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.
Marco's Pizza founder Pasquale "Pat" Giammarco began helping out at his family?s pizzeria when he was just a boy. The eatery provided a taste of home to the Gianmarco clan, who moved to the United States from Italy when Pat was 9 years old. Together with his father, young Pat learned the secrets to creating exceptional pizza sauce: three different types of vine-ripened tomatoes and spices that can only be imported from Italy or the moon. The perfected sauce recipe continues to guide Pat?s kitchen operations, although these days he has considerably more help. Marco's Pizza has 450 locations in more than half the states as well as in the Bahamas, each store tossing fresh pizza dough daily before sprinkling on a trio of fresh cheeses.
"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.
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.
Coco Bamboo Pizzeria infuses traditional Italian fare and pizzas with tropical flair in an extensive menu of freshly prepared edibles. Fourteen-inch specialty pizzas, assembled atop dough made daily, arrange toppings into symphonies of flavor on par with Mozart's Pepperoni Fugue #2; a Volcano chicken or shrimp pizza ignites palates with hot sauce and optional jalapeños, and the Tikis Supreme heaps Italian sausage, green peppers, and five other toppings onto a sturdy base. Coco Bamboo's chef whips up sauce from scratch for each pizza and offers a wheat-crust alternative upon request.
Salads are also served with tropical flair at Coco Bamboo Pizzeria, which uses unique ingredients such as mandarin poppy seeds, kalamata olives, and coco bamboo dressing in their Avocado and Asparagus, Spinach and Melon, and Crazy Nuts salads. Sandwiches and wraps conceal permutations such as the Voodoo smoked house built around seasoned chicken or shrimp or the Tropical, which combines grilled chicken with pineapple and avocado.
To augment savory flavors, sip on a smoothie, which pulverizes fruits from raspberries to mangos to avocados, or a Caipirinha cocktail, an elixir of cachaca rum accented with sugar and lime. Colorful potted palms and plants sprout up in the corners of the warmly hued pizzeria, flanking a large flat-screen TV and nonchalantly cuddling up near tables to try and steer conversations toward the constitutional rights of bonsai trees.
Reginelli’s Pizzeria merges a menu of traditional Italian fare with casual, modern décor to forge an Old World dining experience for contemporary feasters. Hand-tossed by a crust master upon request, the Classic Combo pizza bursts forth from kitchens crowned with a panoply of pepperoni and italian sausage, a scepter of fresh veggies, and a gooey cloak of mozzarella ($11.95 for 10”, $16.75 for 14”). The Smokin’ Chicken pie honors its piquant namesake by pairing a spicy smoked-tomato sauce with marinated chicken breast, pancetta, and a snapshot of George Clooney in a chicken suit ($11.95 for 10”, $16.75 for 14”). The Uptowner sandwich’s melty mélange of smoked turkey breast, provolone, and hot-pepper relish ($8.25) proudly represents Reginelli’s focaccia-based capital alongside The Downtowner’s posse of Italian meats, mozzarella, and kalamata-olive pesto ($8.25). Diners can deploy forks into the lush forestry of a refreshing Chicken Salad ($9.75) or navigate the tortellini trees sprouting across the Shrimp Forrest’s loch of spicy red-pepper-cream sauce ($12.50).