Lisa Barbato is the co-owner of Rivista (4226 Magazine St., 504-371-5558; www.facebook.com/rivistanola), a coffee shop and Italian-inspired small plates restaurant. Lisa spoke with Gambit about running a popular neighborhood spot and Rivista's Italian influence.
Why is this space important to you?
Barbato: Right after (Hurricane) Katrina, my husband and I wanted to open up an Italian-style coffee shop in this exact space on Magazine Street, but it didn't work out then. I worked at Mr. B's (Bistro) and Peristyle previously, but when the space didn't work out I started selling my goods at farmers markets — pastries, croissants and so on. It built a pretty strong following, and when the same space — the location we're in now — became open again, we took it and opened Rivista.
Rivista's vision is as an Italian coffee bar where people can pop in all day and get a snack and a coffee, whether it's pastries or little, locally sourced plates. There was nothing with a similar influence in New Orleans at the time — and still really isn't except for what we're doing.
What are some of your biggest international influences?
B: I'm Mexican, but my husband is Italian, and we really love everything Italian. We love the lifestyle and the Mediterranean-style food, which there's a lot of on the menu here. That's the way we like to eat, and where our influence comes from. There are a number of French pastries on the menu as well, in addition to paninis and locally sourced salads.
We used to do more cicchetti (small bites) here, but what we're thinking is once a month we'd like to start having family-style dinners. That's what we're working on. I like to switch things up on the menu and have a little fun with things depending on what's in season.
Is the neighborhood a part of what you're doing?
B: Above everything, this is a neighborhood spot. This is a place for people who work here and live here; we know all the parents' names and the names of all the children. When school started, parents were coming in and saying, "We missed you guys," and the kids were asking to go see "Ms. Lisa" in the kitchen. We've seen kids grow up and go from talking to walking and more. We don't want to be huge and big; we want to be the best neighborhood spot that we can be. — SARAH BAIRD