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.
The chefs at Gattuso's steep their menu of salads, sandwiches, and seafood platters in the New Orleans culinary tradition. Using ingredients such as farm-raised Louisiana catfish, oysters, and fried green tomatoes, they craft creole classics such as jambalaya, red beans and rice, muffaletta sandwiches, and po boys. The roast-beef version of the juicy, baguette-encased sandwich placed first in its category at the 2009 Oak Street Po-Boy Festival.
In the café, servers field guests' requests gargled through mouthfuls of bottled local beer such as Abita Strawberry and imported draft beer such as Stella Artois. Live music plays on Fridays and Saturdays. Catering crews convey platters of sandwiches, cheeses, and spiced seafood to guests at business lunches and birthday parties.
From the foggy confines of their functioning smokehouse, The Pitt BBQ's meat magicians puff through traditional techniques to create platters of sauce-slathered meats. Quiet rumbling stomachs with a special plate, piled to the edges and beyond with a choice of savory pulled pork, brisket, pterodactyl, and more ($7.99). Two sides flank each plate's meaty main-eventers, with picnic classics such as baked beans, potato salad, and mac 'n' cheese quelling appetites alongside their barbecued brethren ($1.49–$1.99 for a small side, if ordered separately). Diners can share barbecued bounty with famished cohorts with an order of pork or brisket by the pound ($9.99) or a raft of individual sandwiches ($5.99).
Taste of the Caribbean treats diners searching for tropical flavors to a menu brimming with entrees from countries such as Haiti, Honduras, and more. Kick-start a morning fiesta with the latin breakfast, a piquant amalgamation of eggs, plantains, skirt steak, beans, avocado, and tortilla ($7.50). For maritime eats, diners can select fresh fish entrees of grilled snapper ($20) and fried fish ($16) to populate their internal tanks, and spice savorers can introduce taste buds to a plate of curry oxtail ($16).
Harnessing the heat of an open-flame char broiler, the spatula specialists at Ground Pat'i flip, sear, and season succulent burgers and steaks made with USDA Choice beef. Sharpen incisors on a juicy half-pound signature Ground Pat'i burger ($8.25), or opt to challenge chompers by excavating through strata of bacon atop the applewood-bacon cheese Ground Pat'i burger ($9.25). Tender rib-eye steaks ($17.95) are char grilled before providing diners with enough delicious protein to bench-press unsuspecting dates. A variety of hot sandwiches fills restless jazz hands with lighter cuts, including chicken, shrimp, and tuna. After meals, rattle stomach estates one more time with a deluge of chocolate and frosting from the Oreo brownie sundae ($5.45), one of three sacchariferous dessert options. To sate thirsty urges, browse the eclectic selection of specialty drinks and draft beers at the full-service bar.
In 1993, a few entrepreneurs transformed the basement of a Minneapolis apartment building into an Italian restaurant. It became the first Buca di Beppo. The owners of that inaugural location soon found themselves riding a wave of popularity and marinara sauce as they opened new restaurants across the nation. Today, the eatery occupies 99 locations nationwide, from downtown San Francisco to Times Square, New York.
At each location, chefs maintain the northern and southern Italian flavors that made the original so popular, adding only a few American twists. They also supply family-style servings, which help make Buca di Beppo a favorite place for families and friends to gather in large, hungry groups. The chefs bake up batches of Cheesy Bread Florentine, a colorful combo of spinach, roma tomatoes, and garlic sprinkled over Italian bread and sealed in place with fresh, melted cheeses. For entrées, they prepare dishes with an eye toward quantity, both of portion and choice; they whip up Veal Parmigiana, Baked Ziti, and classic Italian-American staples like Ravioli and Lasagna. And in keeping with the convivial atmosphere, they also serve truly decadent desserts. Their Mt. Vesuvius Dark Chocolate Cake erupts with melted chocolate, and their Colossal Brownie Sundae towers with six scoops of ice cream and tiers of sundae trimmings.