What makes a great Italian restaurant? For some it may be the antipasti, while for others it’s the quality of the wines and pastas that’s the sure-fire test. Holding up one dish is dangerous. Octopus? Lasagna? Cacio e pepe? Which one dish should be the barometer of a great Italian restaurant?
The steps we took to compile our most-recent ranking were as thorough and comprehensive as possible: we looked at restaurants that made it to our 101 Best Restaurants in America; we also recruited an illustrious panel of judges that included some of the country’s top food writers, critics, and bloggers to submit their suggestions, which we supplemented with our own choices, including previous years’ rankings as well as lauded newcomers. This list of hundreds of restaurants was then built into a survey that was sent out to more than 100 panelists, who voted for their favorites. The final ranking included a significant number of Italian restaurants, and to create this list we supplemented the Italian restaurants that made it into our final list of 101 with those that came in as runners-up and those that were featured on this year's list of the country's 50 best casual restaurants. Turns out there are many Italian restaurants worthy of renown in America, and one resides in New Orleans.
John Besh is a master of Creole cooking, but at Domenica, located in New Orleans’ Roosevelt Hotel (home of the original Sazerac), he’s proving that he’s also got a knack for Italian fare, but giving it his own unique kick. In this casual and elegant high-ceilinged dining room, chef Alon Shaya is serving 13 pizzas, including ones topped with Gorgonzola, apple, speck, pecans, roast pork shoulder, fennel sausage, and cotechino. There’s also a wide variety of house-cured meats, pastas including stracci with oxtail and fried chicken livers, and entrées that include a wood-oven roasted goat shakshouka-style with a yard egg and tomato sauce, and crispy chicken mostarda with creamy polenta and rosemary. Make sure you save room for desserts like banana cake with crema cotta mousse and peanut brittle.
Besh’s unique kick is so on the mark, the restaurant scored the #13 spot on our compilation, and since it’s the only one from the city to make the list, according to our panel of experts, Domenica is the best Italian restaurant in New Orleans.