Dining

Specialties at Ristorante Filippo

Phillip Gagliano, a proud born-and-raised New Orleans Italian-American, started Ristorante Filippo in 2001 to employ his passions for the restaurant industry and for serving his guests.

Ristorante Filippo has 64-seat capacity for lunch and dinner, with a 40-seat banquet room upstairs that can host events including baby showers or holiday parties.

Gagliano believes that his restaurant has evolved over the years because of two reasons: feedback from his customers and Hurricane Katrina. “I listen to the patrons on what they like and what are some of the dishes they would like to see incorporated into our specials and into the menu,” Gagliano says.

Katrina allowed Gagliano and his staff to renovate the exterior of the business to reflect the Italian cooking inside.

There are many favorite dishes to choose from, an appetizer that is a “must” is the Oysters Al Oreganate – oysters dusted in Italian breadcrumbs and baked in Romano cheese, fresh parsley and rosemary. Another delight that keeps the customers coming back to Filippo’s is the Crabmeat Salad, which features crabmeat stuffed into a half of a fresh tomato on top of romaine lettuce and olives, and finished with balsamic vinaigrette and remoulade sauce. This month, look for the beginning-of-fall dishes that include veal and towards a dessert menu that will include crème brulée and classic Italian cheesecakes.

Gagliano says his restaurant is a great place to have a business lunch, an intimate dinner or a luncheon.

Information: 1917 Ridgelake Drive, 835-4008.

Dining

Mucho Mexican in the Quarter

El Gato Negro, which means “The Black Cat” in Spanish, specializes in authentic Mexican cuisine. Juan Contreras, manager of El Gato Negro, says, “We have a friendly and fun environment with good authentic food and fresh made drinks.” Open for lunch and dinner daily, and breakfast on the weekends only, El Gato Negro offers a wide range of appealing dishes.

For desayuno, (breakfast), there’s a selection of eggs, omelets or burritos. The El Burrito Loco is composed of Chorizo, potato, onion, tomato, cheese, beans and three scrambled eggs wrapped in a large flour tortilla, finished with a delicious ranchero salsa. Breakfast runs from 9 to 11 a.m.

If platos tipicos (traditional dishes) are more your style, try the Juanito’s Burrito, an oversized flour tortilla stuffed with onions, Poblano peppers, Habañero Mexican mixed cheese with Mexican rice and beans. With a menu choice of chicken breast, pulled pork, filet mignon, fish, shrimp chorizo or vegetables, one could have a different burrito every day of the week. Contreras says “You can pair one of our fresh-squeezed margarita with anything on the menu.” Try pairing Juanito’s Burrito, with filet mignon, and one of the traditional hand squeeze margaritas for a truly mouthwatering Mexican experience.

This month, El Gato Negro will have two specials: a 48-ounce Patron Machoman Margarita and delicious Grilled Jump shrimp served with a bed of Mexican rice, topped off with crawfish, lumped crabmeat and pico de gallo in a creamy garlic salsa.

Information: 81 French Market Place, 525-9752, www.elgatonegronola.com.

Dining

New at Taj Mahal

In 1982, Har and Anila Keswani opened Taj Mahal Indian Cuisine, their first Indian restaurant of many – and one of New Orleans’ first of that category. This family business was passed down from father to son; the current owner is Anjay Keswani.

Taj Mahal is open daily, except for Tuesdays, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 pm. for lunch 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. for dinner. Takeout, catering and wedding services are also available. For October, a lunch buffet will be available.

“Over the years, we have stuck to our traditional North Indian menu,” says Keswani,” Being tucked away on Metairie Road, we’re a hidden jewel for those that know where we are, and our customer base is extremely loyal. Recently we have added a whole page [of the menu] devoted to South Indian Food, which is lighter and basically based in rice, such as rice crêpes (dosas), rice dumplings (idlis) and various other dishes.”

Many new menu items are available this fall including Taj Chaat, a shredded chicken appetizer with vegetables and crispy wafers. Sada Mysore Dosai is also new to the menu, which includes thin rice crêpes with a layer of hot chutney. Taj Mahal also has a variety of vegetarian dishes including the Kofta Lajawab, which is made with mild spices homemade cheese and potato rounds, stuffed with nuts and fruit then sautéed in onions and cream.

Information: 93 Metairie Road, 836-6859.