Josephine Estelle is an Italian Osteria located at 600 Carondelet Street inside the Ace Hotel in the Warehouse District of New Orleans. It was opened in March 2016 by James Beard-winning Memphis-based chefs, Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman of the A/M Restaurant group. Josephine Estelle, whose name came about by combining the first names of each of their daughters, is the fourth restaurant the pair created, but their first in the New Orleans area. As stated by Izabela Wojcik, Director of House Programming for the James Beard Foundation, “Andrew and Michael represent a new breed of chef: charismatic, friendly, collaborative, inwardly reflective and inspired by personal family heritage and story… The fact that they are best friends and have traveled a parallel road in their careers is also part of the charm.” After years of hard work and preparation, the restaurant is open six days a week for lunch and dinner on weekdays and brunch to dinner on weekends.
Combining classic Italian dishes with the bright flavors of the American South, Josephine Estelle offers southern-inspired Italian meals, using seasonal ingredients, homemade pastas, and recipes that were passed down from the chefs’ “maw maw.” The restaurant showcases signature culinary style combined with craft-centric philosophy. It’s a perfect spot for anyone looking for delicious contemporary Italian food accompanied by a good time. Artisanal cocktails, such as the “balcony view” and “surf club”, craft beer, and an extensive wine list of over 17 options, help shape the causal dining experience with entrees pricing at less than $40.
Josephine Estelle presents itself with a certain exclusivity due to its popularity, making it difficult to get a reservation for the same day. Patrons may reserve days in advance either online through OpenTable or over the phone. Although there some barrier to start off your dining experience, everything is designed for patrons to immediately feel comforted by the warm staff and welcoming atmosphere upon entrance to Josephine Estelle’s dining room. The comforting feeling stems from the owners, who focus on the sense of family amongst the staff. No one is stunted in their own career growth as an employee of this establishment. As a result, the patrons get the best treatment, and therefore are happy to dine again. A/M Restaurant Group focuses on their treatment of people on all ends of the dining experience.
Immediately when you walk inside the building you are greeted by dim atmospheric lighting from the fancy yet modern chandeliers, and soft jazz music coming from the hotel lobby. This instantly sets the mood for a relaxing and exquisite evening. As you enter the restaurant the hostess stand is just past the entrance making the greeting a pleasing part of the experience. A very large and absolutely beautiful bar area is straight ahead, perfect for a pre-dinner drink for early arrivals. The bar is not loud and does not spoil the atmosphere, but rather enhances the experience.
Attending this restaurant gives patrons an opportunity to dress up and wear clothes that they may not normally wear on a regular basis due to the restaurant’s business casual dress code. This begs the question – what does it mean to “dress for success?” According to research, a person who is successful is neatly groomed and follows the dress code appropriately. Additionally, someone who is well dressed for a night out shows they can both afford and manage a nice wardrobe, representing success in itself. An example of what a male patron might wear consists of slacks and a button-down, while a female patron might wear a casual dress or skirt and top. Adding to this experience at the restaurant, the staff wears a classy uniform that consists of black slacks and a black top.
As for the food, this restaurant uses above-average ingredients such as their homemade pastas. Additionally, many of the menu items are written using their Italian names, such as amatriciana and panagrattato, testing their patrons’ culinary knowledge. Josephine Estelle, like many other upscale restaurants in New Orleans, use ingredients brought in from outside the region. This can be attributed to the food desert in New Orleans. A food desert is a “region where people have limited access to healthful and affordable food.” This can be attributed to low income or having to travel to find viable food options. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) further defines a food desert as an area that has a poverty rate greater than or equal to 20%. According to the 2021 census, New Orleans has a poverty rate of 23.7%, officially designating the city as a food desert.
The location of Josephine Estelle is amongst its positive attributes. The restaurant is inside the Ace Hotel, located on Carondelet Street. It is in a central location downtown, close to great shops like D.N.O and Freda, and other restaurants such as Seaworthy, Meril, and Luke’s, all in the heart of the city.
The experience at Josephine Estelle is one where the A/M Restaurant group brings their “best self,” and the patrons do the same. The secret of their success is their motto “Empire is only as strong as its people.” They help the people that work for them develop their talents so they can grow and succeed and have staying power in a very transient line of work. This creates a family of committed employees. According to the owners,“the secret ingredient is family.” All patrons can enjoy their experience as a result of the accommodating nature of the staff, whether through the child-friendly menu or adaptation for dietary requests. This methodology leaves all parties wishing to return.