Thursday, January 11, 2018. Visiting Fausto and Rolando. Every time I have dinner at Fausto’s, a long-established impression stays with me: here is a solid representation of the New Orleans-Sicilian style of cooking Italian food. In fact, I’ll take a wider stride and and say that here is the best collection of Sicilian cookery to be found anywhere around town.
But what does that mean to the typical diner? I started thinking about that while crossing the Causeway after tonight’s supper at Fausto’s. It gave me everything I would have wanted from that meal.
It began with a big bowl of mussels. You’ve got to get your mussels while they’re around, which they are right now. Most servings of mussels are in a highly liquid sauce made of white wine, herbs, olive oil and the mussels in their shells. But the southern Italian version would be to serve the bivalves in a sort of marinara red sauce. That is not as popular among mussel fans–who ought to open up that possibility for a change, even though it goes against what is for me a general dislike for seafood with tomato sauce. Tonight, the only way an eater could not like Fausto’s version of the dish is if he didn’t like mussels.
So, consider these comparisons. If Tony Angello’s were still around and served mussels, they wouldn’t be as good as Fausto’s, because of the saucy marinara’s contribution.
Comparison Number Two: Pascal’s Manale has the city’s best fancy oyster dishes (and great raw ones, too) and those shrimp. But Fausto’s has them beat on the veal and chicken dishes, and on the predominantly pasta piles. Fausto’s wide spread of variety in those two areas is fascinating. (Best examples: veal saltimbocca and and fried eggplant.)
Comparison Number Three: Little appetizers eaten with the fingers, like the arancini. Hard not to eat a bunch of these on any visit. Ditto for the fried eggplant.
Comparison Number Four: Fettuccine Alfredo. Impastato’s has everybody beat in the serving of fettuccine Alfredo (including Alfredo’s of Rome itself). Fausto’s fettuccine pasta is a little too thick for my tastes–although I do like most of its other pasta shapes.
Comparison Number Five. Rolled-up pasta dishes like manicotti and braciolone are at least as good at Fausto’s as any other purveyors of that kind of thing. It’s in a close tie with Vincent’s in the making of cannelloni. But then Vincent’s is a decidedly Sicilian-New Orleans Italian place itself. Which is my whole point.
Here are a few more balances to sum this up:
Fausto’s versus the nearby new Rizzuto’s (former Tony Angello’s. They want you to get a steak.
Versus Mosca’s . This becomes less obvious after you’ve eaten the chicken Grandee and the Italian oysters and shrimp.) But here again we have Sicilian against anything else.
Andrea’s seafood dishes in general will top almost any other Italian treatments of fish (but not shellfish), but makes Sicilian dishes in the okay realm.
Then you get into the rare incursions by Italian chefs from the Northeast, which cooks a lot like our guys do (the Sicilian influences are very strong in Big Apple Italian restaurants).
Back to real eating: My entree this night at Fausto’s was fettuccine Carbonara, made with a cream sauce with a good bit of prosciutto. Some will point out that this is a Roman dish, not Sicilian. But then I see a lot of Sicilian tastes in Roman cooking.
My dessert at Fausto’s was a slice of spumone. Angelo Brocato is plenty Sicilian enough for me.
And then Rolando (Fausto’s brother) sat down at my table and we reminisced about the many decades this family has cooked great Italian eats.
Fausto’s. Metairie: 530 Veterans Blvd. 504-833-7121.