Fratelli's artisanship sets it apart in Prairieville

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
(left to right) Besi, Tony and Govani

A saucy 16 oz ribeye topped with mushrooms, sauteed onions and roasted peppers is my modus operandi. But when it's served over angel hair pasta, it feels like home.

That's what I felt when I tried Govani Neza's Ribeye Giambota at Fratelli's Italian Grille last week. It was over and above what mom would serve to be sure, but it brought a feeling of comfort.

And I don't know about about you, but it takes me a little while to finish a steak that size. That's just what I did. And I soaked up each bite with the Marsala sauce, which is basically a red wine/mushroom/beef stock concoction.

This was a recommendation from Owner of Fratelli's, Govani Neza, who guided me through my meal based on the fact that I wasn't consuming alcohol. He suggested I steer clear of lobster because I wouldn't enjoy it as much without wine.

My server Tasha Sylvest said I could've enjoyed the Lobster Ravioli, one of the most popular dishes on the menu, without wine. It gives me the perfect reason to return soon. I also want to try the manicotti. Sylvest actually said she quit her job recently as a B-Class pipe fitter to work at Fratelli's. She did it because she said she loved the Lobster Ravioli that much.

I was impressed by that because people doing things on instinct excites me. It may seem like she acted on a whim (I thought she was kidding at first), but she did seem happy. She was very helpful as a server. 

She made sure I got fresh bread with my Fratelli's Shrimp Dip, a signature appetizer with jumbo shrimp and artichoke hearts swimming in a garlic alfredo cream sauce.

Although the bread did not arrive instantly, I didn't mind because I realized it was made from scratch and piping hot when it did come. My mouth is watering again just thinking about it.

Since I wasn't drinking alcohol, I tried a sweet tea. Both times it was brought out to me just like I like it with a big lemon wedge. Still, it appeared to be somewhat to Neza's chagrin since he features a solid bar list complete with craft cocktails, local beer, and Italian and fine wines.

Next, I decided to try a basic house salad with ranch dressing. This too was actually impressive. The presentation was great and the salad was just what it should be: romaine lettuce, red onion, julienned carrots and a healthy slice of tomato. I forgot to ask if the ranch was made in house, but I couldn't complain. My guess is probably.

I spoke with Govani during the course of my meal in intervals of his making laps to service other things. He has an authentic accent. Born in the Bronx, NY, Govani is the oldest of three brothers. Fratelli's actually means "brother's" in Italian (before you go start asking where the name comes from). Govani comes from four generations of family restaurateurs. He has roots in Sardinia and Kalabria, but says he holds a German last name, Neza. He's spent time living in other areas of Europe over the course of his life, such as Belgium.

Neza said that he settled in Louisiana 11 years ago. Now he has a wife, three boys and one girl. He also once resided in Houston and in Arlington, Texas. He's a LeBron James fan. 

I asked him if he cooks, too? He said:

"If you open a restaurant, and you don't cook, or tend to the bar and wines, or scrub the bathrooms and sanitize things, you will fail."

I finished my meal with a slice of Italian Cream Cake, topped with icing and shaved coconut. Needless to say you don't leave this place hungry. On the other hand, you may risk embarrassment.

The price range at Fratelli's is $10-$25 bucks. It's very reasonable for the quality product. Govani and his staff are friendly and want you to enjoy your meal.

He also does a lot of takeout and offers the full menu to-go. Fratelli's Italian Grill just opened on May 14 at 17424 Airline Highway. I haven't even mentioned the pizzas. All I know is that Chef Besi "has been on da pizza 15 years," according to Govani.

If the pizza tastes anything like the rolls, sign me up. Grazie Govani! 

*Originally published in the June 2017 edition of the Ascension Gumbo.