Hungry Like the Wolf
Pesce Crudo – American Red Snapper

When chef Brian Burns began contemplating his next restaurant project after finding success with Costera, the beloved Uptown Spanish eatery, it didn’t take long to arrive at a concept.

“‘Northern Italian’’ is a good way to differentiate ourselves from what most Italian restaurants are in New Orleans, which is Sicilian,” said Burns. “You think of your red gravy Italian here, and that has to do with the influx of Sicilian immigrants, historically. We were looking for something that was kind of in our wheelhouse, a cuisine we were excited about, and one that we felt was underrepresented in the city. My partner, Reno De Ranieri, is second generation Italian. He had a lot of input and was a big piece of the drive for the identity of the restaurant.”

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That concept eventually became Osteria Lupo, a spacious, comfortably posh affair on Magazine Street specializing in the culinary delights native to the upper portion of the Italian boot. The menu focuses heavily on cuisine you’d find typical to Tuscany or the Ligure, with an emphasis on fresh pastas and heavy use of their traditional wood-fired oven. 

Burns is no stranger to the wood-burning hearth, having made his bones on the starting kitchen team at Peche. The oven plays a similarly crucial role at Osteria Lupo, which Burns employs on a modest selection of pizzas, all of which bear the hallmark bubbly, textured crust you can only get from high heat and properly fermented dough. “You get that wonderful ‘leoparding’…I don’t know if there’s a better word for it. It’s beautiful, tasty, aeromatic, crisp. It checks all the boxes.”

Not that you’d mistake Osteria Lupo for a pizza joint. For small plates, a luscious burrata served with pistachio salsa verde and aged balsamic alongside house-made, toasted focaccia is a standout. “This is summertime food,” says Burns. “It’s a slam dunk.” And one would be remiss to not indulge in the arancini with black truffles, fried to crisp perfection on the outside and oozing glorious cheese, rice and mushroom umami in each bite. On the lighter side, a simple crudo of Gulf fish adorned with a tomato-walnut pesto and Arbequini olive oil sets the senses alight without weighing you down.

Then, of course, there’s the pasta, all handmade fresh in-house. From campanelle loaded with mushrooms to a classic bucatini carbonara with guanciale and egg, and even spaghetti alla chitarra with Maine lobster, Osteria Lupo’s dedication to the pasta arts is no less than admirable, and certainly delicious. A true standout recently featured radiatori with luscious Louisiana blue crab that manages to be both creamy and light, with just the right amount of spicy “pop” from fresh chiles. 

On the heartier side, the wood-fired lamb rack is a serious crowd-pleaser and one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, and the seared yellowfin tuna served with a sauce loaded with fresh herbs, garlic and anchovies then paired with kalamata and cerignola olives is excellent for sharing, and feels satiating without being heavy.

The name, “Lupo,” comes from the Italian word for “wolf.” “‘In boca al lupo’” means ‘in the mouth of the wolf,’” explains Burns, “which roughly translates to ‘break a leg’ or ‘bon chance.’ In the restaurant business, it definitely felt appropriate.” If you head to Osteria Lupo for a leisurely dinner, you’ll certainly come to realize that no luck was needed here.  Although, seeing a menu so deep with Italian fare realized with such care and attention, a visit there might indeed warrant a wolf-sized appetite.

Osteria Lupo, 4609 Magazine St., 504-237-1268,

Hungry Like the Wolf

About the Chef

Chef Brian Burns grew up 10 miles outside of Chicago but fell in love with New Orleans after moving here to attend Tulane. After bouncing around local kitchens for a few years, he traveled to Paris to attend culinary school, and worked at Château Cordeillan-Bages, a Michellin starred restaurant north of Bordeaux. After finding himself cooking as far afield as Melbourne, Australia, Burns found his way back to New Orleans to work at Stella, Herbsaint, and then at Peche, where he eventually became chef de cuisine. In 2019, he opened the Spanish eatery Costera, after which Osteria Lupo followed this past spring. More than anything, Burns is delighted to consider Uptown, and particularly Magazine Street, his home. “We love it here, and we plan on being here for a long, long time, and continuing to enmesh ourselves in the community,” he says. “I’m nothing but grateful for how it’s worked out so far.”