Grilled Short Ribs with peaches and crispy rice from MoPho. 

The Best of the Big Easy

Three newcomers are earning raves for bringing innovative ethnic fare to the already rich and vibrant flavors that personify New Orleans. With an emphasis on local products, these restaurants pay tribute to cuisines from different parts of the globe but share an unwavering commitment to authenticity and creativity.

MoPho brings Southeast Asian cuisine to life; Marcello’s Restaurant & Wine Bar is Sicilian to the max; and Noodle & Pie introduces Japanese ramen and gourmet pies with decadent flair.

opened: January 11, 2014
cuisine: Southeast Asian
chef: Michael Gulotta
owners: Jeffrey Bybee, Jeffrey Gulotta, and Michael Gulotta
average check: $20–$25

With its large Vietnamese population, the Crescent City is the perfect incubator for new restaurants touting this cuisine, but MoPho's New Orleans–influenced food is anything but typical.

"In the beginning people didn't know what to make of MoPho because we're not traditional Vietnamese," says co-owner Jeffrey Bybee. The restaurant, which seats 108, features Crispy Chicken Wings in lemongrass and ginger; Slow Roast Lamb Neck and Beet in Green Curry with smoked tofu and creole cream cheese roti; and Build-Your-Own Pho.

MoPho's special events have likewise garnered plenty of attention. Thursday night grill-outs and Super Swine Saturday, where a whole hog is roasted over pecan wood in an outdoor pit, have helped build a loyal following.

Marcello's Restaurant & Wine Bar
opened: April 21, 2014
cuisine: Sicilian Italian
chef: Blakley Kymen
owners: Eugene Todaro and Eugene Todaro Jr.
average check: $60

Located in New Orleans' central business district, Marcello's Restaurant & Wine Bar is synonymous with all things Italian. "The restaurant took off right away because of our flagship Marcello's in Lafayette (Louisiana)," says Blakley Kymen, chef. "Most everyone knew us."

The wine program is another differentiator. Diners browse racks throughout the restaurant and select from bottles that are priced just above retail.

Best-selling dishes include Marsala Pork Cheek with mushroom, dry marsala, veal demi-glace, and angel hair; Tritone, which features lobster, shrimp, crab, spinach, sherry cream sauce, and fettuccine; and Sicilian Eggplant Caponata with fried goat cheese and crostini, as well as traditional red sauce dishes.

Marcello's seats 120 and is located in a former theater.

Noodle & Pie
opened: August 1, 2013
cuisine: Japanese Ramen Noodles
chef: Brian Armour
owners: Brian Armour and Eman Loubier
average check: $25–$30

With an interesting menu of house-made Japanese ramen noodles and pies, Noodle & Pie is finally on firm ground. "We had a rough start because a ramen noodle concept wasn't familiar to New Orleans," says Brian Armour, chef and owner.

The emphasis is on creative small plates and exceptional pies that are made fresh daily. Best-selling dishes include Korean Fried Chicken, which is chili-glazed with house-made kimchi, cucumber, tomato, and garlic mayo, and a House Bowl Ramen, which contains Shoyu chicken broth, slow-cooked pork shoulder, soft egg, greens, mushrooms, and shredded nori. Gourmet pies include Bacon-Bourbon Apple Pie and Brown Butter and Peanut Pie.

"We had an idea for an amalgamation of two comfort foods, hand-made with a lot of integrity," says Chef Armour.