April 23, 2014

Press

Our Beautiful Oak - An exclusive social magazine for the residents of Beau Chene

RESTAURANT REVIEW by: Tiffany Turner

A special thank you goes out to Mark Benfatti and staff for hosting Our Beautiful Oak’s first restaurant review on January 15th at N’Tini’s in Mandeville.  The  resident attendees all enjoyed seeing some familiar faces as well as meeting some new ones.  The food and hospitality were both exceptional, as was the company.

The chef prepared a four-course menu, which included the following:  Corn and Crab Bisque, Shrimp and Mixed Greens Salad  with Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette, Beef Filer & Lobster Tail served with Drawn Butter and a Summer Squash Medley, Sweet Potato Cheesecake.  (Pictures are below.)

The main course was voted the favorite course by most of the guests. Honorable mentions were the Corn and Crab Bisque and Sweet Potato Cheesecake.  Each course that was prepared was delicious and well presented.  Everyone agreed that the cleanliness, atmosphere, and food were all excellent.  One thing that everyone commented on was the exceptional service we received from the staff, which was both friendly and prompt.  After tallying the votes for the overall experience, the residents rated N’Tini’s as a great restaurant that they would recommend to their friends.

N’Tini’s opened in Mandeville in 2007, and today is a common name on the north shore winning several “Best of” awards over the past few years.  What many people may not know is, owners Mark Benfatti and his wife Donna, have been in the restaurant business since 1996.  Prior to opening N’Tini’s in Mandeville, the couple lived in St. Bernard Parish where they first opened Arabi Diner.  in 2000, they opened a second location, and not long after that they opened a coffeehouse, Espresso Yourself Custom Coffee.  With 3 successful restaurants up and running, they had a vision of New Orleans Steak and Martinis now known as N’Tini’s, which initially opened in St. Bernard in 2004.  We all know the devastation hurricane Katrina brought to that area and the Benfatti’s did not escape tragedy.  They saw many years of hard work washed away and vowed to never return to the restaurant business.  Not long after, they found themselves in St. Tammany Parish, where they ran across a restaurant that was up for sale and they decided to give the restaurant business one more try.  With their extensive knowledge of the business, attention to detail, and exceptional quality of the meals they serve, it is no wonder why N’Tini’s has earned its place as one of the best restaurants in this area and one of the only restaurants that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

N’Tini’s offers the most extensive and creative martini menu on the north shore, which makes it a great place to meet and unwind after work.  After you experience one of their famous martinis, head into the dining room where you will find a friendly server and a menu with a variety of choices to please any palate.  There are a number of appetizer choices that include several seafood option such as BBQ Shrimp and Crab Cakes, but my personal favorite is the Onion Rings that are crispy and seasoned to perfection.  Although many of the patrons that come to N’Tini’s order a steak because they are always tender, juicy, and cooked to perfection, a number of original seafood dishes are offered.  The Shrimp and Grits is always a good choice as well as the Redfish.  To check out their full menu, visit their website: www.ntinis.com .

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LIVE FROM MANDEVILLE IT’S… N’TINI’S Steak and Martinis

by Pam Hijuelos

Because of the daily slow crawl driving down Hwy. 190 in Mandeville, I invariably turn my head to survey the shops and restaurant and wonder….Maybe I can stop at Chico’s on my way home… I’d love a pair of those colored denim jeans…where’s the Rapture store…there it is… Martin’s Wine Cellar may have that bottle of …look at N’TINI’S…always lots of car in front of their restaurant…The Eating Club should go there…oh me…why do I take this way?

And so that’s exactly what we did…go to N’TINI’S, that is!  Yes, the North Shore Eating Club was definitely in that number on one warm, muggy Thursday, July evening. I am here to tell you that every table was filled with customers, food, spirits, conversation and laughter. Not only was the bar hopping to standing room only patrons, but there were folks jammin’ to the live band on their outdoor patio. How refreshing! People of all ages having fun!

It didn’t take us long to discover that N’TINI’S is not your basic restaurant that simply prepares and serves food.  I know, a  bizarre statement, but N’TINI’S can be…and trust me on this….a way of life, more specifically, a social life.

Ok…hold on to that thought, as I take you to the beginning of our N’TINI’S experience when we were presented with the impressive black book of Martinis.

One Espresso Martini labeled “one of the best” by a club member, one Pinot Grigio, a house Cabernet, a Coke and a glass of ice water was the best we could do on a work night.

After perusing the Southern Creole Menu, my eyes drifted to the page outlining the history and background of the owners, Mark and Donna Benfatti.

Originally, from St. Bernard, they were swept here by Hurricane Katrina. Having lost their homes and livelihood in the Parish, the Benfatti’s decided not to leave the North Shore after the storm waters and misery receded. They may have lost their physical structures, but their entrepreneurial knowledge and spirit proved capable of transplant. The rest as they say is history since their roots “took hold” and flourished at the N’TINI’S location of 2891 Hwy. 190, Suite D.

As we sipped our drinks and acclimated ourselves to the movements and sounds of a busy restaurant, we were surprised and delighted with a table-side visit from owner, Mark Benfatti.  It didn’t take more than 10- 15 seconds to lose touch with reality and be convinced my husband and I had known him all our lives.

“I’m sure he was in our wedding” I said!  “A groomsman, possibly”?

“Definitely, an usher”, replied my husband.

With the engaging personality of the owner, we can only hope our recollections of the evening were accurate and the food was as good as we actually recalled. Beware and n’joy the review.

