Amid the 40th anniversary celebrations at Riccobono's Peppermill (3524 Severn Ave., Metairie, 504-455-2266; www.riccobonospeppermill.com), there is a changing of the guard. Another generation of Riccobonos is ready to leave its mark on the neighborhood restaurant.
"We're sharing a new vision we have for the restaurant — totally respecting the food tradition, of course, but trying to bring forward the style and the essence of our generation," Camille Chiarella says.
Chiarella, Joe Riccobono and Lizzy Randol are the third generation of Riccobonos to run the restaurant, which was founded by their grandparents Joe and Josie Riccobono in 1976. Cousins Chiarella and Joe Riccobono worked in different professions before they regrouped to run Peppermill. Chiarella had experience in the food industry, having operated a meal preparation company called DinnerBelle and a catering company. Riccobono came from technical consulting.
"We've got a close family and we've managed to bring complementary skill sets," Riccobono says. "She's got restaurant experience and I've got some management experience and between us it's really working out well."
The new team did away with the dark burgundy ceilings and solid wood furniture for a lighter, more modern look. They also refurbished the private dining room. Though the restaurant's management and decor have changed, its hearty Italian classics remain the same.
"We bring in some other dishes that we think complement those," Riccobonno says. "Our customers are so regular. We certainly want them to still feel like they're at the Peppermill, so even if we're changing the menu around, it's still got a core base of who we are."
The menu features hearty Italian entrees like veal parmesan, as well as New Orleans seafood dishes. Catfish and crawfish dishes are mainstays on both the breakfast and dinner menus.
"We have a crawfish bisque that was actually our great-grandma's recipe, redfish amandine, an eggs Benedict made with crawfish," Chiarella says.
The Riccobonos employ two cooks who were hired when the restaurant opened in 1976.
"They're two brothers," Chiarella says. "They started out as dishwashers and worked their way up to cooks. They're really talented."
When Chiarella and Riccobono talk about memories of the Peppermill, their eyes light up.
"This is home cooking for us. We grew up in the place with the employees and the customers," Riccobono says. "Forty years later, this is the beginning of our leg of the journey, essentially. This is the start of our run, so we're looking to be celebrating decades more in the business."