At MoPho, chef Michael Gulotta built a following on rice noodles, aromatic broth and original interpretations of Vietnamese flavors.
At Tana, his latest project, the chef is starting with handmade pasta, olive oil and an appreciation for the roots of traditional Italian cooking.
Tana is inside Trèo (3835 Tulane Ave., (504) 304-4878), the bar, eatery and art gallery that opened as part of a wave of new businesses on long-neglected Tulane Avenue. Here, Gulotta’s crew serves an Italian menu, though one inspired by Old Country Italian rather than Creole-Italian or American-Italian standards.
The menu is also designed to fit the setting of a bar and social space, rather than a customary restaurant.
“The point is to be very shareable, to serve things that go with the great cocktails and wine they do here,” said chef Will Smith, the MoPho alum who now oversees Tana.
Some examples: charred broccoli with chiles, garlic oil and a burst of cured citrus; garganelli pasta with octopus in a ragu of boudin noir; thin-crusted caramelized onion tarts with anchovy and olives; spaghetti made with roasted garlic, spiked with Calabrian chiles and topped with clams; twists of buckwheat gemelli pasta with duck liver, radicchio and gorgonzola.
Tana, which is named for the chef’s grandmother Gaetana, is the third venture for MoPho Group, the company the chef runs with his brother Jeff Gulotta and Jeffrey Bybee. They also have Rum & the Lash, the walk-up tavern kitchen inside Finn McCool’s Irish Pub, a few blocks away in Mid-City.
Gulotta, a New Orleans native, opened MoPho in 2014 following a six-year run as chef de cuisine at Restaurant August, John Besh’s elegant flagship.
That was around the same time that Trèo made its own debut, after Finn McCool’s proprietors bought and remodeled a once-rickety old barroom along Tulane Avenue. It now has a contemporary design, a fenced patio with bocce ball court and a second-floor hall for art shows or events.
Tana is essentially a regional Italian kitchen in a lounge and gallery on Tulane Avenue, which is a little less than conventional. But for Gulotta, the prospects here are part of the appeal of the project.
“We think this is a cornerstone, and we really like what they’re doing for this neighborhood,” Gulotta said of the Trèo crew. “We’re just really glad to be a part of it.”
Tana serves Tuesday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-midnight, and Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m.-midnight.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.