Tuesday, October 26, 2010
CAFÉ DIBLASI ITALIAN FARE & SPIRITS A WEST BANK INSTITUTION
Café DiBlasi Italian Fare & Spirits, located at 1801 Stumpf Boulevard in Terrytown, is a Westbank institution. Chef/owner Mario DiBlasi is the 3rd generation of his family to operate a restaurant on the Westbank.
Mario DiBlasi is the son of Anthony DiBlasi and Anna Maria Giovanna Paoli, who met in an area near Pisa, Italy, during World War II. Mario grew up with his parents and siblings in a double on Valette Street on Algiers Point. The family lived on one side of the double and his mother operated A&A Grill (Anna & Anthony) out of the other side serving sandwiches. Years prior, Mario’s paternal grandmother operated Five Points Café at the corner of Opelousas and Bouny Streets.
In 1962, Mario’s father opened Mother’s Restaurant in the Butterich Building (current location of Thanh Thanh Restaurant) on Huey P. Long Avenue near Front Street in Gretna. In 1976, Anthony DiBlasi sold Mother’s and, with Mario and his brother, opened Antony’s Restaurant at 5100 Westbank Expressway near Barataria Boulevard where they served classic Italian fare until 1985.
In 1985, Mario and his wife Mary opened Café DiBlasi at the corner of Stumpf Boulevard and Holmes Boulevard. Since 1996, Café DiBlasi has been in its present location at 1801 Stumpf Boulevard at the corner of Wright Avenue in Terrytown.
Chef Mario prides himself on serving the freshest premium ingredients available. He serves a luscious, thick Sicilian-style red gravy as well as a traditional cream sauce. The dinner menu is filled with classic Italian dishes including Bracioloni (my personal favorite), Veal Marsala, Veal DiBlasi (pan-fried veal topped with lump crabmeat & lemon cream sauce), Ossobuco, and Crabmeat Cannelloni, to name a few. Most dinner items, which include a salad and hot French bread, are in the $16.00 - $20.00 range.
At lunchtime, in addition to the regular menu items, Chef Mario features traditional New Orleans “daily” lunches ranging in price from $8.95 - $12.95. I recently had lunch there on a Wednesday and ordered the Stuffed Bell Pepper served with a salad, baked macaroni, and artichoke casserole. A big, delicious meal priced at only $9.95! Complementing the meal was hot French bread served with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. Other daily specials include Sauteed Veal Liver served with a salad, rice & gravy and a vegetable medley ($9.95) on Tuesdays; Panne Veal served with a salad, baked macaroni, and artichoke casserole ($10.95) on Wednesdays; Crabmeat Fettuccine with a salad and fried eggplant ($10.95) on Thursdays; and Seafood Gumbo served with potato salad ($7.95) on Fridays.
Café DiBlasi attracts an eclectic crowd. The day I was there, the lunch diners included professionals, a family celebrating a toddler’s birthday, office workers, police officers and neighborhood retirees.
In addition to its spacious main dining room, Café DiBlasi has a private room that can accommodate up to 30 people. The restaurant has a full bar and offers drink specials ($2.50 martinis on Wednesdays and $2.50 house wine on Thursdays) at lunch and dinner.
Located at the corner of Stumpf Boulevard and Wright Avenue, Café DiBlasi is conveniently located and easily accessible from the Central Business District via either the Terry Parkway or Stumpf Boulevard exits. There is plenty of free parking in the shopping center parking lot.
The restaurant hours are Tuesday – Friday, lunch from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; and Tuesday – Saturday, dinner from 5:00 p.m. – 9 p.m. For reservations or information, call 504-361-3106. You can check out their website at www.cafediblasi.com.
Whether for lunch, dinner or a private party, Chef Mario and Mary DiBlasi look forward to serving you soon at Café DiBlasi!
Reprinted with permission of The West Bank Beacon.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The Riverbend International Tapas Crawl began in July and has become a regular event held the last Wednesday of the month. Participating restaurants serve a special tapas-style dish of the evening along with a short glass of wine for $5 (cash only). Participating restaurants include: Barcelona Tapas, Brigtsen's Restaurant, Dante's Kitchen, G.B.'s Patio Bar & Grill, Hana Japanese Restaurant, Jazmine Cafe, Saltwater Grill and Sara's Restaurant.
The next crawl is next Wednesday, October 27th from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
In 1971, Russell and Margie Boutte bought a house in Lafitte on Bayou Barataria. The Boutte family lived in the front part of the house where Margie Boutte routinely cooked the family meals. Out of the back of the house, facing the bayou, the Bouttes operated a small grocery store. Local boaters, fishermen, and sportsmen pulled their boats up to the store to buy groceries and supplies. The aromas of Ms. Margie’s cooking wafted over into the grocery store making customers want to buy what she was cooking.
Russell Boutte, Jr. and his wife Katie Areas took over the business in the 1990’s. They have since divorced but maintain the family business together. Ms. Margie still does the “pot cooking,” i.e., red beans, turtle soup, gumbos and all plate lunches.
Boutte’s menu offers a variety of local favorites including fried chicken ($4.75 for ¼; $6.25 for ½), hamburger steak ($6.50) and red beans & rice with either pork chops or fried catfish ($7.00). Sandwiches and po-boys include foot-long oyster po-boys for $9.75 and foot-long shrimp po-boys for $7.00.
