Irene’s opened in 1993 and gradually expanded to 3 rooms over time. Owner Irene DiPietro from Noto, Sicily is still active with the place but now her son Nicholas Scalco does most of the cooking. In 2018 it moved to a new, much larger location on Bienville because of a problem with the lease on the original location. It had been a hard table to get because of its size but delicious food made you try. Going now to this location was a different feel. There are about 5 eating areas, depending if you call the large bar area one. Music is in the background, mostly old rock and despite the small rooms the noise level can be loud. The small tables are set with white clothes and napkins and the lighting is lowered. Walls, some of which are red, have lots of decorative items. Our room had red paint on the top and wood below, an open beam ceiling, a fireplace and tile floor. The service was very friendly but it was a little slow in getting our meal started and then moved quite rapidly, bringing the main plates out before appetizers were finished. It didn’t lend itself to a relaxed fine dining feel. The menu had a special entree and appetizer as well as a changing soup. All is a la carte.
All diners started with a complimentary tomato bruschetta. A good sized piece of toast covered with sliced tomato, cheese and herbs. It was great with a lovely texture and taste.
Oysters Irene were oysters baked in the shell and topped with pancetta, pimento and pecorino romano cheese. There were tons of tasty ingredients topping the perfectly cooked oysters, bringing out the flavor of all. The pancetta was particularly savory and the cheese was really good.
Crabmeat Gratin was made with jumbo lump crabmeat baked in a casserole of swiss and brie cheeses. It came with a couple pieces of toast on but it was fine just to scoop up some with your fork and eat it plain. There were lots of large chunks of crab in the creamy surroundings. The toast in this case was a little stale and so it actually was best eaten alone. It was great – who needs more toast.
Duck St. Philip was a half duck roasted crispy and glazed with a pecan, raspberry pancetta demi on fresh spinach alongside sweet potato mash and fresh grapes. We each had this dish and the halves were not from the same duck. One was totally moist and tasty while the other was a little dry. The sauce was great on both. There was a large mound of the sweet potatoes with a wonderful color and really good flavor. I did not like the raw spinach leave under the duck. Nothing wrong with them, but they didn’t work together for me. Each plate had a bunch of grapes, one red and the other purple.
Dessert was an oral menu and we chose to split the Pecan Praline Bread Pudding with vanilla ice cream and topped with foster sauce alongside bananas and cream. The bread pudding was moist and the other ingredients mimicked a bananas foster on the side. The bananas were a tad underripe for my tastes but the sauce was tasty. Between the ice cream and whipped cream the pudding was a sweet success, especially with the sticky sweet sauce. Overall it was very good.