It's no small feat to whip up one of The Olive Branch Café's gourmet pizzas. The painstaking process begins long before lunchtime, with chefs preparing dough fresh for the day each morning. There's barely a moment to rest before orders begin flying in and the pizza makers spring into action, showering crusts with housemade sauces and high-quality cheeses. Their brows furrowed in concentration, their hands blurs, they layer pizzas with fresh garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and fine spanish olives. Once the pies arrive triumphantly to the dining room, the chefs turn their attention to thick muffuletta subs, plump meatball calzones, and the jambalaya pastas that caught the attention of Gambit’s Best of New Orleans guide.
Out in the casual dining room, beneath warm red walls peppered with abstract art, guests clink glasses, feeling more content than a robot in a microchip factory. There, owner Russell "Rusty" Autry often strolls around the room, greeting newcomers and exchanging jokes with regulars.
"Owner Madison Curry's warm, smiling presence is underscored by baked goods that all but dare not to be ordered." This quote from a NOLA.com article hints at Il Posto's charm. But it only encapsulates a fraction of what makes the cafe so interesting. Italian cuisine forms the backbone of the menu, which features paninis such as the Bologna with mortadella, roasted red peppers, and balsamic dressing, as well as fontina grilled cheeses with inventive add-ins such as tuna, honey, and walnuts. Antipasti spreads can be built from a choice of meats or cheeses. In the mornings, on the other hand, the restaurant brews and serves its own house-blend coffee. Their java complements bagels, organic granola, and a rotating selection of pastries that can't stay long, as they have to get back to starring in peoples' dreams.
Cafe Roma's chefs pile fresh veggies, meats, and sauces atop circular discs of hand-tossed dough to fashion gourmet concoctions as pesto-artichoke pies and grilled-shrimp pizzas. Alternatively, customers can customize their pizza with a host of decorative ingredients arranged to spell out their social-security number. Sandwiches clamp down on meatballs, genoa salami, and grilled chicken breasts, and pasta noodles stay warm underneath housemade sauce.
Fresco Café and Pizzeria has been serving pizza, pasta, and golden-brown strombolis for more than a decade. Nearly everything on the menu is made in house, including white or whole-wheat pizza crusts, hand-rolled meatballs, and the pasta sauces used to write the daily specials on the wall. Fresco Café's lavash rolls, a unique specialty, are worth a try—they feature roasted eggplant and pesto, pulled pork, or gyro meat rolled into warm lavash flatbread and served with rosemary potatoes. Of course, it wouldn't be Fresco Café if al fresco dining weren't an option—patrons can enjoy their Italian food inside or out on the patio.
The basic pizza needs no introduction, but Pompeii's menu discloses the secrets of even the most elusive species of pie. Order a large E's Special with barbecue sauce, chicken, pineapple, bacon, jalapeños, and extra cheese (16", $17.95), or go for the large Big Round (chicken, bacon, pepperoni, and extra cheese with a side of ranch, $17.95). Pizza heretics can rejoice with a stromboli (pepperoni, ham, Genoa salami, and cheese inside a doughy cocoon, $7.95), Philly cheesesteak ($7.95), or a huge order of 20 Buffalo wings ($16.95, also available in barbecue flavor). You can also order small, not exactly small, and bigger-than-your-head pies with any of 19 toppings, including black or green olives, anchovies, and shrimp (one-topping 8", $4.50; 12", $9.95; and 16", $13.45; additional charge for premium-topping chicken or shrimp). Wash any solid foods down with a half-liter bottle of Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper soft drinks ($1.25).
Though the chefs at Pepperoni's Cafe specialize in authentic Italian cuisine, many of their dishes are peppered with local New Orleans touches. Their seafood pasta, for instance, features flavorful crawfish and crab, and one of their hand-tossed pizzas is speckled with gulf shrimp. The chefs also whip up a classic New Orleans muffuletta sandwich with cotto salami, ham, and olives. As they bustle about their kitchen, stirring pasta dishes and slicing up panini, their oven bakes housemade bread, muffins, and chocolate cake. Meanwhile, their diners split pizza pies in the airy dining room, or dine alfresco on the outside seating area.
You might not expect to see fried pulled-pork ragu on a pizzeria menu, but it's a signature item at Little Vic's. Nestled in the historic French Quarter, the small Italian eatery serves its Sicilian-style pork atop pizza and fresh, chewy ciabatta rolls, or stuffed into arancini and pitoni—fried or baked pizza turnovers. The menu also includes familiar dishes such as traditional margherita, vegetable, ham, and sausage pizzas. For dessert, espresso complements Italian pastries and more than 18 rotating gelato flavors.