We only have five suites so only the most microscopic fraction of the 17.5 million people who visit New Orleans every year can have the La Belle Esplanade experience. No one ever says their visit is too long. It is always too short because the longer you are here, the more you’ll realize how much more there is to discover and explore. I always say that five nights is the perfect amount of time to get a satisfying taste of New Orleans. More is always better.
Have a great New Orleans day today! We look forward to meeting you.
-La Belle Esplanade
Wednesday, February 4, 2019: Today we had lunch at Hana, a Japanese restaurant in Carrollton, a very interesting and picturesque New Orleans neighborhood. What did I tell you? We don’t just eat gumbo and jambalaya every meal. Variety is the spice of life and New Orleans delivers variety in spades. It is a different world down here. You’ll see for yourself. You have two friends on Esplanade Avenue. Join the 7000 people who follow us on Facebook. You’ll be in good company. We post on Facebook a couple of times a day to help you stay in a New Orleans state of mind. Cheers!