A new Mexican restaurant on Magazine Street planned by a former Commander's Palace chef received initial approval from the City Planning Commission last week, as did a new reception hall by Joel Dondis, who owns Joel Catering and Special Events and the restaurant Grand Isle. The space at 1911 Magazine St. will be called Il Mercato.
David Wright, who has cooked in New Orleans kitchens including Commander's Palace and Jacques-Imo's, had hoped to open Del Fuego Taqueria (4518 Magazine St.) in time for Mardi Gras, but construction delays mean it may be later in March, he says. Del Fuego will offer an assortment of tacos and burritos, but "we want to push it a little farther than that," Wright says. He originally conceived of Del Fuego as a counter-service restaurant, but his 20 years in fine dining pushed him to do a sit-down restaurant.
The commission granted his request to sell alcohol at the restaurant. Mexican beer and margaritas will be paired with more ambitious drinks influenced by Mexico, using fresh-squeezed fruit juices and an array of tequilas and mezcals.
The decision still needs City Council approval, and Wright says he doesn't know how long it will take to get the license. If the process takes several months, he may open without it, but he'll time the opening with the liquor license if possible.
"Mexican food is one of those cuisines you just think of pairing with alcohol," Wright says. "Obviously, we'd prefer to open with it, so you can have the complete experience the first time you come in."