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Romantic Italian Restaurant plus some great hole in the wall bars and restaurants

We are heading to New Orleans on Friday, and I would like to take my husband to a great Italian restaurant for his birthday. I am torn between Giovannis and Irene's Cuisine. Both look great, but both also had questionable reviews on different websites. Can anyone point me to the perfect combo of great food and wine with good atmosphere? We will not have a car, but do not mind taxis, public transport or walking. We will be in NO for 5 days so other restaurant suggestions would be great, we like everything!!
Also, we like to be a bit off the beaten path, any suggestions for great hole in the wall places to eat lunch or dinner. I like the look of Snug Harbor, but also thought the Old Point Bar looked fun, as does the Saturn Bar, but I don't know if it is still open.
How is Ugelsich's? Le Crepe Naniou? We will definitely be checking out Dooky Chase's.

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  1. Uglesich's is not open; closed since before Katrina. For the next few weeks, Dooky Chase will be take-out only.

    Check out Liuzza's by the Track (on N. Lopez), they're back to a full menu. Not exactly a hole in the wall, but a nice neighborhood joint.

    1. I've never been to Giovanni's, but Irene's is fabulous. Other great options are Adolfo's & Vincent's.

      Le Crepe is pretty good.

      Saturn Bar is open.

      Hole in the wall: Domilise's

      5 Replies
      1. re: cor

        Thanks!! Adolfo's sounds great and only a few blocks from where we are staying. We love little places like this, sounds alot like our favorite restaurant here (Wild Bites).
        Thanks so much for the recommendation

        1. re: lacave

          FYI: Adolphos is BYO.
          Tommy's is better than Irene's IMO.

          The ferry ride to Algiers is great...I would combine Old Point and Crown and Anchor.

          The perfect restaurant for you may well be Dick and Jenny's...fun crown, AWESOME food, and good carafes of wine. From there...Ms. Mae's is a find...$1 mixed drinks...24/7...literally. If you are feeling brave for hole in the wall bars, finish the night at Snake and Jake's.....also lower Decateur has a bar scene you may enjoy if like grungy bars.
          Breakfast= Elizabeth's in Bywater.
          Late Night= Clover Grill on Bourbon

          1. re: lacave

            I adore Adolfo's and hope you will too. As for it being BYO, I thought wine was available, but I could be misremembering. But there was certainly no problem getting drinks at The Apple Barrel downstairs and bringing them up to dinner with us.

            The Marigny Brasserie is up the street and we had a fabulous meal there last April. Definitely not a hole in the wall though.

              1. re: Fydeaux

                Adolfo's is not BYOB only, they do have a wine list. But, it is CASH only.

          2. For hole in the wall bars...
            off of Bourbon St there is a bar called the Goldmine with flaming Dr Pepper shots, they will do you right.
            Try the Maple Leaf if there is music playing.
            Down on Frenchman there is DBA.
            Off in the Marigny is a bad called Mimi's that has great funk/soul djs upstairs. good tapas downstairs too. Very funky eclectic crowd.
            Thursday nights Kermit Ruffins plays at a bar in the 9th ward and i cannot remember the name of it, but it is the definition of an amazing hole in the wall. They serve red beans and rice while he plays also.
            On Upperline and Prytania there is Kingpin, which was always one of my favorites - they have a shuffleboard table too (it is right near Le Crepe Nanou and Upperline).

            5 Replies
            1. re: mikek

              Last time I was at the Goldmine, they had replaced the fantastic 80s dance music with horrible new pop stuff. I was so depressed. The flaming Dr. Pepper cheered me up, though. :)

              The place where Kermit Ruffins plays is Vaughn's.

              1. re: mikek

                is DBA the bar on frenchman that has a very wide selection of beers and also a whole bunch of whiskey and bourbons?

                  1. re: kevin

                    Yea, one of my favorite bars in the city. They often have great live music as well.

                    1. re: mikek

                      just happened to stumble on there on a rainy eve for jazz fest.

                1. *Kermit plays at Vaughn's
                  *Adolfo's was good suggestion, as was Mimi's

                  Off the Beaten Path (but not far from Quarter):
                  Eleven 79
                  -1179 Annunciation St
                  New Orleans, LA 70130
                  (504) 299-1179
                  (amazing Italian, owner used to be manager for Louie Prima back in the day, and i know they'll have a good wine list)
                  -Feelings Cafe - www.feelingscafe.com
                  -Saint Bar and Lounge (961 Saint Mary St., 523-0050)
                  -Parasol's (2533 Constance St., 897-5413; www.parasols.com)
                  -Cafe Degas (3127 Esplanade Ave., 945-5635; www.cafedegas.com


                  The other places I'm thinking of are a little far for a cab ride.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jamielynn

                    Vaughn's - ha the fact that I do not remember the name speaks volumes about the times I have had there!

