Food & Drink

The Best Italian Restaurants in New Orleans

Published On 06/30/2015 Published On 06/30/2015
Bucatini alla Carbonara
Courtesy of Avo
Paladar 511

Paladar 511

Marigny

Come to Paladar for the pizza (where the lamb sausage and tzatziki pie will bowl you over), but the menu offers many Italian delights if you’re willing to share some of the small plates. Try the lovely fried arancini or the fantastic chicken liver mousse, before moving on to other pleasures. Super bonus points, too, for Paladar’s wallet-friendly prices -- $11 for the house-made raviolo with egg yolk, ricotta, maitake mushrooms, porcini cream, and truffle pecorino? Sold!

Marcello's Restaurant & Wine Bar

CBD

There are few modern surprises or quirky culinary tricks at Marcello’s -- which also has an outpost in Lafayette if you’re out that way -- but it does old-school red sauce and Southern Italian favorites just right. Expect classics like chicken cacciatore, veal, chicken, or eggplant Parm, and spaghetti bolognese, as well as a massive wine list for all your vino needs.

Domenica

Domenica

CBD

This list couldn’t be complete without Alon Shaya’s Italian love letter in the Roosevelt Hotel. The Napoli-style pizzas are always a favorite, especially during happy hour, when they’re half-price (2-5pm daily), and you’d be a fool indeed to miss out on its selection of house-cured salumi, from lardo to coppa, prosciutto, biroldo, and even a chicken liver mousse.

Mariza

Bywater

This beautiful Bywater restaurant opened in 2013 and quickly earned raves for its casual-but-thoughtful approach to Italian fare. It sports a nifty raw bar featuring oysters and crudos, not generally found in Italian joints, but certainly par for the course in NOLA, and entrees as diverse as anchovy and pig ear salad, sweetbreads risotto, and lamb meatballs with a poached duck egg.

Oak Oven

Oak Oven

Harahan

The approach at Oak Oven is all about the seasonal ingredients, sourced from a network of local organic farms (including one of its own -- it even makes its own mozzarella and vinegars), and incorporated into traditional Italian favorites like veal marsala and piccata, fresh penne with rosemary chicken, grilled mushrooms, spinach and garlic, and, of course plenty of wood-fired pizzas. If you’re smart, you’ll hit the one with lamb meatballs, tomato, sweet peppers, basil, red chile, and ricotta.

Mandina's

Mid-City

A lot of people don’t realize that “Italian Creole” is a specialty in the 504, but you’ll find some of the best po-boys nestling side by side with chicken Parm and veal scallopini at some of the finer neighborhood joints in the city. And nowhere is there a more spectacular embodiment of this phenomenon than Mandina’s, which never fails to disappoint with everything from turtle soup to soft-shell crab meuniere and, of course, spaghetti with meatballs. Come hungry... the portions are not to be trifled with.

Mosca’s/Chad Bower

Mosca's Restaurant

Avondale

One local’s instructions on finding Mosca’s: “Drive to the West Bank. Keep driving until you’re absolutely certain you passed it up five minutes ago. Then you’re almost there.” Sure, a visit to Mosca’s involves a trek, but it’s always been a trek worth making. Its sublime, garlic oil-rich dishes, served family-style, have been lauded by locals since 1946. Skip the spaghetti and meatballs and head directly for the Italian crab salad, Oysters Mosca, Shrimp Mosca, Chicken a la Grande, and spaghetti bordelaise. Go with a group and don’t forget to bring cash (no credit cards here, but it does have an ATM).

Amici Ristorante & Bar

Amici Ristorante & Bar

Uptown

This Magazine St spot is all about Sicilian tradition, including a coal-fired pizza oven that bakes the pies at 1,100°F to get that sweet spot of crispy, bubbly, charred crust with a fluffy interior. The rest of the menu is all familiar Sicilian and Sicilian-American fare, but there are some cool additions as well, like Nona Lena's Bruciuluni: “Pork medallions stuffed with beef, Italian sausage, and egg served with angel hair pasta & marinara sauce.” Si, signore!

Altamura

Lower Garden District

Want to turn heads with a new restaurant in New Orleans? Spruce up a historic mansion into a B&B, then add a serious red-sauce joint to the mix. That’s the story behind the long-awaited Altamura, helmed by ManhattanJack’s Jack Petronella and Coleman Jernigan. Altamura is a loving ode to Petronella’s New York-Italian heritage, and if there’s anything we’ll never get tired of in NOLA, it’s a spot-on Sunday gravy and pasta so perfectly al dente, madonna, you could just die.

Del Porto Ristorante

Del Porto Ristorante

Covington

Like Mosca’s, you’ll have a hike ahead of you if you want to visit Del Porto, which is located in Covington on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain. And, like Mosca’s, it’ll be a hike worth making, since the restaurant has been receiving critical raves since it opened in 2002. The deceivingly simple preparations shine here, especially the house-made artisan pastas.

