A BRIGHT BLUE building with fresh flowers and herbs in the front garden sits near the Lake Pontchartrain shore and unassumingly houses a feast for the senses. Patrons are enamored with the smell of freshly baked bread, lively chatter layered with native Italian, the feel of crisp linen tablecloths, flickering candles next to brimming wine glasses—and best of all, the taste of authentic regional Italian cuisine. The Italian is spoken by proprietors Robbie and her husband for whom the restaurant is named, Ceasar. Ceasar explains, “Authentic regional cuisine isn’t what you find at most local Italian restaurants. Our menu is different because it represents all the regions of Italy, not just one.”
Their dishes are inspired by generations-old recipes including the classic Milanese dish of real veal ossobuco with risotto that was passed down from their mothers in Bellagio in northern Italy. There’s also pasta carbonara from Rome; a lump crabmeat cocktail called granseola popular in Venice; caponatta, a Sicilian favorite; mussels and clams, a traditional Puglia dish—and the list goes on.
After 11 years on the Northshore, Ceasar’s popularity continues to grow. He attributes that success to a few things. The food is first, making bread and pasta from scratch and using only the best and freshest ingredients. His new location near the foot of the Causeway in Mandeville has proved convenient for locals, commuters and a growing number of patrons from the Southshore. “It’s just as easy for people to come right over the bridge from Metairie as it is for them to go into the French Quarter for a great meal.” And Ceasar keeps it upbeat and interesting with live music on Wednesdays, ossobuco nights on Thursdays, and Sunday evening hours when many others are closed.
Ceasar shares his knowledge and passion for food and wine with regular cooking demonstrations culminating in a delicious meal and wine pairing. His guests are immersed in authenticity from the couple’s recipes to their banter that’s a mixture of heavily accented English intertwined with full-on Italian. Ceasar’s favorite wine? Barberra. Why? He says, “Because I love reds and it’s a sentimental favorite because I grew up with it.” There are always a variety of Italian wines on his list from the popular Super Tuscans to the less well-known but equally fine offerings of regions such as Piedmont, Lombardy and Umbria. Robbie and Ceasar aim to please and offer an “American Italian” menu section including, yes, meatballs. But Robbie encourages trying something different and is proud to share her heritage with guests. “Our prosciutto is aged over 600 days and paired in an appetizer with mozzarella. We do a wonderful beef carpaccio and, of course, our tuna tartar is fresh and delicious. And you must save room for the homemade tiramisu or amaretto mousse.”