New Orleans Restaurant Insider

Tales of the Cocktail kicks off its ninth annual celebration of drinks and the folks who make them on Wed., July 20.

Although most of the seminars, parties and workshops are available only to registered guests, anyone can attend one of the Spirited Dinners on Thurs., July 21 that combine the food of some of the city’s best restaurants with cocktails designed by some of the world’s best mixologists. As I write, there are 25 restaurants signed on for the dinners, and you can see the list by going to “events” at the Tales of the Cocktail website:

The dinners sell out quickly, so if you haven’t already made a reservation, do so as soon as you can.

On Sunday, May 23, chef Nathanial Zimet of Boucherie, left, was shot during an armed robbery. Now in recovery, he was seriously injured and had no health insurance. A group of his friends and colleagues have planned a benefit for Aimet that will be held at the Howlin’ Wolf (907 S. Peters St.) on Sun., July 10. The event will start at 5 p.m., with food from multiple local restaurants, a silent auction and music. Zimet is one of the most friendly, talented and enthusiastic chefs I’ve ever met, and I hope that if you can attend the benefit or offer any kind of support, you will.

For more information, see Boucherie’s website:, or send an email to

On July 3, La Petite Grocery (4238 Magazine St., 891-3377) will begin serving brunch on Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. While the menu isn’t yet finalized as I write, chef Justin Devillier told me to expect more than the standard offerings. He mentioned a chicken-fried steak topped with jalapeno white-cheddar gravy, and meat-stuffed waffles modeled on pupusas. Variations on the Bloody Mary cocktail will include one that’s as much seafood as it is drink. The menu at La Petite Grocery is a mix of comfort food and fine dining that should lend itself well to brunch, and Chef Devillier seems particularly enthused about the possibilities the new service represents. That enthusiasm is pretty infectious, I have to say, and I’m looking forward to checking it out.

The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans (921 Canal St., 524-1331) has named Vincent Russo as executive chef. The chef will oversee all of the hotel’s food operations, including M Bistro and the Davenport Lounge. Executive sous chef Chad Gray will retain his position. Chef Russo comes to New Orleans from the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, where he was the executive sous chef for five years. Russo is a native of Queens, N.Y., and graduated from the New York Restaurant School in 1994. He has worked in New York, California and the Turks and Caicos in addition to St. Thomas. Chef Russo is of Italian heritage and plans to add some of the recipes he grew up cooking and eating to the current offerings.

Superior Seafood (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200), a cousin of local Mexican restaurant Superior Grill, is opening in the space formerly occupied by Copeland’s restaurant at the corner of Napoleon and St. Charles avenues. Copeland’s never re-opened at that location after Hurricane Katrina, and the new restaurant is being renovated extensively. The structure dates to 1930, but the re-fitting includes elements from even older New Orleans locations, including a wood floor from St. Michael’s school on Race Street and bead board ceilings from a building at Canal and Tchoupitoulas streets. Executive chef Justin Ferguson will oversee the kitchen, and the restaurant will include an oyster bar and a climate-controlled patio. Service starts at 11 a.m. and goes until 10 p.m. on Monday through Wednesday, and until 11 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday. On weekends the restaurant will open at 8:30 a.m. for brunch and will close at 11 p.m. on Saturday and 10 p.m. on Sunday evenings.

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