It's no small feat to whip up one of The Olive Branch Café's gourmet pizzas. The painstaking process begins long before lunchtime, with chefs preparing dough fresh for the day each morning. There's barely a moment to rest before orders begin flying in and the pizza makers spring into action, showering crusts with housemade sauces and high-quality cheeses. Their brows furrowed in concentration, their hands blurs, they layer pizzas with fresh garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and fine spanish olives. Once the pies arrive triumphantly to the dining room, the chefs turn their attention to thick muffuletta subs, plump meatball calzones, and the jambalaya pastas that caught the attention of Gambit’s Best of New Orleans guide.
Out in the casual dining room, beneath warm red walls peppered with abstract art, guests clink glasses, feeling more content than a robot in a microchip factory. There, owner Russell "Rusty" Autry often strolls around the room, greeting newcomers and exchanging jokes with regulars.
When patrons at Red Zeppelin Pizza request Whole Lotta Love, Great Balls of Fire, and Mamma Mia, they're not asking to hear oldies hits. Instead, they're ordering uniquely named specialty pizzas piled with toppings that include Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce and sizzling italian sausage. A guitar, concert posters, and other rock 'n' roll memorabilia dot the tomato and marigold walls, where mounted televisions broadcast footage of Pete Townshend smashing pizzas during cooking-show guest appearances. Twenty-one draft beers and drinks with titles such as Dr. Love and Boo’s Lemon Drop also help wash down sub sandwiches, calzones, and salads. Outside, wrought-iron flames and a sculpture of the pizzeria's namesake blimp guard the entrance of the fenced-in patio from incursions by rival musical genres.
Making cupcakes from scratch with recipes you developed yourself doesn’t just attract swarms of hungry customers—it can also attract the attention of the Food Network. Kim Wood’s batches of artistic and decadent desserts landed her a spot on Cupcake Wars, where she competed with three other confection experts for the chance to be named the kitchen victor. Back in her shop, she crafts the same sweets she made on TV as well as dozens of other cupcake flavors, using only fresh, whole ingredients such as sweet-cream butter, fresh fruit, and cupcake wrappers just plucked from the garden. Her signature flavors—which include key-lime pie, italian cream cake, and chocolate mint—vary by the day, and gluten-free and vegan options are available once per week. Beyond the signature sweets, Wood keeps things interesting by modifying her cupcakes into cake balls, cake pops, and cream-filled whoopee pies.
Clouds of fog roll through darkened halls, concealing mercenaries tracking their target’s movement. Before their trap can be sprung, the unthinkable happens: their vests begin to vibrate as a giggling child yells, "Got you!"Laser Tag of Baton Rouge's family-friendly laser-tag sessions thrust players aged 7 and older into similar faux combat, peppered with flashing lights and thumping music. Players race through a 7,500-square-foot multilevel arena brandishing Gen 6 laser-tag weapons that dole out precise shots and automated score updates. Special scenarios challenge players to work cooperatively toward a shared goal; for instance, in the Fugitive mission, one or two targets must escape a group intent on their capture.
Between bouts inside the arena, players can test their gaming skills at the center's arcade, which is filled with contemporary and classic machines. Each game is outfitted with the Power Play system, a swipe-card-and-sensor combo that tracks remaining game credits, relieving players from the hassle of endlessly fishing for quarters. The arcade also leads to an observation deck that looks onto the laser-tag arena, giving spectators a giant's-eye view of the combat below.
In the kitchen at Fat Molly’s, the hands of chefs flutter above sheets of marinara-cloaked dough, scattering inventive toppings such as gulf shrimp, artichokes, and boudin. Athletic events broadcast on four flat-screen TVs, augmenting the clatter of silverware with the sounds of cracking bats and mascots with their tails under rocking chairs. Drawing upon a selection of meats including fried chicken and smoked sausage, patrons design their own poor boys. Tearing into the sandwiches despite their warmth, they take swigs from 30 beer options, including Abita Purple Haze and Lazy Magnolia’s brown ale crafted from roasted pecans, which bestow the mash with earthy caramel flavors. The eatery's walls are festooned with works by local artists, ranging from a triptych of a jazz musician to an abstract of a stacked sandwich and a poignant deconstrionist piece by the back door, which reads, simply "Exit."
Though they're both made from scratch daily, the two house sauces at Notini's are quite different. One is a plain tomato sauce, rich and ready for pouring over meatballs and Italian sausage. The other is a white alfredo sauce, meant to be mixed with fettuccine and meats such as chicken and shrimp. These family recipes define many of the dishes on the menu—a compilation of classic Italian foods that was created as an homage to the original Notini, Antonio.
Originally from Barga, Italy, Antonio Notini worked in the restaurant industry from the time he immigrated in 1909 until his retirement in 1960. Today, his son and grandsons manage Notini's with a deference to family tradition. They prepare po' boy sandwiches, pastas, and specialty pizzas to go with their signature sauces, and they serve up mint-spiced tea both by the glass and the take-home gallon. Weekly specials reward returning visitors with deals such as all-you-can-eat spaghetti on Wednesdays, which is otherwise only available if you hide out in their kitchen until after closing time.