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."
Often referred to as simply "The Pie," The Original Italian Pie has cropped up in various cities across Louisiana since its inception in 1992. The eatery specializes in gourmet pizzas, with predesigned pies like the garlic shrimp and chicken alfredo, as well as create-your-own varieties. The Italian eats also extend to oven-baked sandwiches, pastas, calzones, and dessert.
At the tender age of 7, Andrea Apuzzo began honing his culinary skills at a bakery in his Italian hometown. "I was spoiled as a kid. We made our own olive oil and wine,” he says in a Gambit article. His breadth of knowledge expanded greatly when, at 14 years old, he embarked on a culinary adventure across Europe and South America. Now at the helm of his own restaurant, Chef Andrea applies the knowledge he learned amid the cream-hued rising loaves and on the chattering South American streets.
The dishes that fill tables at the eatery have been enjoyed by the likes of Queen Elizabeth, President Carter, Sophia Loren, Clint Eastwood, and one dog that figured out how to use a credit card. To share his abilities and experiments, the chef also publishes cookbooks, which detail formulas for the award-winning pastas, fresh seafood, and steaks. Chef Andrea's bistecca pizzaiola earned a place on Esquire's 2008 list of the 20 Best Steaks in America. "Like the best Italian dishes," the article says, "its simple parts add up to an unexpectedly powerful whole."
Affable waiters emerge from Caffe Fresca's kitchen toting bowls of piping hot soup du jour, homemade desserts, and gourmet entrees. Ten specialty sandwiches tempt guests with fillings such as grilled portobello mushrooms, Genoa salami, and smoked turkey. Fresh seafood platters, steaks and chops, and pasta entrees round out the menu and pair palatably with homemade desserts. A recently remodeled dining area with three-toned tiled flooring, wood tables, and chandeliers encourages diners to linger and sip a libation from the bar or discuss the latest in drinking straw innovations.
That's Amor? Pizzeria calls itself the "Home of the Great Debate," in reference to perhaps the most pressing question in all of pizza: Which city has the superior pie style, Chicago or New York? Luckily, diners at That's Amor? don't have to choose between the two. Thin, crispy New York?style pies are decorated with classic toppings, such as sausage, pepperoni, and peppers. Hearty deep-dish pies are also available, littered with a variety of vegetables or specialty accoutrement such as sun-dried tomatoes and meatballs. The menu is also home to a variety of Italian entrees, sandwiches, and appetizers for sharing.
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.