Oak to Sprout Gelato
A gelato parlor and Italian sandwich shop previously tucked away in the Riverwalk Mall will reopen in a much different location on Oak Street this spring. With its original space badly looted after Hurricane Katrina, proprietor Vincent Pigna plans to reopen his Gelato Pazzo Caffe (8195 Oak St., 304-6908) in a former shoe store on the lively Riverbend street in May. He plans to serve not only gelato and coffee drinks but also paninis with imported Italian meats, bruschetta and small batches of daily specials like grilled rabbit with rosemary or zuppa di pesce. Gelato varieties will range from fruity pear and mango flavors to rich panna cotta, chocolate and hazelnut. Pigna is particularly proud of his pistachio gelato, which he says he and his teenage son Marcello make with "100-percent Sicilian pistachios, not cut with almonds or walnuts."
Donald Link — chef at Herbsaint (701 St. Charles Ave., 524-4114; www.herbsaint.com) and a nominee in the running for the Best Chef in the Southeast award to be presented by the James Beard Foundation in May — is preparing to open a new restaurant called Cochon (930 Tchoupitoulas St., 588-2123; www.cochonrestaurant.com) later this month. Located in the Warehouse District near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the style will be Cajun and, as suggested not so subtly by its name (cochon is French for pig), pork will play a starring role on the menu. Look for dishes like pork boudin with pickled peppers, "Link" sausage with stone-ground grits, black-eyed pea and pork gumbo and, of course, Louisiana style cochon du lait, along with other Acadian-inspired fare such as smoked duck breast with marinated green beans, crawfish pies and rabbit and dumplings. The restaurant will serve lunch on weekdays and dinner Monday through Saturday.
One Busy Brennan
Dickie Brennan and crew are working toward an April 21 reopening of Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse (716 Iberville St., 522-2467; www.dickiebrennanssteakhouse.com), restoring subterranean dining rooms that were ruined by the flood. In the meantime, his two other restaurants have resumed some of the specials they had developed before the storm. At Palace Café (605 Canal St., 523-1661; www.palacecafe.com), Dinner Before Seven, a three-course dinner special starting at $25, is once again available nightly when seated by 7 p.m. The special menus change monthly or as new items come into season, and feature dishes like gumbo ya ya, Gulf fish pecan and white chocolate bread pudding. And Champagne & Oyster Fridays are back at Brennan's third restaurant, Bourbon House Seafood & Oyster Bar (144 Bourbon St., 522-0111; www.bourbonhouse.com). From noon to 6 p.m., diners who order oysters on the half-shell get reduced prices on bottles and half-bottles of Veuve Clicquot Champagne.