Courtesy of Josephine Estelle

Josephine Estelle

Warehouse District

You know an Ace Hotel isn’t going to mess around when it comes to dining, and that’s surely the case with Josephine Estelle’s entry into the NOLA dining scene. The pasta list alone is something of a marvel, with entries ranging from a killer bucatini amatriciana and short rib fusilli with mushroom and taleggio cheese, to gemelli with duck confit. The simple canestri cacio e pepe will make you weep for your gluten-free friends.

Pascal’s Manale

Pascal's Manale

Uptown

Get ready to get messy; if you’re going to “Manale’s,” you’d best order the BBQ shrimp, a dish that, strangely, has nothing to do with barbecue or grilling. It’s all about the sauce, a decadent combination of butter, olive oil, and black pepper used to poach the whole, huge Gulf shrimp. Shelling those shrimp, bathed so heavily in that sauce, means that you’re going to have butter leaking all the way down into your armpits if you’re not careful. Totally worth it, though.

Irene's Cuisine

French Quarter

If you’re visiting NOLA and staying in the Quarter and looking for great Creole-Italian nearby that’s something above a muffaletta, Irene’s is definitely your best bet. And you’ll be even more pleased if you have a hankering for comfort dishes prepared with generous amounts of butter, cream, and cheese. Just be prepared to make a reservation in advance or you’re sure to run into a serious wait for a table.

Courtesy of Avo

Avo

Uptown

It can be hard for a chef to really stand out amongst all the spectacular Italian food in NOLA, but Nick Lama hit this one out of the park. His Magazine St eatery satisfies both in style and substance, clearly showing off Lama’s Italian roots and painstaking attention to detail, all while managing to avoid fussy pretension. Get the rosemary fettucini with rabbit ragu and chanterelles, then thank us after.

Cafe Giovanni

Cafe Giovanni

French Quarter

If you enjoy your mini alligator meatballs in spicy Alfredo sauce with a side of live music, head to Giovanni’s in the Quarter, where you’ll find opera singers as well as “Pasta Jambalaya” and “Fried Medallions of Eggplant with Louisiana Shrimp & Crawfish in a Vodka Dill Cream Sauce.” Combining Louisiana cuisine with Italian is clearly the hallmark here, and it’s a combo that definitely works.

Italian Barrel

French Quarter

Let’s say your plan to hit Irene’s didn't work out, and maybe you’re in the mood for something a bit more intimate. The Italian Barrel it is. This spot is best known for Northern Italian fare, not the red sauce, sausage, and peppers you’ll find at a ristorante specializing in fare from Naples or Sicily. Here you can have everything from an imported olive oil tasting to simply prepared white anchovies, to more hearty fare like a killer veal osso buco, as well as porcini and truffle-stuffed ravioli.

Pizza Delicious/Patrick Niddrie

Pizza Delicious

Bywater

As you might tell by the name, Pizza Delicious is known for, well... pizza. In fact, it offers the most authentic New York-style slice the city has to offer, and many consider it the best pizza in New Orleans overall. But what many don’t know is that “Pizza D” also cooks up some fantastic pasta and salad dishes as well, at prices that would be twice as much in any other restaurant. Seriously, “Seared gulf fish w/ sweet corn risotto” for only $14? Or “Bucatini carbonara with farm egg, pancetta, parmigiano, peas” for $12? That, friends, is a total steal. Oh, and the slices are fantastic, too.

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1. Marcello's Restaurant & Wine Bar 715 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Central Business District)

Marcello’s Restaurant & Wine Bar on St. Charles Avenue offers rustic Italian fare that stands out among the Creole-Italian restaurants of New Orleans. Marcello’s well-executed comfort foods find their way onto a menu of antipasti, contorni, zuppa and insalata, specialties, and entrees, with gems like the marsala pork cheek, which is slowly braised until it cuts like butter, and the tritone, a linguine dish with crabmeat, lobster, shrimp, mushrooms, and spinach, in a creamy sherry sauce. The restaurant is divided into a front dining room, dark-wood bar, and spacious back dining room lined with wine racks, which you can peruse to find the glass or bottle you’d like to indulge in during your meal.

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2. Mariza 2900 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70117 (Bywater)

Mariza takes a casual but thoughtful approach to Italian fare. Try the lamb meatballs w/ a poached duck egg.

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3. Domenica 123 Baronne St, New Orleans, LA 70112 (Central Business District)

Named after the Italian word for 'Sunday,' this spot in the CBD's Roosevelt Hotel is meant to evoke feelings of dinner at your nonna's casa. The menu takes simple, rustic fare to the next level. The thick crusted pies here are the show-stoppers, especially the Tutto Carne with bacon, salami, and sausage, all topped with a farm egg.

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4. Oak Oven 6625 Jefferson Hwy, Harahan, LA 70123

Although it's a bit of hike from the city proper, this pint sized bistro in Harahan is worth the trek. Traditional Italian cooking informs the extensive menu of wood-fired pizzas, pasta, and seafood. What makes Oak Oven especially unique is the fact that it grows most of their own produce for its salads, pizza toppings, and pasta sauces.

