by Ian McNulty
It's commonplace these days to find Italian influences on contemporary Creole menus, where ravioli and remoulade often share the page. But the new menu at Dick & Jenny’s, which debuts next week, has undergone a purposeful Italianization that gives it more of a dual identity.
Local restaurateurs Kelly Barker and Cristiano Raffignone recently purchased Dick & Jenny’s. Barker hails from Houma, while Raffignone is from Liguria, in northern Italy. In 2000, the couple opened Cristiano Ristorante in Houma to showcase his native cooking in her hometown. In 2003, they bought Uptown’s Martinique Bistro and earlier this year they staged a weekly pop-up at Marinique Bistro featuring Italian dishes from Cristiano. Raffignone says the response from diners convinced them to revamp Dick & Jenny’s menu with similar dishes.
Cristiano chef Lindsay Mason and Dick & Jenny’s chef Stacy Hall worked together on the new menu, which melds some of Dick & Jenny’s contemporary Creole bestsellers with Cristiano’s more overtly Italian dishes. Fried oysters with remoulade and coleslaw and fried green tomatoes with crabmeat are still on the appetizer list, for instance, but now so are calamari, beef carpaccio and Caprese salads. Osso bucco, veal piccata and pappardelle with pulled duck confit are some of the new entrees listed alongside beef short rib with grits and gravy, bouillabaisse and pork loin stuffed with goat cheese.
The namesake husband-and-wife team of Jennifer and Richard Benz opened Dick & Jenny’s in 1999 in a vintage bargeboard cottage. They sold it in 2006 to a group led by some of their former employees. Earlier this year, the restaurant came up for sale again and Raffignone says he and Barker an opportunity.
While the menu is different, Raffignone says they were careful to keep the feel of the restaurant the same.
“The plates, for instance, will of course remain,” he says, referring to a collection of decorative plates, hand-painted by Richard Benz, that line the dining room walls.
These were keepsakes from a fundraiser the restaurant’s original owners organized, offering customers their own plate on display in the restaurant and credit toward future meals in exchange for some upfront credit to pay for an expensive plumbing bill (consider it analog crowdfunding).
Dick & Jenny’s serves lunch Tuesday through Friday and dinner Monday through Saturday. Contrary to popular belief, the restaurant accepts reservations.
Dick & Jenny’s
4501 Tchoupitoulas St., (504) 894-9880