Altamura (2127 Prytania St., 504-265-8101; www.facebook.com/altamuraatmagnoliamansion), a new Italian-American restau-rant from the folks behind Manhattanjack, (4930 Prytania St., 504-897-5551; www.man-hattanjack.com) is now open inside the Magnolia Mansion.
Jack Petronella and executive chef Coleman Jernigan have been working on the plan for the New Jersey-inspired Italian restaurant for the better part of three years, since the duo opened their Prytania Street coffee shop together in 2013. The restaurant's menu is largely inspired by Petronella's childhood in New Jersey.
"I'm so excited about what we're doing here," Petronella says. "We did not reinvent the wheel. This was about bringing the Northeastern feel that's in every Italian restaurant on every corner in New Jersey and New York."
The restaurant's retro-chic design, which includes a baby grand piano for live music on Saturday nights and Sunday brunch, was designed with the 1950s and '60s in mind. "(It) was an era when these Italian restaurants ... were really fun and hot," Petronella says.
Petronella named the restau-rant for the hillside town in Italy's Puglia region that his grandparents came from. Known for its wheat production, the area also is famous for its pasta. The restaurant's menu features classics such as spaghetti and meatballs, baked macaroni, linguine in clam sauce, gnocchi Bolognese and puttanesca sauce.
Spiedini mozzarella, one of Petronella's childhood favorites, features the soft cheese wrapped in bread, fried and topped with anchovy and lemon caper sauce. There's also clams casino, garlic shrimp scampi, tortellini en brodo and a tri-color salad. A lengthy list of entrees includes Nantucket diver scallops with blood orange-tarragon sauce and asparagus risotto, chicken and veal marsala served with Hasselback potatoes and hearty classics including osso buco and veal scallopini saltimbocca.
Built in 1857, the sprawling white mansion was once owned by a cotton magnate, and was home to the American Red Cross during World War II, serving as a care facility for wounded soldiers from across the South. Petronella plans to renovate the property over the next three years and turn it into a "chic and cosmopolitan" boutique hotel. Petronella currently oversees the property's 14 rooms, which he says are almost all booked through the winter holiday season.
Altamura is offering happy hour beginning at 4 p.m. and dinner at 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and Monday. Sunday brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.