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May 8, 201410:25 AM
Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

Things I Know

Mother's Day and a new Italian restaurant in the former Le Chat Noir

Marcello's

There are few things I know with absolute certainty, but if you are reading this, you have a mother. I also know that you can read, or that you cannot read but that there is someone who can read and is willing to read this out loud to you. I suppose that it’s possible you can read, but are lazy and like some debauched Roman emperor have servants who read you blogs while feeding you peeled grapes and fanning you but that is unlikely and this is getting far too complicated. My point is that you have a mother and likely know that this weekend is Mother’s day.
 
I’m not really a fan of Hallmark holidays, but not even I, with my shriveled black heart can't object to a day celebrating mothers. Childbirth can be magical and wonderful and the pain is in service of a wondrous event, but I am a weak thing and glad to have been born male. I hope you have a pleasant Mother’s Day!
 
The Italian restaurant Marcello’s opened a couple of weeks ago in the space at 715 St. Charles Ave. that was formerly Le Chat Noir and then briefly Gene’s Bar & Dinner Theatre.
 
The “Gene” in that dinner theatre is Gene Tadaro, who was born in Sicily but grew up in the New Orleans area. After graduating from West Jefferson High School and with a degree in economics from Loyola University, he worked for years in the oil industry for Shell and Halliburton.
 
After some time in Dallas, his brother Marcello lured him to Lafayette to open what ended up being Marcello’s Wine Market Café.  
 
One of the first things you’ll notice about Marcello’s is that the rear dining room looks like a retail wine shop. Tadaro’s family is involved in that business; his cousins own Vieux Carre Wine and Spirits and Elio’s Wine and Spirits. His philosophy at both the Lafayette and New Orleans restaurants is to offer wine at a reasonable price and entice customers to return.
 
I will always defer to my colleague Tim McNally where wine is concerned, but it appeared to me that the prices on bottles at Marcello’s were a lot closer to retail than I’ve seen in any restaurant in New Orleans. What confused me is that the prices on food are pretty low, as well, and the food I had was “yumm-o.”
 
My lunch came with the house salad, which goes by the name “Misto” but which is essentially a stripped-down “Wop,” combining mixed greens with olive salad and grated Parmesan cheese. There’s also a more complete version of the classic on the menu, with cured meats, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted peppers; this one is called the “Guapo” in a misguided effort to avoid offense. Both salads have cubes of fried eggplant in place of croutons, an innovation I heartily endorse.  
 
I’ll spare you the typical list of what else is on the menu; you can check it out yourself at the website, but I can tell you about the chicken cacciatore, made at Marcello’s with chicken thighs rather than the standard white breast, and served over fresh pappardelle pasta. It was very good, particularly the pasta, and that can be hard to get right as far as the texture is concerned.
 
I had an excellent meal at Marcello’s, and I’ll be going back. I still don’t really understand how they are going to stay in business with their pricing, but there are a lot of things I don’t understand. A lot of things.
 
Assuming you haven’t already visited Marcello’s website and checked it out directly, you can call 581-6333 to make a reservation or complain about the weather. 

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Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

about

Robert D. Peyton was born at Ochsner Hospital and, apart from four years in Tennessee for college and three years in Baton Rouge for law school, has lived here his entire life. He is a strong believer in the importance of food to our local culture and in the importance of our local food culture, generally. He has practiced law since 1994, and began writing about food on his website, www.appetites.us, in 1999. He mainly wrote about partying that year, obviously.

In 2006, New Orleans Magazine named Appetites the best food blog in New Orleans. The choice was made relatively easy due to the fact that Appetites was, at the time, the only food blog in New Orleans.

He began writing the Restaurant Insider column for New Orleans Magazine in 2007 and has been published in St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana Life and New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles magazines. He is the only person he knows personally who has been interviewed in GQ magazine, albeit for calling Alan Richman a nasty name. He is not proud of that, incidentally. (Yes, he is.)

Robert’s maternal grandmother is responsible for his love of good food, and he has never since had fried chicken or homemade biscuits as good as hers. He developed his curiosity about restaurant cooking in part from the venerable PBS cooking show "Great Chefs" and has an extensive collection of cookbooks, many of which do not require coloring, and some of which have not been defaced.

Robert lives in Mid-City with his wife Eve and their three children, and is fond of receiving comments and emails. Please humor him.

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