Kenneth and Melba Ferdinand recently transformed one of their PJ's Coffee & Tea Co. locations into Cafe Rose Nicaud (632 Frenchmen St., 949-3300), a coffeehouse and aspiring restaurant with more mom-and-pop character. At this point the menu is experimental, offering La Spiga sandwiches, salads and housemade soups such as eggplant Parmesan and chicken tortilla; they're trying to secure a license to sell wines and international beers. Cafe Rose Nicaud is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Frenchmen Street, fairly inert five years ago but bustling with new restaurants just last year, still seems to be transitioning. Chef Cecil Palmer left Cafe Negril a few months back to once again open his own Jamaican kitchen, this time at 801 Poland Ave. (947-2323) on the edge of Bywater, and Matt Yohalem abandoned his Belle Forche -- the corner restaurant that anchored the dining strip for a brief moment -- for the former Nautical space Uptown. Yohalem opened Il Piatto there (7708 Maple St., 861-0002) in December. It's a sibling to his Santa Fe, N.M., restaurant of the same name, and its Italian menu is similar to that of the original. General Manager Raoul Schneider's favorite dish is the macaroni with bolognese sauce ("just like in The Godfather"). Daily specials may include prime steaks, risotto or grilled calamari with shaved fennel. All entrees, says Schneider, cost less than $12 at lunch and less than $16 at dinnertime. Il Piatto is currently open for lunch weekdays and dinner Monday through Saturday. You may dine on the outdoor patio during fine weather.
Later this month, look for a second Vaqueros restaurant to open at 2037 Metairie Road, in the space formerly occupied by Odyssey Grill, and then briefly Cafe Ambrosia. Vaqueros' chef, Mark Springfloat, says the Southwestern food and drink here will mirror that found at the Prytania Street location. While the exact hours have not yet been written in stone, the new restaurant will serve both lunch and dinner.