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Photographs: Katie Walsh

After a long day of eating on the road, we pulled into New Orleans around dinnertime, looking forward to a relaxing sit-down meal and a chance to stretch our legs. We met up with local food writer Pableaux Johnson (who also showed Ed and some of the other SE'rs around when they were in town) and headed over to a funky neighborhood joint called Liuzza's on the corner of Beinville and S. Telemachus in Mid-City. Serving New Orleans-style Italian cookery since the 1940s, Liuzza's has a chill-spot ambiance that invites you to kick back with a frosted schooner of Abita ale—just what we needed.

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Pableaux Johnson and Robb Walsh toast schooners of Abita.

We'd barely begun to sip our brews when Pableaux spotted Times-Picayune restaurant critic Brett Anderson at the table next to us, sharing a "Frenchuletta," Liuzza's muffaletta served warm on french bread, with a few friends. As the menu will tell you, Liuzza's was named this year's "Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant" by the Times-Picayune, one of many awards they've received over the years. We'd apparently picked the right spot.

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My dad ordered a roast beef po' boy, which came overflowing with tender meat and all the fixin's. This ain't your New York deli roast beef sandwich—rather than rare and sliced, the beef is cooked down nearly to the point of (delicious) mush, and the gravy soaks down into the bread. It can get a little soggy on the bottom. After polishing off the first half, my dad flipped the second over, which let the juices even out, making it a bit easier to hold together. It was tasty, but needed a dash of hot sauce and salt.

Pableaux went for the spaghetti and red gravy, the Louisiana version of the pasta and red sauce that south Italian immigrants brought over in the late 19th century. Though it only came with one meatball, the colossal, sauce-covered lump atop his spaghetti was plenty. Judging by how quickly he cleaned his plate, I'd say he enjoyed it.

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I chose the Eggplant St. John, a pile of pasta and creamy artichoke sauce topped with rounds of fried eggplant and shrimp. It was kind of like eggplant parmesan ditched marinara and got with alfredo, except lighter and crunchier. The combination of flavors and textures was wonderful. There was a bit too much pasta in the bowl for the amount of topping, but a couple slices of garlic bread came in handy to sop up extra sauce.

Plates cleared, glasses emptied, we looked around at each other with lip-smacking smiles. What's for dessert?

Liuzza's

3636 Bienville Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70119 (map)
504-482-9120; liuzzas.com

About the author: Katie Walsh is a native Austin writer passionate about food and all things cultural. She holds a degree in sociology and Spanish from UT Austin and is both a columnist and senior editor for multicultural publication TODO Austin.

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