Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Bistro at Maison de Ville is Back

Posted by on Thu, Oct 29, 2009 at 8:36 PM

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A fire that ripped through the Tropical Isle bar at the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse streets in May damaged more than the French Quarter nightclub. The blaze also forced the closure of the bar's neighbor, the Bistro at Maison de Ville. But more than five months later the restaurant has reopened.

Chef co-owner Greg Picolo called today with the news even as a few last minute cosmetic touches were being completed around him in the restaurant.

"They're still painting the bathroom right now, but I've had enough of delays and putting things off, so we're open as of today," he said.

Picolo says smoke from the Tropical Isle fire did most of the damage to the Bistro. Among other things, the blaze next door consumed hundreds of cases of tall green cups kept in storage for the Tropical Isle's patented Hand Grenade cocktail, releasing plastic fumes. Rehabilitating everything at the Bistro from air conditioning ducts to the artwork after that exposure was a huge undertaking.

Today's reopening marks the third time Picolo has revived the Bistro, a tiny place that has made a disproportionately large impact on the New Orleans dining scene since first opening in 1986.

Its original chef was Susan Spicer, who went on to open Bayona. Her replacement was John Neal, along with his sous chef Anne Kearney. They left together when Neal decided to open his own restaurant, Peristyle, which Kearney later took over. Dominique Maquet had a stint there, as did Randy Wyndam. Picolo joined the Bistro under chef Patty Queen, who now runs a restaurant in Connecticut.

Picolo was at the helm for years before Katrina, and he was there when it reopened after the disaster. But in June 2006, the restaurant's owners decided to close the Bistro until some unspecified later date. Months passed and seasons changed. Behind the scenes, however, Picolo and a business partner were working up a new deal to buy and run the restaurant themselves. The Maison de Ville property changed hands in the intervening months, stalling things a bit, but Picolo kept at his plans. He was finally able to buy and reopen the Bistro in May 2007.

Two years later, the Tropical Isle fire shut him down again. But as of today the Bistro is back. . .again.

The restaurant now serves lunch and dinner Monday, Thursday and Friday and brunch and dinner on Saturday and Sunday.

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