                  2. Irene's and Giovanni are both excellent. Totally different dining experiences. IMO a table for 2 by the window (although not the 1st as you enter) at Giovanni's on a Wed., Fri. or Sat. would be the more romantic of the two. Pianist and opera singers ( we're not opera fans but enjoy the singers) perform intermittently on these nights. Chef Duke's tasting menus are a bargain. Although Tommy's has essentially the same menu as Irene's, neither the food nor the ambience compares. Vincent's on St. Charles has good Italian food also. Snug Harbor has the same burgers as Port of Call but doesn't open till dinner. POC opens 11am continuously. Burgers are really good, come with a large baked potato and are very filling. Brigtsen's (reservations essential), Dick and Jennys ( opens 5:30, no reservations, dine in the "plate" room).K-Paul's is fun, has good-great food. Mimis for late night tapas. Lola's on Esplanade, funky decor, casual, garlicy mediterranean food. Dooky Chase is open for take out only (per No Menu.com).

                    1. Absolutely Irene's. And see if you can get Chris as your waiter. He's excellent.

                      1. I'm still gonna roll with Eleven 79 over Irene's
                        2 reasons:
                        decor and reservations

                        1 Reply
                        1. Just returned from a FANTASTIC trip to NO. Thanks to all for your suggestions. We were staying in Fauborg a block from Frenchmans so went to Adolfo's our first night. Started with drinks at the Apple Barrel and met some really nice people there. Adolfo's was packed (the only restaurant we went to that was full). I have mixed reviews...
                          The wine was awful, wish I had taken the advice to BYOB. The bread was so so, tasted like grocery store bread. I had the escargot...AMAZING, the sauce was wonderful, the portion huge and the flavor incredible. My husband had the Oysters Pernod, also delicious. Both of us had Grouper his came with a red sauce that was to die for, mine came with shrimp and crawfish, and absolutely melted in my mouth. I could not believe how great the food was in such an unassuming place. I would highly recommend for anyone's trip to NO, but definitely BYOB.
                          Next night we went to the Rib Room, this time, we were one of only about 4 tables of diners. The service was impeccable and the food was fantastic. Unfortunately, I had the gumbo appetizer, it was huge and so delicious that I ate the whole thing, then barely had room for my Prime RIb. Barry's steak was cooked to perfection, the wine was great. We were unfortunately too full for dessert.
                          The next night we went to NOLA. I was not that impressed. This restaurant was bustling, and even though we had a reservation, they made us feel as if we were intruding when we showed up. We were told it would "be a while". There was no time frame given, and no friendly suggestion of "have a drink at the bar and we'll call you", they just walked away. We were seated about 25 minutes after we arrived (about 20 minutes after our reservation time). The waiter was friendly, and the meal started off nicely. The gulf oysters and the baby clams were great, the wine list was very nice, and the waiter very attentive. I had the redfish, and my husband had the ribeye. Both meals came out quickly, and were good, but not fantastic. The restaurant started to get a bit more busy and it seemed like there were two waiters for every table, and a manager that kept following behind them apparaently making sure they were doing a good job. We were told by our waiter at the beginning of the meal that if we wanted the bread pudding, we had to order with our meal as it took a while to prepare. We opted to forgoe that in case we were too full by the time dessert came around. As it was we both had room, and both ordered dessert, I ordered the creme brulee and my husband ordered the flourless chocolate torte. Guess we should have ordered the bread pudding, it would have been faster. We sat for 40 minutes waiting for our dessert. Seems all the help is in the dining room and not in the kitchen. The desserts finally came, but our wine was gone and they were definitely not worth the wait, good but not incredible. A couple of tables near us had about the same wait one for their appetizers and one for their meal after the appetizers. I was also disappointed in that it was my husband's birthday. I made mention of that on the reservation on Open Table (It was printed on the confirmation slip that the hostess had, and also on the paper that the waiter had), but there was never a mention of it, or a question as to whether or not I would like something special. We were treated just like 2 diners coming in for dinner. Which is fine, I didn't want a fee meal or anything, just thought maybe they would acknowledge it. Not quite sure why they ask if it is a special occassion if they really do not care.

                          Next night we ate at Port of Call before heading to the Saints game. What a meal!!! I didn't know what to expect from all the hype about this burger place, but I have to say the burgers are excellent. They were cooked perfectly to order and have really fresh flavor. The baked potato was an interesting touch, one that we have not encountered before.
                          The last night we had reservations at Dominiques. This restaurant is charming, unfortuantely we were the only two there the entire night. The service was incredible, the waiter was extremely enthusiastic without being pushy. He was knowledgeable about the wine list and made some terrific suggestions. The food was to die for. It may well have been the best meal I have had in many years. The conch cerviche was great with julienned mirliton and nice spice. The conch salad was perfection. Finely minced conch, peppers onions and scotch bonnet peppers the flavors were perfectly melded and the heat was nice but not overpowering. I had the craked conch (can you tell I like conch??) on a risotto that was so creamy and flavorful it almost outshined the conch. My husband had the short ribs, the meat was so tender and the sauce was delightful. Our meal was one we will remember for a long time.

                          We managed to also eat lunch at several places, Johnny Po Boy's not that great, Cafe Pencine (I think that's the name) in Fauborg had great breakfast.

                          We will definitely be back to this wonderful city.

                          I am hoping that by writing these reviews, more people will visit your wonderful city, we had a fantastic time.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: lacave

                            Thanks for the great report. I love details!