Thursday, July 27, 2017

Ok let's kick it while it's down

This is actually something Menckles wrote on a parallel internet back in March after we had dinner at Altamura which is apparently closing.  The restaurant opened on the basement level of the Magnolia Mansion on Prytania and Jackson.  It was supposed to be "traditional east coast Italian American" as opposed to, you know, New Orleans Italian. Which is why we were curious in the first place. But I don't think the sort of place they evoke when they say that is quite as fancy and pricey as this in, say, New Jersey. Altamura was white table cloths and bland hotel-ish decor and an EXTREMELY UPTOWN clientele of Garden District folks. A lot of unnecessary jackets and pearls.  The food was ok in my opinion but I've certainly paid less for better Italian food. I said pretty much this at the time only to find that she had a much stronger take which I've gone and dug up for you here.
I was less enthused even than Jeff. Maybe it was b/c we went late and they had their "reserve" sous cooking or something--though it WAS a Friday night at only 8:30/8:45, and that alone would speak to poor choices and bad planning--but both entrees had a slightly "been sitting around a bit" aspect that is distinctly unappealing. His lobster ravioli had soggy bottoms and there was a whiff of fried fish in the breading of my veal parm. And I always judge Italian food by veal parm, unless I can get eggplant parm to judge a place by, b/c, on the one hand, you really have to know what you're doing to make either dish sublime, but​ on the other, you really have to mess up royally in order to make either one inedible. (Eggplant is much fussier than veal in my opinion, and so is a keener test of skill for a chef.) This place was at the low end of middling; the veal was much, much tougher than it should have been, having not been pounded at all, and so subsequently over-fried. I'm from Baltimore, and have been all over that city, New York, Trenton, and Philly, and had exactly the kind of "take your moll to a fancy restaurant in 1961" food dynamic they're going for; it's fabulous, but these guys haven't achieved it. I refused to get the cannoli, as there's no way they have a pastry chef, so we went with a chocolate-pistachio semifreddo, which was my favorite thing we ate. The mozzarella bread with oil, capers and anchovies was second for me, but really really good. The espresso was perfect and the bottle of Valpolicella was outstanding. However, we've had MUUUCH better food at both Vincent's and Pascal's Manale--food that neither Jeff nor I could make better ourselves, which this place can't really boast--for less money. Meh, I say! Meh.
Anyway, in the wake of the Cafe Henri "Is it a neighborhood joint or a fancy airspace temple" conundrum, I thought maybe this was another example of someone trying to straddle that line and failing to be either. 

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