In 1976, Augle Lopez finally realized his dream of opening a restaurant that ushered some of the French Quarter's charm and hospitality into neighboring Harahan. His mission is evident in the menu, which blends approachable, homestyle Italian fare with fresh seafood and creole standards. Chefs ladle house-made marinara over delicate angel-hair pasta, dress fresh seafood with classic lafitte and meunière sauces, and fry catfish and shrimp to a crisp, golden brown. Smilie's also hosts large-scale events, such as weddings, banquets, and support-group meetings for oxygen addicts, within their large banquet hall adorned with flowers and white tablecloths.
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."
Overlooking St. Charles Avenue, Mia's Balcony offers Mardi Gras revelers a central view of grand, glittering floats and shimmering beads. But the restaurant isn’t content to host a party once a year; on the other 364 days, visitors cheer on the college, professional, and sock-puppet football games broadcast over the patio's outdoor televisions, and a banquet room is available for private soirees. While watching a Saints or LSU game or just chatting, guests can share small plates of seared scallops on the half-shell or fish croquettes or dig into substantial entrees such as pepper-jelly lamb chops. On weekend mornings, the chefs prepare brunch dishes including creole omelets and veal grillades over grits.
Local artwork, exposed-brick walls, and fireplaces set an inviting scene indoors. Bartenders fill glasses with craft beers, wine, and potent cocktails such as the French 75, a champagne- and gin-based drink based on a vintage recipe.
O'Henrys has served baskets of complimentary salted peanuts to guests since its founding in 1982, and the floors remain whimsically festooned with shells to this day. Owner Rhonda Conley, with more than 20 years at O'Henry's under her belt, works to keep the tradition of the restaurant alive at both locations. Waiters crunch across dining rooms from midday to midnight, bearing plates of freshly ground filet mignon burgers, hearty steaks, and signature Monica cream sauce dishes. Outside, an outdoor balcony scattered with tabletops wraps around the restaurant. The eatery boasts private dining rooms for parties of up to 25 people. It also treats guests to a free new york strip steak if they can prove it's their birthday with a valid ID or by showing video tapes of them not celebrating their birthday the previous 364 days.
Sammy's Seafood Restaurant sits at the center of the French Quarter, surrounded by 18th-century buildings and iron balconies that personify the district. A candy-stripe awning shields a dining patio, filtering sunrays and airborne Mardi Gras beads while offering a view of Bourbon Street's perennial foot traffic. In this quaint setting, chefs prepare fried alligator and crawfish étoufée, just two of the seafood dishes on the creole-inspired menu. Blackened, fried, and heavily spiced dishes comprise the majority of options, hearkening Cajun preparation techniques. Patrons who dine indoors find themselves in a cozy dining room flanked by wooden walls and a brick fireplace.
On a residential street near the river, a little white cottage with a hand-painted sign hosts heaping platters of crustaceans, catfish, rib-eye steaks, and creamy Southern sides. Creamy baked macaroni and potato salad escort fried redfish, frog legs, and soft-shell crab from a kitchen praised by Lonely Planet as "working in its own rarefied air," with each dish ceremonially blessed by a mermaid. Tuesday through Friday, lunch specials pack salads and po boys with oysters and shrimp. A glass of sangria from the bar offers a refreshingly fruity counterpoint to the flavors of the sea.