Once again, our area is receiving a bit of attention for showing up on a popular list making its way around Facebook. Thrillist’s “11 of the Best Louisiana Restaurants Outside News Orleans” includes Cristiano and Fremin’s in its number. And while it’s great to see some of the restaurants I love get some of the recognition they deserve, I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed with the list. Two sentences are all that readers have to glean what they can about each of the restaurants, so I figured it may be helpful to elaborate for anyone whose interest may have been piqued by the list.
Consider these mini-reviews of two great, local restaurants.
Despite serving some of the area’s most sophisticated food, Cristiano retains a comfortable casual vibe. The dining rooms are dark, the walls adorned with interesting artwork like some hip apartment in a trendy part of town. The patio is more casual still and perfect for sharing dishes and boisterous conversation with friends.
It’s very much possible, and recommended, to make a meal out of sharing a variety of appetizers at Cristiano. The star has to be the chargrilled oysters, unique among Drago’s imitators with the inclusion of sweet red pepper to the buttery, garlicky mix. The fried green tomatoes, topped with lump crab meat remoulade, are a close second. Be prepared to order another round.
If Cristiano’s year-round fare wasn’t enough, open the menu and you’re greeted by their seasonal dishes: unique plates focusing on the current season’s fresh offerings. Each one usually consists of a soup, salad, a handful of appetizers, and a number of entrees. Recurring themes seem to be fantastic carpaccio (thin slivers of raw beef) served upon a marble slab, duck confit (cooked in its own fat), and lots of great seafood. At the moment, the Summer menu features amazing chili-fried oysters, curried mussels, and pan-seared sea scallops.
Specials are a specialty at Cristiano. If you’ve somehow exhausted the regular and seasonal menus, there are the daily specials. If you aren’t already following the restaurant on Facebook, the staff posts fresh preparations of gnocchi, risotto, pasta, fish, and more every afternoon. The pillowy gnocchi and creamy risotto can’t be matched, or sometimes even found, elsewhere in the area.
It’s difficult to advocate saving room for dessert here when it’s possible to fill up entirely on appetizers, but you may regret not doing so when your server recites the available desserts. Italian classics like tiramisu and gelato are fantastic, but listen for any dessert specials. They’re always great and usually accompanied by a scoop of one of the great gelatos. Plan to share at least one with the table.
The secret to enjoying Cristiano, not that it’s difficult, is to go in expecting to indulge, preferably with others in the same mind set who are willing to order almost the entire menu just so they can try a bit of everything. When that happens, nothing can go wrong.
Cristiano Ristorante | 724 High St, Houma, LA 70360 | (985) 223-1130