Frank Bonanno opens Lou's Food Bar -- and we've got the first look

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"Yeah, it's been stressful, and there was a point where I felt like I was going to throw up," confesses Frank Bonanno, who's clinging to a glass of red wine while sitting at the bar of Lou's Food Bar, his newest restaurant that opened last night at 1851 West 38th Avenue. "But now -- now it feels really good, and I've got the best people in the world around me to make this thing work" -- people like executive chef Mike Peshek, who spent five years commanding the line at Luca D'Italia, Bonanno's Italian restaurant at 711 Grant Street.

Lou's, an American comfort food den with an affinity for market-driven French influences, trumpets our favorite kind of board: portly housemade sausages that dribble fatty juices; a formidable charcuterie lineup pimping everything from duck rillettes and duck liver mousse to duck pâté and a salumi plate, paved with various manifestations of pig, including copa, prosciutto and Virginia ham; escargot bobbing in butter; and main dishes that draw from Bonanno's repertoire of pleasurable, classical comfort foods -- spaghetti with mozzarella-stuffed meatballs, enchiladas plumped with carnitas, duck confit a l'orange, hanger steak and a magnificent heap of fried chicken.

"I want this to be a great neighborhood place, and I think it's different from everything else in this neighborhood, but it's also a big departure for me and a risk, because I own the building," explains Bonanno.

But this is Frank Bonanno we're talking about, and as with everything Bonanno touches, Lou's is poised to become another irresistible -- and successful -- restaurant in his growing culinary kingdom.

We sat in on the soft opening of Lou's earlier this week, and we've brought back a bundle of photos to give you a taste of what you have to look forward to.

Melted Gruyère over escargot pooled in butter studded with garlic and specked with parsley. Duck rillettes with pickled cocktail onions and cornichons. Housemade lamb and mint merguez paired with cous cous. The dining room, bedecked with naked wooden tables and vertical wine racks. Bonanno's Lyonnaise salad with duck confit legs and a wiggly, jiggly poached egg. Hunter-style rabbit and chicken pâté with pickled onions, cornichons and a duo of mustards. Housemade Thai-spiced pork and duck sausage over green curried mashed potatoes. Thick-walled bucatini with pudgy, mozzarella-stuffed meatballs swathed in a tomato sauce. Red-chile topped enchiladas rolled with carnitas and served with white rice and black beans. Venison sausage oozing with cheddar and sided with housemade sauerkraut. The minimalist dining room of Lou's, which includes a charcuterie bar with stool seating, booths and tables and additional stools along a back wall. Owner and chef Frank Bonanno in his new kitchen. The Mount Pelee cocktail, made with Depaz Rhum, Smith & Cross Jamaican rum, tamarind puree, house orgeat syrup, served on the rocks and garnished with a fresh ring of lime.

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