For the last three years, Latte e Miele has wooed Baton Rougeans with its subtly flavored, impeccably textured Italian gelato—no small feat in a region built on unrestrained goodies like pralines and bread pudding. Co-owner Luca DiMartino makes his base from scratch, a rarity among American gelaterias, and he is intent on pursuing as many regional ingredients as possible. The number of flavors has tripled since the spot opened on Highland Road, in part because gelato converts keep filing in to see what's new and seasonal.
But DiMartino says it was never just about the gelato.
He and his partner and father, Corrado, envisioned a place that would win over customers with something else, a sensory-rich vibe that delivered good eats and promoted community. A second location on Jefferson Highway pushes that conviction even further.
The new Latte e Miele, which opened in Bocage in June, enables the DiMartinos to expand their menu and create an experiential spot where all manner of hanging out—and savoring—is possible. Interested in an Illy Italian espresso or a snifter of brandy at the bar? Check. How about a sandwich built from homemade bread, local vegetables and herbs and imported cured meats and cheese? Check. Care to bring Fido to an outdoor table and toss him a homemade dog biscuit? Go right ahead. Gelato is still front and center, but it's now joined by a range of culinary and interior design elements meant to round out the experience. The place fuses the Eat Local movement with a modern European café, a point revealed upon entry with an expansive recycled cypress table made by a St. Francisville artist set off by a modern light installation composed of hundreds of glass bubbles and acrylic mirrors.
Sophistication notwithstanding, DiMartino says his intention is to make people of all ages and stripes feel comfortable.
“I hate to say 'Third Place,' because it's so overused,” he says about the label placed on coffeehouses and community gathering places. “But that's exactly what we've tried to do—to create a place that is inviting to everyone. Kids and families, couples, singles. Whoever you are, there's a place for you here.”
A vintage jukebox whose operating coins are donated to local charities is aimed at children; a computer nook appeals to students and professionals; and side-by-side bottle and coffee bars provide a cozy post-dinner venue.
Latte e Miele's velvety gelato and cool sorbet sit in a case up front, where they're joined by breads and desserts made by pastry chef Abby Guillot, who recently worked in New Orleans at Commander's Palace and Dorignac's market.
Relentless in his pursuit to infuse new urbanism into the city's suburban corners, DiMartino plans to place tables on the front terrace and will eventually create an intimate nighttime courtyard in the back. He has approached Mayor-President Kip Holden about installing a crosswalk across Jefferson Highway to invite pedestrian activity from the Bocage neighborhood. And, he's putting together an urban garden with fellow Slow Food disciple Chef Nathan Gresham of nearby restaurant Beausoleil on an adjacent acre of land.
“We're trying to create a total experience,” DiMartino says. “One that will build a sense of community and celebrate the incredible ingredients we have here."
Fun with FLAVOR
When I approached Luca DiMartino about a story on Latte e Miele's expansion, I asked him to create a new flavor as a launch pad for a discussion of his craft. Our conversation occurred in early May, and DiMartino, ever the forager, started thinking about what he could pluck from regional vines and larders to demonstrate how a flavor is born. He's been transfixed by the state's year-round growing season since moving here from Boston, and he's made local produce and goods his personal playground. DiMartino enlisted pastry chef Abby Guillot to help collect ingredients.
They found early blooming blackberries on Guillot's plot in Prairieville and set them off with Herbsaint, honey and fresh lemon and sage. Their work resulted in a sultry, summertime gelato I found irresistible. As a good gelato should, this one made its point with admirable restraint.
“The intention is that you taste each of those flavors, and that none of them overpowers the others,” DiMartino said.
Indeed, the resulting dish was the epitome of subtlety and balance. It was sweet, but not cloying; creamy, but not fatty. The fruit was balanced with herbaceousness delivered by the Herbsaint and sage. Honey added complexity, while lemon provided a fresh finish. Blackberry-sage gelato with Herbsaint and lemon is a keeper.—Maggie Heyn Richardson
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Bad Guys, Good Eats! Pop-Up Dinner at Restaurant IPO
Chef and 225 contributor Jay D. Ducote and Chef Chris Wadsworth hosted the Bad Guys, Good Eats! dinner at Restaurant IPO Wednesday night. The dinner was themed around famous movie villains, pairing cocktails and ales with plates of food resembling famous baddies like The Joker, Lord Voldemort, Hannibal Lector, and many others. The highlights of the night were the three middle courses—a black bean soup laced with blood sausage to signify Lord Voldemort, a brace of coneys on black eyed peas resembling Sauron, and lamb medallions atop a fava bean puree to pay homage to the famous favorite of Hannibal Lector.
Elizabeth Arkley Hammett, a local nursing student and Fur Ball co-coordinator, and her husband Grey Hammett III, who works in commercial real estate, will take you through our summer guide. And they'll look good while doing it, too. Where noted, their clothes and accessories are available from local retailers.
These swimsuits will keep you stylish all summer long
Better Block BR
On Saturday the two blocks between Bedford and Beverly drives on April 13, 2013, residents will get to see a model of what Government Street could look like if we push local and state officials to update the roadway to a safer, more "complete street" model.