Perfection!  I’m talking about the appetizers, which N’TINI’S refers to as Starters. This is as good a time as any to include a necessary disclaimer time. Here goes…In spite of the fact that we are each influenced by our own frame of reference, the Eating Club members can only vouch for their particular experience at a restaurant, but… oh my goodness… Oysters N’TINI’S is a must for oyster lovers.  Mmmm…broiled Louisiana oysters with andouille dressing! A very satisfied member offered, “Make sure to have bread to dip in the leftover oyster sauce/dressing because it is delicious.”

Crab Cake Napoleon was another mini-feast. It was a jumbo crab cake and a panéed eggplant stack with a sherry cream sauce. “Tasty and rich….could eat as an entrée” said one of the members. “When dining at N’TINI’S, we would definitely order it on a regular basis” were the shared comments of club members.

I was the only one to order a salad and I went for one of my favorites, the Wedge. I asked for an extra side of dressing because I never have enough to suit me, but I’m here to tell you, I didn’t need it!  The chilled iceberg lettuce, the house-made blue cheese dressing amidst the crumbles, and the petite diced tomatoes made me salivate as I wrote this. By the way, I asked them to hold the bacon…and it was still delicious!

The bread…the bread…the fresh, warm bread…and the creamy whipped butter that tastes like happiness and spreads so easily!!!!  They make me crazy!!!  Why do restaurants do it?  Why?! (I’m sorry. Let’s move on.)

As for the entrees, one member ordered the 6-oz filet served with a brown butter parmesan and asparagus beignets and Brabant potatoes. The club member, a real stickler when it comes to steak, said “I found it extremely tender, tasty and cooked medium rare like I requested.”   I, who am now a vegetarian 90% of the time, actually took two bites and possibly, when I am in that 10% open door beef range, I just may go for it. I admit it.  It was very tasty, but spoken like a true veggie…it was all about the Brabant potatoes, (Louisiana French fries). They are soooo good.  Entrée cost $20.

Another member chose the Daily Special, BBQ ribs with baked beans and coleslaw.  He said, “Very good…a straight forward presentation.  The ribs were delicious, tangy, moist and so tender the meat fell off the bone. Good portion size with plenty to take home.” Entrée cost $20.

I ordered the cast iron seared Mediterranean Redfish served with spinach artichoke orzo risotto, topped with house-made olive salad.  I am serious when I tell you I could have gone back the very next day and eaten the exact same dinner.  Yes, it was that good!  The grilled fish was so juicy and tender. The flavors of the olive salad topping complimented the entire dish. Entrée cost $24.

Another entrée From the Sea consisting of beautiful jumbo shrimp in a Creole tomato sauce surrounding jalapeno cheese grits. It had a little kick and reminiscent of Shrimp Creole. We do love our grits, don’t we?  Entrée cost $24.

No room for dessert, we ordered a Bananas Foster bread pudding to go. Well, bless his heart, after brewing his coffee and a hot cup of tea for me, my husband left the bread pudding in the microwave about 12 seconds too long.  I could have wept.

Later that evening, on a whim, my husband and I decided to return to N’TINI’S the very next morning for their recently featured RISE AND SHINE breakfast. Delighted to find another breakfast place in Mandeville, I had the sautéed mushrooms, shallots, leeks and baby spinach wrapped in a 3 egg white veggie omelet. It was delicious and I highly recommend it. My husband had the Country Breakfast, 2 eggs over easy, bacon, biscuits and gravy.  Each breakfast cost a very reasonable $6.95.

It is unacceptable for the Eating Club members to review N’TINI’S and not offer our condolences to the owners, staff and customers for the profound loss of their beloved Executive Chef, Ryan Toussaint. He was recently killed in a tragic car accident where he was a passenger. We extend our heartfelt compassion to the Toussaint and N’TINI families.

It could be said that N’TINI’S strength and popularity can be found in three words, something for everyone.  Since Mark and Donna admit to a lively passion for entertaining their customers, activities include wine tastings, evening entertainment with live music and outdoor dining on the patio, dinner and movie nights, comedy lineups, a SAINTS Bus/Meal package, and then…with a few modifications…it’s  a nightclub, a dance floor, a DJ and the sounds of Motown.  Private parties, business meetings, events, catering? No worries…the Lagniappe Room!!  And then there’s Happy Hour!   How’s Monday thru Friday, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.?  To explore dates and events, see the N’TINI’S Activity Calendar at www.ntinis.com

Whether a dinner for two or the entire krewe, N’TINI’S encourages reservations; however, walk-ins are welcome…as well as “take out”. For reservations, hours of operation; info on lunch specials, bar specials, and the daily special that ranges from steak to martinis, call (985) 626-5566.

CHEW DAT!  Q & A with N’TINI’S, Mark Benfatti

Q.  Which smell turns you on the kitchen?

AThe aroma of a great filet sizzling on the grill.

Q.  What smell turns you off in the kitchen?

A.  Rosemary.

Q.  What noise do you love to hear in the kitchen?

A.  The sound of the printer sending tickets to the kitchen.

Q.  Name one other favorite, restaurant in the area?

A.  Café Lynn. Joey does an excellent job.

Q. Why did you choose the name N’TINI’S?

A. To tie New Orleans and martinis together.

Q.  What would you like to hear God say if and when eating at your restaurant?

A.   {I} Wish Jesus was here to enjoy it.   

 …as does the North Shore Eating Club. Thank you, Mark and Donna. Great job.

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Local artist Jax Frey was featured in the newspaper with her wonderful painting hanging in N’Tini’s Restaurant!

 N’Tini’s made into The Times Picayune 2012 Bar Guide!!

” N’Tini’s is the place for a thick steak and a stiff martini, not to mention a sharp mix of business types and folks looking to relax. ”

Click here to read the full article!