WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Those who like hidden, secret restaurants or Italian food with unique twists on classic flavors should have this little restaurant on their lists. It's so unassuming that you expect far less than what the place actually delivers. A pleasant surprise, that.
Although chef-owner Phil Gagliano claims that his recipes are classic Sicilian-New Orleans, in fact his food is quite distinctive. It relies more on herbs and olive oil and careful roasting than on red sauces and melted cheese. He leaves nothing tasty out, but balances all the elements to arrive at some beautiful flavors. Even elementary matters like the Italian salad and veal piccata come out unusually delicious.
Gagliano is one of the current generation of a family that gave us Frank's, the venerable, lusty, yeasty Italian cafe and muffuletta specialist near the French Market. In 2001, he took over the former Napoli restaurant, and began the longest tenure of any of many cafes that tried to make a go of this funny building near the Galleria.
Even though the chef has done a lot of landscaping, nothing about the exterior suggests the intimate, casually elegant dining rooms inside. The rooms are small; the upstairs dining room is a shade less atmospheric. Tables in the bar are more comfortable than you might imagine. When an order of the bubbling, herbal oyster areganata enters the dining room, the aroma is irresistible.
Fried eggplant medallions
»»Oysters al areganate
»»Zuppa di Fillipo (seafood cream soup)
Zuppa di la casa
Most served with salad and pasta)
Shrimp Gagliano, butter, garlic, linguini
»»Pollo al spiedini (stuffed chicken breast on a skewer)
Grilled chicken, garlic butter
Chicken or veal Marsala
»Chicken or veal piccata
Chicken or veal Parmigiana
»Veal Francesca (pan-sauteed, Alfredo sauce)
»Veal Sorrentina (sauteed veal, fried eggplant, prosciutto, mozzarella)
Fresh grilled fish of the day
»Grilled pork chop (frequent special)
»Bread pudding with whiskey sauce
»Tira mi su
Fresh berries with cream
FOR BEST RESULTS
The menu will strike you as not especially promising, but when you get the waiter's advice and learn of the specials the excitement mounts. The best way to get there place is from Galleria Boulevard. Take a right at that street's end, go a block, and there it is.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Not enough seafood entrees. The veal needs to be sliced and pounded thinner.
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 +2
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Local Color
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations honored promptly
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
The old canard that ends "location, location, and location" is as true in the restaurant game as it is for real estate. Ristorante Filippo has none of the three. On what was once the bank of the West Napoleon Avenue Canal, the place is visible from Causeway Boulevard. Figuring out how to get there is less obvious. People asking me about Filippo on the radio often say, "I've seen it for ten years but never went there." That is decidedly their loss. The quaint dining rooms are the first nice surprise, followed by a much bigger one. Owner-chef Phil Gagliano's cooking shows the taste and polish you'd expect from the best Italian restaurants. He says it's authentic Sicilian food, but I'd say it's much more original than that.