There’s a new cook in the kitchen at Treo, though this one also plans to spend plenty of time in the patio tending to the crawfish boiling pots.
Treo, the bar and art gallery on Tulane Avenue in Mid-City, had been home to Tana, the modern Italian eatery from chef Michael Gulotta and his crew at MoPho Group. Tana served its last pasta dish there on New Year’s Eve and has closed.
Taking its place is Clesi’s at Treo, which brings a much different menu. It's about thin fried catfish and fat fried shrimp, jambalaya and shrimp and grits and an unusual hybrid of jambalaya cheese fries, a mix of crisp fries, meaty rice and a cap of cheese which is just as much fun as it sounds.
Once the weather improves and crawfish return to the fold, boils will be part of the new Clesi's at Treo program too.
"It's exciting because it's a lot of what we've been doing that people say they love, but a different setting where I think we can do more," said proprietor James Clesi.
Clesi had previously operated a walk-up eatery about a mile away in a spot attached to the Banks Street Bar, but he hauled out of that location late last year.
The Clesi’s at Treo menu is gradually taking shape now, with a grand opening slated for Jan. 12.
Treo is a combination lounge and event space, with a bar downstairs, a gallery upstairs and a outdoor patio of plants and picnic benches outside that feels like a pocket park in this niche of Mid-City. For Clesi, the setting opens up new turf for the kind of catering and events that are at the base of his boil business.
This Metairie native first got the bug for boiling crawfish during his college years down in Thibodaux back in the 1990s. He built the hobby into a catering business, developing a niche with bars that outsource their weekly crawfish boils to him.
In an unsurprising New Orleans twist, Clesi and Gulotta were high school buddies at Brother Martin who ended up being college roommates. They’re still tight, though their cooking styles are very different.
Tana had a two-year run at Treo. Its flavors were deep, its presentations were precise and its concepts could run to the exotic (liver mousse agnolotti, Moroccan chicken with hand-rolled couscous), making it a surprising find in the bar-top setting of Treo.
Eventually, it became something of a R&D lab as Maypop was coming together. Gulotta said he and his partners decided to close Tana to focus on their other restaurants and to prepare for a satellite location of MoPho slated for the new terminal at the Louis Armstrong International Airport.
“It was a tough summer for MoPho,” Gulotta said, referring to the four-month construction closure of near City Park Avenue at Canal Boulevard. “So we want to keep MoPho good, that’s our baby, and bring Maypop up to what it can be.”
Gulotta didn’t rule out the possibility of reviving the Tana concept elsewhere in the future For now though, some of its Italian styles and flavors are turning up on the polyglot menu at Maypop.
Treo and Clesi's at Treo
3835 Tulane Ave., 504-304-4878
Daily, 4 p.m.-midnight
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