The Italian Barrel (430 Barracks St.) is less than a year old, and I feel a bit foolish that I’d never heard of it until recently. It is the realization of a dream for owner Samantha Castagnetti, a native of Verona, Italy. While in Italy, she operated a wine bar, but always wanted a more food-focused venture. Much of what’s served at the Italian Barrel is imported from Italy, including the excellent ravioli and the cured meats like Speck, Prosciutto and Bresaola; the last of which comes served thinly sliced, dressed with olive oil and a salad of baby arugula and shaved parmesano. It is a simple dish that shines when made with good ingredients and it’s a downright beacon at the Italian Barrel. Castagnetti’s goal is to serve food that you’d find in her home country, but the tomato sauce reminds me more of New Orleans standard red gravy. Castagnetti says that in Verona, as here, cooks favor adding sugar to the sauce to cut the acidity. Call the Italian Barrel at (877) 536-0303 for reservations; they’re open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
Nathanial Zimet, whom you may know as the entrepreneur behind the big purple truck found outside Tipitina’s, has opened Boucherie (8115 Jeannette St.) in the space formerly occupied by Iris. The menu is a mix of the casual and the upscale, as befits Zimets roots in mobile cuisine, but the quality and imagination demonstrated on the plate are much more ambitious. White tablecloths are the first indication you’re in for fine dining, even if the prices are more commensurate with a modest operation. The menu is divided into small and large plates to encourage sharing, and the cuisine is eclectic Southern. Grits features in a lot of the dishes: as baton-like “fries” with collard greens and as triangular cakes with “blackened” shrimp. The smoker makes an appearance for brisket, pork spare-rib and for a duck breast served thinly sliced over baby arugula with pickled turnips that will knock your socks off. Assuming you’re wearing socks. The restaurant is, as this goes to print, still waiting for its liquor license, but they have no corkage fee and no current plans to offer one for wine when they do get the go-ahead. Call them at 862-5514 for reservations.
Stanley (St. Ann Street on Jackson Square), Chef Scott Boswell’s diner/soda fountain has reopened at a new location. Chef Boswell is an innovative and talented chef, and Stanley may seem like a somewhat pedestrian operation for a man whose cuisine at Stella! regularly (and effectively) fuses Asian, European and American cooking, but there’s an art to poaching an egg, too, and Boswell is determined to demonstrate how good the “standards” can be. Boswell has a state-of-the-art kitchen at Stanley and he’s putting it to good use. Stanley is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but Boswell plans to extend the hours in the evening and he may have done so by the time this issue reaches your hands. Stanley is walk-in only, but you can call them at 593-0006 if you want to chat.
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