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From the Mississippi to Manchac

Before closing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the restaurant Bella Luna was as well known for its romantic perch overlooking the Mississippi River as it was for chef Horst PfeiferÕs fine Italian cuisine. While Bella Luna is no more, Horst and his wife Karen Pfeifer will be back in business overlooking quite a different body of water. The couple says that in April they will take the reins of the casual seafood house MiddendorfÕs (30160 Hwy. 51, exit 15 off Hwy. 55, Akers, 985-386-6666), the 73-year-old restaurant located on the spit of land between lakes Manchac and Pontchartrain. ItÕs about a 45-minute drive from New Orleans, but the restaurantÕs distinctive, very thin, fried catfish has long compelled city dwellers to make the trip. Suzy Lamonte, a third-generation owner of MiddendorfÕs, and her husband Joey decided to sell the restaurant earlier this year, but say they will stay involved after the scheduled April 2 business transfer to ensure continuity of their recipes.

Shopping for Vodkas

If shopping, the arts and a taste of 20 different vodkas add up to a good start to the weekend in your book, the Great Vodka Taste-Off should be on your itinerary. The event is a fundraiser for the Contemporary Arts Center (www.cacno.org) hosted by the Shops at Canal Place (www.theshopsatcanalplace.com) on Friday, March 30, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Guests will be handed a shot glass at the door, along with a program explaining the different distillation processes and histories of the 20 vodkas being offered at tasting tables throughout the mall. There will also be vodka cocktail bars stocked with all participating brands. Shops in the downtown mall will be open during the event, which also features live music and food from a collection of local restaurants. Tickets are $35 for CAC members and $50 for all others. Call 522-9200 for tickets.

New Mid-City Taqueria

To the steadily rising tide of new Latin American restaurants to open around town since Hurricane Katrina, add Taqueria Guerrero Mexico (208 N. Carrollton Ave., phone n/a), which set up shop in the former Mid-City location of New York Pizza. Casual and inexpensive, the place is like a taco truck that has set up permanent digs and expanded its menu. Outside the tortilla-based fare of tacos, burritos and quesadillas, the restaurant serves whole fried fish, shrimp cocktail and a selection of soups, including the pork and hominy stew pozole. The bargain of the menu is a pair of good-sized pork tamales with a pile of chili beans and yellow rice for $4. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily. Ñ McNulty

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