I first met Chef Bob Iacovone when he was second in command at Cuvee, the now-closed restaurant at 322 Magazine St. in the CBD opened by my high-school classmate and friend Richard “Bingo” Starr. Iacovone eventually took the executive chef position at Cuvee, and it remained one of my favorite restaurants until it finally closed at the end of 2010, by which point Iacovone had ceded his position to another great chef, Isaac Toups.
I got to know Bob reasonably well over the years, and consider him a friend. He’s been out of the restaurant game for a while, but I was pleased to learn recently that he’s about to open a spot on Freret Street, Iacovone Kitchen, with his wife Joanna Weeks Iacovone.
I haven’t spoken in detail to Bob yet, but I will before long and when I do I’ll share more details in this space and/or in the Restaurant Insider in New Orleans Magazine. For now, I’ll pass along the information that another friend, Todd Price, shared at nola.com: Iacovone Kitchen is slated to open Nov. 21 at 5033 Freret St., and its hours will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. The idea is meals to go; there will be vegetarian, seafood and meat entrees each day, as well as sides, soups, salads and sauces. What, no souffles or sherberts? (I would not put it past him.)
On the one hand, I should be tired of typing “Freret Street” and “new restaurant or food business” in the same sentence almost every week; on the other hand, the new joint will be a quarter mile from my house, and Bob makes good food. On balance, I’m pleased.
In less pleasant news, and also on Freret Street, Freret Street Poboys and Donut Shop has closed. It was a great little neighborhood place in every sense of the word, with good food and friendly people behind the register. I don’t know whether the eventual success of Freret as a “restaurant row” had anything to do with the closing, but my guess is that it didn’t entirely help. I have done precisely no studies on the topic, but I wonder whether there is a tipping point at which new restaurants opening in such close proximity to one another stop being a way to drive traffic and thus increase the business of all and start to a) cut into a business’ existing customer base and b) result in higher rents?
If there is such a tipping point, it’s possible that Maple Street is experiencing it as well, because another restaurant I liked is closing on that street. The restaurant is Babylon Café, which was one of the only restaurants serving “Middle Eastern” cuisine to offer an alternative to pita bread, in Babylon’s case that alternative was a thicker, pocket-less loaf. Pretty much all of the food I had there was good, but that bread is what I’ll miss the most.