3 Fleur
Average check per person $35-$45
BreakfastBreakfast SundayBreakfast MondayBreakfast TuesdayBreakfast WednesdayBreakfast ThursdayBreakfast FridayBreakfast Saturday
LunchLunch SundayLunch MondayLunch TuesdayLunch WednesdayLunch ThursdayLunch FridayLunch Saturday
DinnerDinner SundayDinner MondayDinner TuesdayDinner WednesdayDinner ThursdayDinner FridayDinner Saturday

N’Tini’s

Mandeville: 2891 US 190. 985-626-5566. Map.
Casual
AE MC V
Website

WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The interbreeding of St. Bernard and St. Tammany brought forth into the purple, green, black and gold world what may be–atmospherically, anyway–the most thoroughly New Orleans white-tablecloth restaurant in the modern age. Referring to all the cliches of local eating, N’Tini’s turns out alarmingly oversize dishes loaded with garnishes and sauces. The cooking is better than I’m making it sound, although “delicacy” is not the byword. This, however, very much suits the tastes of a lot of people on the North Shore.

WHAT’S GOOD
The kitchen buys food of more-than-decent merit and applies convincing Creole and Cajun flavors to all of it. What the cooking lacks in finesse it compensates for with overstatement. Unlike most restaurants on that tack, this avoids grossness and the hodge-podge effect, and the eating is reasonably good. Seafood is the best specialty, although the straightforward steaks are of fine quality.

BACKSTORY
The name is pronounced “natini’s.” The original restaurant opened in 2004 in Chalmette, and was just getting popular when Katrina wiped out not only the restaurant but its entire neighborhood. Like many St. Bernard residents, owner Mark Benfatti relocated to the North Shore, where he took over an existing but floundering restaurant, renovated it and got the word out to his fellow Chalmatians. It recently began opening for breakfast.

DINING ROOM
A split-level dining area is mostly given over to booth-style tables. An open kitchen at one end adds to the action but not the noise. The bar is always overflowing with customers waiting for tables, or just having cocktails. When an important game is going on, it will dominate the room on the big-screen television. One night a week there’s a late-night music club that draws enough people to make N’Tini’s a major social center.

ESSENTIAL DISHES
Starters
»Roasted portabella margherita pizza
»Chicken, beef and shrimp kebabs, honey horseradish sauce
Beignet shrimp
»Oysters N’tini (andouille, parmesan, horseradish, beurre blanc)
Spinach artichoke dip
Three cheese quesadilla
Seared ahi tuna
»Fleur de lis shrimp
»Crab cake and eggplant napoleon
Onion rings
»Red bean and crawfish soup
»Southwest ahi tuna salad
Blackened sirloin and blue cheese Caesar salad
Caprese salad
Rockefeller salad
Spinach salad
Caesar salad
»Iceberg wedge salad
Entrees
»Seafood mixed grill (tuna, scallops, shrimp)
»Fried seafood platter
Crabmeat stuffed jumbo shrimp
»Shrimp and grits
Yellowfin tuna steak
»Mediterranean redfish (olive salad, spinach-artichoke orzo) Salmon picatta
Tomato basil tilapia
»Chicken N’tini (panneed, crawfish cream sauce, pasta)
Veal marsala
Crab cake and shrimp, rotini pasta
»Lobster ravioli
Seared shrimp and scallops
»Filet mignon
»New York strip steak
Ribeye
»Prime rib
»Bone-in pork chop
Barbecue baby back ribs
Grilled chicken breast
»Cornflake fried chicken
N’tini burger
Desserts
»Bread pudding
Dessert specials

FOR BEST RESULTS
Almost every dish, from the appetizers through the desserts, is big enough to split two ways. Three orders per four persons in each course, at the very most. As the name implies, they serve good drinks and the bar is a pleasant hangout.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
I’m always thinking that the kitchen’s sense of taste needs some further development. But it could be that this is what makes the restaurant popular. The new breakfast service is a long way from touchdown.

FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.

  • Dining Environment +1
  • Consistency +1
  • Service+2
  • Value +1
  • Attitude +3
  • Wine & Bar +1
  • Hipness -1
  • Local Color

 

SPECIAL ATTRIBUTES

  • Outdoor tables, drinks only
  • Good for business meetings
  • 25-75
  • Early-evening specials
  • Open Sunday lunch and dinner
  • Open Monday lunch and dinner
  • Open all afternoon
  • Unusually large servings
  • Good for children
  • Easy, nearby parking
  • Reservations accepted

ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
In the same way that the Cajuns developed a new cuisine when they were exiled to Louisiana from Nova Scotia, so too did the population of St. Bernard Parish after the hurricane all but wiped out their communities. Many of them decamped to the North Shore. Inevitably, quite a few restaurateurs were part of this exodus, and as soon as they got settled they opened eateries from Slidell to Covington. By far the most successful of these is N’Tini’s. Indeed, it’s the first restaurant since Trey Yuen to function as a universal meeting place for the people of West St. Tammany, whether they’re St. Bernard refugees or not. Everybody shows up there sooner or later. More business is transacted at N’Tini’s tables than at any other restaurant on the North Shore.


2 Readers Commented

Join discussion
  1. C on May 15, 2014

    I have eaten here several times and food /service were decent. However, I stopped going after finding a bite taken out of my toast during brunch before I started eating. Waitress offered no explanation or apology and seemed perturbed that I brought it to her attention. Won’t be back.

    • Tom Fitzmorris on May 16, 2014

      I don’t believe it…that it was a bite, that is. Call or write Mark Benfatti, the owner, and let me know what he does.

      Tastefully yours, Tom Fitzmorris

HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY?