The insider's scoop on food, travel & southern culture
The annual list has hit the stands, and Mariza is standing at the peak of New Orleans Magazine’s Best New Restaurants of 2013. Chef & owner Ian Schnoebelen, named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “Top Ten Chef’s in America” in 2007, took a chance opening his newest restaurant in the edgy and artsy Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans’ infamous Ninth Ward with wife and parter Laurie Casebonne. It is a decision, however, that has certainly been worth taking, as Mariza has received nothing but rave reviews from neighbors, visitors, and the local and national food communities since opening its doors on the edge of the Mississippi river in January 2013.
Mariza, Italian for “of the sea,” is a rising hotspot for honest and unfussy Italian cuisine, inspired by the seafood fare of Venice. Schnoebelen enhances Louisiana’s fresh local products with the flavors and sensibilities of the Italian Coast: a central raw bar serves Carpaccio of tuna and snapper, and hand made pastas include such marvels as Squid Ink Linguine crowned with Crab, Shrimp, and Mussels. Salume is painstakingly cured in-house; Neopolitan pizza bursts with fresh, flavorful ingredients; and specialties like Whole Roasted Fish, Braised Lamb’s Belly, and Hanger Steak vie for your appetito. The wine list – as wallet-conscious as the menu – features predominantly Italian blends, many available by the glass, together with signature aperitifs, dessert wines, and ‘sippers.’
The industrial space that houses Mariza, on the first floor of the Rice Mill Lofts, restored by partners Sean Cummings and TJ Iarocci, has been left largely wide open and in its raw state – the perfectly casual, intimate atmosphere from which to take in the surrounding streetscape and linger over drinks or dinner. The décor and structure of the space reminisce the rustic building materials Schnoebelen and Casebonne encountered in Italy: soaring windows, exposed brickwork, massive wooden beams and cement floors. Salvaged vintage wood from a neighboring building fabricate Mariza’s tabletops, and high-top furniture transition the bar seamlessly into the relaxed dining area.
Food defines New Orleans like nothing else – and Mariza has quickly found its place in the characterization of the city.