Sicily natives and Chianti restaurateurs Enrico and Nino Giacalone serve rustic, taste-bud-wooing regional and Northern Italian fare in a romantic atmosphere. Settle in with a glass of Geyser Peak sauvignon blanc ($6.00) or Columbia Crest Two Vines shiraz ($8.25), and stoop to conquer appetizers such as the funghi in padella con granchio, jumbo lump crabmeat and mushroom caps boldly bathed with white wine, parsley, and lemon-butter sauce ($9.50). Entree eaters may become beguiled by oceanic fruits including the Pagello "Albert,” a sautéed snapper as fresh as a mint-scented wink from a stranger ($19.75). Conduct a forked foray into the house signature dish, scaloppini alle noci e more, a flavorful juggling act of veal scaloppini bursting with blackberries and shrimp; sautéed with mushrooms, shallots, and roasted almonds; and flamed with blackberry brandy in a rich cream sauce ($25.95). Hearty portions may sway even selfish sweet teeth to share succulent slivers of the mocha-almond butter cream cake ($4.95).
In West Monroe's countryside, 20 acres of grapevines sway among gently rolling hills and tall, old trees. This is Landry Vineyards, tended by Jeff and Libby Landry and their four sons. They began growing hybrid blanc du bois grapes—specially bred to withstand the South's climate—at their first vineyard in Folsom back in 1999. However, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina leveled their crops, inspiring them to move to higher ground.
Today, the Landrys ferment a full roster of wines from blanc du bois and other hardy Southern grapes. The crisp fruit flavors of semisweet blanc du bois white pair well with spicy Cajun and French-inspired fare, whereas the Envie Rouge—made with red Cynthiana-Norton and black spanish grapes—acquires its spice from oak-barrel aging. The Landrys also import and ferment many grapes that they can't grow, including hand-picked bunches of cabernet from Washington state and California. Though locals have been enjoying the fruits of the Landry family's labors for several years, the vineyard's appearance in a 2012 episode of Duck Dynasty introduced the Louisiana-made wines to a national audience, drawing in droves of customers from all over the country.
Besides sipping wines, customers can visit the picturesque vineyard for tastings and cellar and winery tours. And during regular concerts, they can sip wine among the sounds of blues, jazz, and grapes quietly gossiping about which grape pickers have the softest hands.
At Daiquiri Express, rows upon rows of endlessly rotating machines churn out icy, alcohol-laden daiquiris the same way they have for 25 years. Fruity flavors such as margarita, vodka freeze, and white russian pour out of nozzles and into foam cups, which can be ordered to-go. For large gatherings, Daiquiri Express also slings gallon-sized servings.
Tony's knowledgeable staff helps stock partygoers’ coolers with an impressive liquid arsenal. Like the gritty sequel to Goodnight Moon, liqueur-infused ice cream ($7.99 per pint) showcases an adult version of a childhood classic, replete with mouthwatering flavors such as Baileys mint cream, amaretto, and pralines and cream. Among Tony's well-stocked shelves, liters of Absolut vodka ($28.99 each), and bottles of Skinnygirl Margarita ($14.99) mingle with a selection of more than 100 craft beers. In addition to room-temperature revelry, Tony's preserves the essence of summertime fun with frozen daiquiris ($5.99 for 16 oz., $17.99 for 1/2 gallon), guaranteed to freeze brains faster than a calculus quiz.
Diamond Bowl, a refreshing fusion of bowling alley and robust restaurant, serves as a hangout for pin-battering rollers hungry for lane-thundering action and thirsty for food. Games ($5) on Diamond’s eight lanes keep hook-happy fingers limber, and shoes ($3) safeguard feet from toe-stomping sore losers. Follow up your fourth turkey with tangible foodstuffs from Diamond's full menu, such as the blackened-salmon sandwich on a kaiser roll ($7.99), the well-rounded bowling burger ($7.49), or the crispy chicken-tender salad ($8.99). Serious contenders can take a break from finger calisthenics to enroll in one of Diamond Bowl's leagues, and casual players can pair their match play with drinks from Diamond’s fully stocked bar, or they can watch a less phalange-intensive sport on one of nine crystalline HD TVs. Hourly games are also available.
Since 1984, Shreveport has paid tribute to a cherished Louisiana tradition—the crawfish boil—with its annual Mudbug Madness Festival. As many as 56,000 people flock each day to what has blossomed into one of the state’s most popular Cajun festivals, where they nosh on succulent seafood and compete in crawfish-eating contests that encourage participants to test their stomach size and sabotage their opponents by sneaking lobsters into their bowls. “One year, we had a man eat 42 pounds of crawfish in 30 minutes,” marvels festival coordinator Melanie. “We’ve cut it down to 15 minutes since then.” In addition to eating crustaceans, attendees can also lure them across the stage during crawdad-calling contests. “It gets really lively,” Melanie says, describing how the sirens-in-training are allowed to do nearly anything they can think of to entice the crawfish into their reach.
Cajun, zydeco, and jazz tunes waft through the air during the festivities, emanating from three stages helmed by headliners such as Wayne Toups, Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr., Super Water Sympathy, and Windstorm. The rhythms reach the ears of shoppers browsing original artwork and handmade jewelry in the arts area, expanded after previous years' success. On Thursday, local athletes can work up an appetite in the 5K race. Children of all ages burn off energy in the kids' area, where they can somersault in the bounce house, tackle art projects, or plop down in front of a stage where magicians and storytellers keep their young minds off the uncertain fate of lollipop futures.