NOLA's Italian HeritageWhen you think of New Orleans, chances are you think of food—and the mouthwatering Cajun and Creole dishes that originated there are likely the first to come to mind. However, you may not be aware that New Orleans also has a rich history of Italian cuisine and restaurants that rival the city's famed French Creole establishments.
While Italian immigrants always lived in New Orleans, the city’s Italian population swelled with a wave of Sicilian immigrants fleeing danger and corruption in their homeland beginning in the 1880s. Many settled in the French Quarter, known as “Little Italy” for a time, and established businesses and restaurants; some still exist today.
If you're interested in learning more about the history of the Italian community in New Orleans, visit the American Italian Cultural Center , 537 St. Peters St. Next to it, you'll find the Piazza d'Italia , 377 Poydras St., created in 1978 by architect Charles Moore as a tribute to the Italian American community and now the site of St. Joseph’s Day celebrations and other events.
But, you’ll want to experience the rich culinary traditions firsthand with a taste of Italy, New Orleans-style.
The muffuletta may be the most famous Italian addition to the New Orleans food scene. It was created by Salvatore Lupo, who opened Central Grocery in 1906. Lupo sold an antipasto lunch to the farmers who brought produce to the Farmer's Market. When he noticed the men struggling to manage the various items, he combined them on loaves of round bread, and voilà, the muffuletta was born. The sandwich consists of a 10-inch round of bread, sliced horizontally and filled with salami, mortadella, ham, provolone, mozzarella and a marinated olive salad.
If you're wondering where to eat, you can find muffulettas all over town, but why not start with the original? Get in line at Central Grocery Company , 923 Decatur St., and order half a “muff,” cut in half, which is enough to share with a friend. Enjoy it at a counter inside the store or find a bench in Jackson Square for prime people watching.
If you’re craving pizza, head to Louisiana Pizza Kitchen , 95 French Market Place. True to its name, this place puts a decidedly New Orleans spin on its pies. Try the “Jambalaya,” which features Creole sauce, Gulf shrimp, free-range chicken, andouille sausage and fresh mozzarella, or the “Crawfish Étouffée,” topped with local crawfish in a creamy étouffée sauce, fresh mozzarella and scallions.
If you're in the mood for seafood, try Pascal's Manale Restaurant , 1838 Napoleon Ave. This 100-year-old restaurant is known for creating barbecue shrimp in the 1950s, and you can sample this bit of local culinary history in the form of a sandwich. Other tasty Italian takes on Louisiana seafood include “Shrimp Mediterranean”—sautéed shrimp with marinara sauce, roasted garlic, spinach, Kalamata olives and cheese tossed with pasta—and “Oysters Dante,” deep-fried Louisiana oysters over penne with prosciutto and mushrooms.
When you're ready for a break from sightseeing, hop on the Canal Street streetcar toward Midtown, where you'll find Angelo Brocato Gelateria and Pasticceria, 214 N. Carrollton Ave. The Brocato family has been making traditional Sicilian treats for more than 100 years. Rev up with a caffè latte and biscotti or cool off with an Italian soda and a cannoli or gelato.
For dinner, Irene's Cuisine , 539 St. Philip St., offers traditional fare with a Creole twist. Expect a wait at this popular French Quarter spot, but you can order a cocktail and listen to a piano player until your table is ready. Once seated, try the mussels marinara as an appetizer and choose from Italian Creole entrees such as crevette—pan-sautéed fish topped with Gulf shrimp and roasted peppers.95766)
Domenica , 123 Baronne St., puts a casually elegant spin on rustic Italian cuisine. Start with a selection from the list of salumi and imported cheeses. Move on to a gourmet wood-fired pizza or choose from the homemade pasta selections on the primi menu, followed by a secondi featuring gulf seafood. Save room for tiramisu or a seasonal sorbetti or gelati for dessert.
New Orleans, LA
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Louisiana's statewide sales tax is 5 percent; an additional 5 percent is levied in the New Orleans metro area, and Orleans Parish has a .5 percent tax on food and beverages. The city has a 14 percent lodging tax, plus an occupancy tax of $1-$3 per night. The state's car rental tax is 3 percent.
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Ochsner Medical Center, (504) 842-3000; Touro Infirmary, (504) 897-7011; Tulane Medical Center, (504) 988-5263; University Medical Center New Orleans, (504) 702-3000.
1221 Elmwood Park Blvd. Suite 411 New Orleans, LA 70123. Phone:(504)731-7083 or (877)572-7474
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is about 21 miles west of downtown New Orleans in Kenner and is served by nearly all major domestic and foreign carriers.
New Orleans is served by several major car rental agencies. Arrangements should be made before you leave on your trip. Your local AAA club can provide this service or additional information. Hertz, (504) 568-1645 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.
Amtrak uses the Union Passenger Terminal at 1001 Loyola Ave. Daily service is offered. Phone (800) 872-7245 for further information.
The Greyhound Lines Inc. bus terminal is at 1001 Loyola Ave.; phone (504) 525-6075 or (800) 231-2222 for schedule and fares.
Cabs are plentiful in the main business and tourist areas. Average fare is $3.50 initially and $2.40 for each additional mile and $1 for each additional person. The largest companies are Carriage/Yellow/Checker, (504) 207-7777; Metry, (504) 835-4242; and United, (504) 522-9771. Information about taxi service also can be obtained from the Taxicab & For Hire Bureau at (504) 658-7176.
Transportation by bus, streetcar and ferry is available in New Orleans.