Michael Gulotta Adds Another Restaurant to His Repertoire With Italian Inspired Tana

Photo credit: Mickey Ricks

Chef Michael Gulotta, the mind behind New Orleans restaurants MoPho and Maypop, has added another jewel to his culinary crown. Tana, an upscale Italian restaurant drawing from Gulotta’s New Orleans Sicilian upbringing, opened at 2919 Metairie Rd. this month. 

Gulotta was raised in New Orleans and attended culinary school at Nicholls State University. He honed his skills in northern Italy and southern Germany before returning to New Orleans after Hurricane  Katrina. He served as chef de cuisine at Restaurant August for seven years before opening MoPho in 2013 and Maypop in 2016.

Gulotta runs Tana with his business partner, Jeffrey Bybee, and explains that the restaurant has been in his “back pocket” for a while. Tana started as a pop-up concept at the now-shuttered Treo on Tulane, a combination art gallery and cocktail bar owned by Stephen and Pauline Patterson. Gulotta served handmade pasta in the back of Treo, much to the delight of the cocktail and art lovers who frequented the spot. 

When Treo closed, Gulotta put the idea of Tana on the back burner but planned its eventual comeback on a grander scale. The restaurant began to take shape following the pandemic on an up-and-coming section of Metairie Rd. 

“We thought old Metairie was a good place because Metairie Rd. is under-served and it’s a great place that seems to be five minutes from everywhere,” Gulotta said. “We like to put restaurants in areas that we think need it and we knew that something like this was wanted in this location.”

Audra Brewer designed Tana’s interior with custom furniture from her company, Distressed Rentals. Brewer’s custom designs include leather couches and a handmade ten-foot-long pasta rolling table made from walnut. At Tana, as with his other restaurants, Gulotta hopes to create a place that locals will return to, and visitors won’t want to miss when they frequent the city.

Gulotta wanted to create a menu of familiar favorites and dishes that lean toward the more experimental side. His favorites include Savory Zeppole served with Louisiana caviar and herbed lardo butter, and Veal Marsala from the family recipe of Tana’s chef de cuisine, Kristen York, made with mushrooms, cultured butter, and cipollini onions. 

“Everything on the menu is delicious and there are things on the menu that people will recognize and be comfortable ordering,” he explained. “There’s a few things for the more adventurous eaters to try that the cooks get to have fun with.”

One standout is Pasta Con Vongole Nola served with clams, hot sausage, saffron tomatoes, and squid ink trenette, which was inspired, in part, by Gulotta’s time training on the coast of northern Italy. Including trenette is calculated, as it’s a pasta you can typically only find in this part of Italy. 

He explains, “It starts very simple with clams, white wine, chili flakes, garlic, and parsley, but when we were serving it at Treo, it didn’t get a huge response. To make it more exciting, I added crumbled up Patton’s Hot Sausage and from that moment on people have loved it. This dish is the epitome of what I like doing: taking something that I learned in my training in different places around the world and adding some New Orleans flavor to it. It adds another level of flavor and you end up with something really interesting and delicious.”

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