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 pasta, olive oil and an appreciation for the roots of traditional Italian cooking.
Tana opened today (Jan. 8) inside Trèo, the bar, eatery and art gallery on 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 citrus burst of cured kumquat; thin-crusted caramelized onion tarts with anchovy and olives; octopus with garganelli pasta in a ragu of boudin noir (a type of blood sausage); spaghetti made with roasted garlic, spiked with Calabrian chiles and topped with clams; and lamb topped with sweet pepper marmalade over a delicate, toasty-tasting couscous.
Tana, which is named for the chef’s grandmother, is the third venture for MoPho Group, the company the chef runs with his brother Jeff Gulotta and Jeffrey Bybee.
Trèo is owned by the proprietors of Finn McCool’s, and Tana operates along the same lines as Rum and the Lash, functioning as an independently-run kitchen within the bar. Trèo’s drink list has been reconfigured for more pairing potential with the Italian menu, with Italian apéritifs and fortified wines worked into some of the cocktails.
Gulotta, a New Orleans native, opened MoPho in 2014 following a six-year run as chef de cuisine at Restaurant August, the elegant John Besh flagship.
That was around the same time that Trèo made its own debut, after Finn McCool’s proprietors Pauline and Stephen Patterson bought and remodeled a once-rickety barroom along Tulane Avenue.
The Belfast natives named the bar for the Irish word for “direction,” signaling their hope that long-desolate Tulane Avenue will see a turn-around as the hospital complexes emerge nearby. The venue hosts monthly art shows in its second floor event space, which MoPho Group may now also use for private dining events.
Tana is essentially a regional Italian kitchen in a lounge 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 during a trial run of the menu this week. “We’re just really glad to be a part of it.”
Tana’s schedule parallels Trèo’s, which is now Tue.-Thu., 4 p.m.-midnight, Fri. and Sat. 11:30 a.m.-midnight.
3835 Tulane Ave. (inside Treo), 504-304-4878
Rum & the Lash
3701 Banks St., (inside Finn McCool’s Irish Pub), 504-265-8997
514 City Park Ave., 504-482-6845
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.