At Margot’s, the new pizza and cocktail spot on Frenchmen Street above St. Claude Avenue, there are a few things you can’t eat.
There are no french fries, fried oyster po-boys or red beans and rice. These dishes aren’t on the menu because the kitchen doesn’t have a fryer or even a stove. And that’s not going to change.
But what chef Adrian Chelette is happy to make for diners is eight flavors of wood-fired pizza. Pies are cooked in just under two minutes at 850 degrees, yielding a blistered sourdough crust that has just the right amount of chew. There also are two salads — a house salad with a buttermilk ranch dressing and a Caesar with house-made croutons and a charred pepper dressing.
“When we were ready to set the menu up, we just wanted to do what we could do well and not overextend the staff,” says Chelette, who previously manned the kitchen and was co-owner of Ancora, a pizzeria on Freret Street. “The kitchen is pretty straightforward. What you see is what you get. No burners, no fryer. Just the oven and a place to make salad.”
Margot’s has been in the works longer than the 2-year-old for which the restaurant is named. New Orleans cocktail veteran Brad Goocher bought the building and spent the last five years on the renovation. He and his wife Amanda and their daughter Margot live upstairs, with the compact eatery on the ground floor. The restaurant space is well designed, with a row of booths flanking one wall across from Goocher’s bar. The kitchen, with its sliding glass doors and commanding pizza oven, is in back.
Since opening in early April, the restaurant has been busy and staffing remains a challenge. “I even asked a friend from Texas to stay with me and work during Jazz Fest,” Chelette says.
He is making an average of 100 pizzas a night, including takeout, he says. Online ordering for pickup is available through the website, and once Jazz Fest is in the rearview mirror, the restaurant will use Door Dash for delivery. When the restaurant is fully booked, the noise level is considerable, making quiet conversation difficult.
“Keeping everybody happy here is No. 1 right now,” he says. “There’s plenty of time to expand the menu and hours as we go.”
For now, Margot’s is open from Thursday to Monday. Diners can build their own pizza off of a $13 Margherita, with its base of tomato sauce fresh mozzarella, basil and olive oil. Additional toppings such as shaved garlic, pork sausage and mozzarella are $1-$3 each. The list of eight house pies includes the Supremo, with ricotta, strips of pepperoni, sausage, pepperoncini peppers, shaved red onion and Pecorino-Romano. The Inverno is a vegetarian option with roasted sweet potato, mascarpone cheese, honey, chili flakes and black olives.
Chelette says he was surprised to find that the Cavoletti pizza is outselling them all. The pie has garlic confit, ricotta cream, buffalo mozzarella, lemon zest and finely shaved Brussels sprouts leaves. It’s a winner, bright with citrus notes and the crunch of fresh greens.
“I didn’t think people would be so crazy about a pizza with Brussels sprouts on top, but they are,” he says.
Goocher previously worked at Cane and Table. At Margot’s, his menu includes five variations on a Negroni. “The idea was like, hey, what if somebody made a Negroni and didn’t do it in Florence?” Goocher says.
Each version uses a base spirit, a bitter spirit and a fortified wine, but the flavor profile is different in each one. The San Juan is pina colada-inspired, with pineapple rum, Cappelletti, coconut-infused vermouth and lime bitters. The Warsaw uses beet-infused vodka, Bitter Bianco, dill vermouth and absinthe. All the infused spirits are made in house, and while the variations are tasty, the classic Negroni is still his favorite.
Goocher’s cocktail menu is longer than the food menu, with a line of spritzes (topped with prosecco) and cocktails running from a rhubarb Old Fashioned to an espresso martini mixed with cold brew.
D.J. Piazza is handling the wine selection. The house red and white wines come from a small producer in Italy’s Piedmont region, and there isn’t a set wine list. Piazza will have a seasonally changing array of wines from small wineries.
The food and drinks menus are compact, but they deliver a concentrated taste of Italy.
Jarred I. Zeringue grew up in the River Parishes, where he learned to cook at home. He went into the restaurant business following Hurricane K…