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5. Mosca's Restaurant 4137 Highway 90 W, Avondale, LA 70094-2464

Despite being off the beaten path, this West Bank outpost has a solid flock of local regulars and “in the know” tourists. The family-style eatery serves Italian comfort food in an old school setting, with standout dishes ranging from hearty and garlic-obsessed spaghetti bordelaise and the signature Oysters Mosca (crispy baked oysters served in a succulent white wine and herb sauce).

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6. Amici Ristorante & Bar 3218 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115 (Uptown)

This spot is all about tradition-- housed in an old Victorian manse and working off a menu of family style Sicilian fare, Amici is one of those places you coming back to. Its coal-fired pizzas hit the sweet spot of being not too soft and too not too crispy, with a bubbly, charred crust and a warm, saucy center. The spacious bar area features over 30 beers on draft and a full bar.

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7. Del Porto Ristorante 501 E Boston St, Covington, LA 70433

Yes, it is located in Covington on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, but it's well worth the trip. The deceivingly simple preparations shine here, especially the house-made and artisan pastas.

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8. Irene's Cuisine 539 Saint Philip St, New Orleans, LA 70116 (French Quarter)

Creole Italian is a specific sub-genre originating in New Orleans after Italians started emigrating here in the 19th century. The red sauce found in most Italian-American eateries is less prevalent here, where fresh Gulf seafood preparations and creole-French flavor profiles attain more prominence on the menu. The upscale restaurant has a homey dining room, complete with a piano bar.

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9. Italian Barrel 1240 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116 (French Quarter)

Maybe you're in the mood for something a bit more intimate, but still with comfort food levels of cream and cheese. Head to the Italian Barrel and get the vkiller veal osso bucco as well as porcini and truffle-stuffed ravioli.

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10. Pascal's Manale Restaurant 1838 Napoleon Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115 (Uptown)

Look for the brightly glowing neon cursive on Napoleon Avenue, follow the tantalizing scent of Cajun spices, and voilà: you’ve arrived at Pascal’s Manale, a cozy Uptown joint where shellfish reign. Blending bold Creole flavors with Italian influences, the kitchen serves heavy-hitting favorites like frutta del mare drenched in homemade marinara sauce and the house specialty: Pascal’s Barbecue Shrimp, a local legend for its hefty portion and spice-obsessed butter sauce.

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11. Cafe Giovanni 117 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (French Quarter)

Giovanni's serves up mini alligator meatballs in spicy alfredo sauce with a side of live music, amongst other things. Combining Louisiana cuisine with Italian is clearly the hallmark here, and it’s a combo that definitely works.

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12. Pizza Delicious 617 Piety St, New Orleans, LA 70117 (Bywater)

Located on Bywater's Piety Street, this New York-style slice shop was started by two Long Island guys who, surprisingly, had never made pizza before. The menu incorporates local produce and features daily pizza specials like an Italian sausage pie with caramelized onions and peppers.

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13. Avo 5908 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115 (Uptown)

Chef Nick Lama is a NOLA native, third-generation Sicilian and grew up working in a seafood market his family owned. His authentic Italian and New Orleans background shines in inventive ways at his Uptown restaurant in both his pastas and entrees. The candle-lit courtyard provides a romantic and intimate atmosphere, and it holds their happy hour on Monday through Thursday. Don't forget to leave room for the decadent Italian desserts. Gelato, anyone?

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14. Altamura 2127 Prytania St, New Orleans, LA (Garden District)

Set inside the historic antebellum Magnolia Mansion, Altamura brings the Northeastern sub-genre of Italian-American cuisine to New Orleans. The space has a slight, mid-century Frank Sinatra vibe (complete with a baby grand piano), and the menu relies heavily on simplistic pasta dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, linguine with clams, and baked macaroni.

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15. Josephine Estelle 600 Carondelet St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Central Business District)

The New Orleans anti-hipster-influx movement found a new poster child when an Ace Hotel opened up downtown, but moustache wax or not, we’re glad it did, because it brought in Josephine Estelle. Not that NOLA needed more Italian restaurants, but this one is clearly a welcome entry to the local dining scene, with a "European boot meets American boot" culinary philosophy combining the best of South Louisiana with the best of Italy, meaning that a spot-on pasta cacio e pepe is right at home alongside collards. It’s the best of two fantastic worlds.

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16. Mandina's Restaurant 3800 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70119 (Mid City)

This Canal St destination for Italian fare and creole seafood is renowned for its pink building as much as it is for its turtle soup and fried trout. The brick- and wood-accented space enforces a family-friendly atmosphere, and on any given night, you'll see tables packed with multiple generations of cajun lovers indulging on signature oversize portions of fried fish.

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17. Paladar 511 511 Marigny St, New Orleans, LA 70117

Paladar 511 isn't your average pizza joint. Located in Marigny, the restaurant serves slices for the adventurous and sophisticated with toppings including braised artichoke, roasted asparagus, and yogurt. The restaurant's warehouse-like decor nicely compliments its seasonal menu.