Boutte’s also offers broiled seafood items including catfish ($10.50), stuffed flounder ($16.00), and a char-broiled 14-ounce rib eye steak ($15.50), all served with baked potato, salad, and toast. There are two specialties that sound divine: Boutte’s Shrimp Supreme – broiled shrimp in butter sauce, salad, and garlic bread ($11.50), and Shrimp Lover’s Plate – shrimp remoulade, shrimp salad, cup of seafood gumbo, stuffed shrimp, ½ dozen fried shrimp and French bread ($16.00). Child’s platters are available and range in price from $3.75 to $5.50.
The menu offers a nice selection of appetizers: shrimp cocktail, shrimp remoulade, fried crab claws, fried crawfish tails, chicken strips, and crawfish meat pie. (All are $4.75). A full bar offers draft beer, bottled beer, wine, and cocktails.
Boutte’s is open Tuesday – Wednesday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Thursday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. Closed on Monday. The phone number is 504-689-3889. The address is 5134 Boutte Street, Lafitte. (Look for it on the right a short distance after crossing the Goose Bayou Bridge). You can also check them out on their Facebook page. Locals, families, and tourists alike are all welcome at Boutte’s where they will be warmly welcomed by Katie and her friendly, attentive staff.
In 1971, aspiring entrepreneurs Russell and Margie Boutte realized their dream of opening a little bayou grocery store and accidentally became restauranteurs. As Mark Twain said: “Accident is the name of the greatest of inventors.” Boutte’s Bayou Restaurant is a real gem on the bayou.
Reprinted with permission of The West Bank Beacon.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Here is my review of Hoa Hong 9 Roses in Gretna that ran in the March 2010 issue of The West Bank Beacon:
Hoa Hong 9 Roses | South Vietnamese Cuisine in Gretna
In 1984, single mother Tu Doan and her 3 children made the journey from South Vietnam to Terrytown, Louisiana, to start a new life. Mamma Tu had made her living in Saigon as a restaurant cook. Upon her arrival in this area, she brought her skills to Tu Do restaurant on Manhattan Boulevard. Tu Do was one of the first Vietnamese restaurants on the Westbank.
She worked at Tu Do until 1990 when she opened her own restaurant Hoa Hong 9 Roses on 8th Street in Harvey. The whole family, including the children, worked at the new restaurant.
In 1993, Mamma Tu’s oldest child, Ana, graduated from LSU with a degree in Business Administration. After graduation, Ana went to work at the highly acclaimed and very popular Five Happiness Restaurant in New Orleans.
In 1996, the Doan family made the move from the small building on 8th Street to the restaurant’s current location on Stephens Street in Gretna. By this time, Ana was married to Jeff Nguyen and they both joined Mamma Tu in running the new, expanded 9 Roses. Mamma Tu, Ana, Jeff and their families have built 9 Roses into a successful restaurant with a very loyal clientele.
The menu at 9 Roses is extensive and includes Vietnamese and Chinese dishes. The menu in its entirety can be viewed here. For those not familiar with Vietnamese cuisine, it is a lighter style than traditional Chinese food. A constant in the preparation of the food is fresh herbs: mint, cilantro, and basil. Some of the more interesting dishes are those aimed at ethnic Vietnamese; for example, Vietnamese diners routinely enjoy dishes prepared at the table with delicious broths, sauces and fresh herbs accompanying meats, seafoods and vegetables. Deep-fried whole fish served with various sauces is another crowd-pleaser.
For those not quite as adventurous, I recommend introducing yourself to Vietnamese cuisine with one of the two Vietnamese staples: the bun (vermicelli) or pho (soup). Light and savory bun -- topped with either chicken (pictured above), pork or beef -- is served over vermicelli, lettuce, fresh bean sprouts, cucumbers and mint, sprinkled with roasted onions and peanuts. The regular bowl is $6.95 . The dish is full of flavor and delicious.
The pho is the perfect comfort food. On a recent cold day, I enjoyed a bowl of the Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup). All pho is served with a side plate of fresh bean sprouts, basil leaves, cilantro leaves, sliced green chile pepper, and a lemon wedge. You get to control how much of all seasonings go into your pho. I always add a dab of Sriracha (aka Rooster sauce) to my bun and pho for a nice kick. Be careful – it’s hot and a little goes a long way. The regular bowl of pho is $6.95 and is a meal in itself.
The Vietnamese spring rolls are light, delicate, and flavorful. An order of 4 is $5.75. The Vietnamese egg rolls are fried yet still light and delicious and are also $5.75. Other favorites include: lemon grass chicken, $8.75; curry and coconut shrimp, $11.75, and the eggplant in garlic sauce, $7.95. For those looking for bargain lunches, 9 Roses can accommodate you. The lunch menu includes a long list of Chinese entrees served with a choice of soup, rice, and iced tea for $7.25.
I have been a regular at 9 Roses since the early days. The food is consistently fresh and flavorful. The prices can’t be beat for the quality and quantity of the cuisine. The dining room is large and nicely appointed. Big parties and children are always welcome. The restaurant is located at 1100 Stephens Street in Gretna. Lunch and dinner are served continuously from 10:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. every day except Wednesdays. The phone number is 366-7665. 9 Roses is Zagat-rated and was voted the Vietnamese Restaurant of the Year by New Orleans Magazine in December 2009.
Mamma Tu retired a couple of years ago but still serves as Ana & Jeff’s “consultant.” Thanks, Mamma Tu, for sharing your recipes with all of us all these years!
Reprinted with permission of "The West Bank Beacon."