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Diary For Fri., 2/22/2019. Nephew’s Found And Enjoyed At `Last.

A few days ago in this spot I told a pathetic tale of my inability to find the restaurant in Metairie called Nephew’s. My wife Mary Ann had been pushing me to dine in that relatively new place, but every time I went looking for it, I failed. Even though I had a map, an address, a reservation in which the reservationist told me exactly where the place was, I didn’t see anything that looked like a restaurant.

Tonight, my daughter Mary Leigh was hell bent on my breaking through. Mary Ann encouraged this, because she felt that my puzzlement about something so allegedly simple was making me look bad in public. ML has such a sharp mind that she surely would unearth Nephew’s. And she did. But even she had a difficult time pulling into the parking lot in front of the place. It couldn’t be harder to see if it had been designed that way on purpose.

Perhaps it was. Nephew’s is the rebirth of Tony Angello’s, which closed a few years ago after Mr. Tony passed away. In its heyday in the 1970s, Tony Angello’s was so popular with its regulars that its telephone was unlisted. And, come to think about it, the idea of making Nephew’s hard to find might make for a clever public relations concept.

Judging by my first visit to Nephew’s, all the elements for a successful restaurant seem to be there. The dining room is handsome–as it was when this was Caffe Fresco, a mediocre neighborhood place. (If anyone had told me that while I was searching, I would have found it right away.) The staff is sharp and professional, which makes sense given that most of the people working there came from the old restaurant.

And, best of all, the food is good. Here are all your favorite dishes from Mr. Tony and company. The chief Nephew is Frank Catalanotto. Mr. Toney was his uncle. Chef Frank significantly improved a good bit beyond what I remember from the last decade of Tony Angello’s. Puzzling enough, it was Frank who was in the kitchen more than Mr. Tony in those last years.

food background a pile of beautiful spaghetti

One aspect that did survive was the page of table d’hote dinners. Tony Angello’s was famous for putting out complete dinners of some eight to twelve small courses for an attractive price. They were well ahead of the game in this, although the Millennials will probably ask if they can choose their own courses.

A big plate of steamed artichokes came first for ML, and a half-dozen baked oysters Bienville–always a Tony Angello specialty. Then some caponata–a distinctive starter from Sicily, which is where all the key figures at Nephew’s come from. I wanted to have chicken spiedini, but it was off the menu tonight. The very successful alternate was another Sicilian classic: bracioloni. This version is made with panned pork, and it was spectacular, particularly as regards the red sauce. MA, who is as picky as her mother, found this especially fine, in the form of chicken Parmigiana.

I wrapped the dinner up with, of course, spumone. The evening couldn’t have been more pleasant. A longtime friend I haven’t encountered in many years was there. He was at my wedding, where he gave me a gift of 1970 vintage Chateau Lafite. How could I forget that?

Fettuccine

From what we experience tonight, Nephew’s is set to become one of the best restaurants in Metairie, which could use a few first-class restaurants. But this is not the best of locations. Driving in either direction on West Metairie Avenue, along those deep canals that run alongside throughfares, is not inviting. For certain, Nephew’s needs a more visible sign. Even so, I look forward to dining here again, soon.

Nephew’s. Metairie: 4445 W. Metairie Ave . 504-533-9998. Dinner only, TU-SA.

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Steak Pizzaiola

Only Italians (and particularly Tuscans) understand how excellent their tradition of steak cookery is. Here’s a distinctly Italian approach to steak that also has a touch of the South (of Italy). It reveals a second secret: how well steak goes with tomato sauces, especially those on the spicy side.

  • 4 strip sirloin steaks, 12-14 oz. each
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin) or 6 Tbs. butter
  • 4 large cloves garlic, sliced thin (not chopped)
  • 1 Tbs. chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 28-oz. can Italian plum tomatoes, plus 1 cup of juice from can
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves only, chopped

1. Trim the steaks of any gristle or excess fat–if you like. (Steaks taste better if you leave all that on during the cooking, and cut it off as you eat.) Season the steaks more generously than your instincts tell you with salt and pepper. Pound the steaks on a cutting board with your fist to flatten them a little.

2. Heat about the olive oil or butter in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, until the oil is simmering or the butter bubbling. Add the steaks and sear for about two minutes on each side. (They’re ready to turn when, after they stick to the pan at first, they break loose somewhat.)

3. Lower the heat a little and add the garlic and onion. Cook those with the steaks until they brown. Remove steaks to a pan in the 250-degree oven.

4. Lower the heat under the skillet to medium-low. Add the red wine, crushed red pepper, tomatoes, and tomato juice, and bring to a light boil. Simmer for five minutes, then add the parsley and oregano. Add salt and red or black pepper to taste if necessary. (Be conservative, because the steaks are salted too.)

5. Remove the steaks from the oven and spoon the sauce over each one.

Serves four.

AlmanacSquare February 26, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Today Is February 25, 2019
St. Patrick’s Day–March 17
St. Joseph’s Day–March 19
Easter–April 21

Today’s Flavor

Today is allegedly National Pistachio Day. The best use of pistachios in New Orleans is the dipping of the ends of cannoli in them at Angelo Brocato’s. Which, like most makers of ice cream, makes bright green pistachio flavor. (It’s the green part of spumone, too.) That flavor is so delicious that I wonder why it’s not more often used. As in pistachio sno-balls. Pistachio bread pudding. (I think I’ll try that myself.) Or in savory dishes. Indeed, I couldn’t think of a non-sweet use of pistachios, other than eating them right out of the shells. (Remember when there used to be gum machines filled with red-shelled pistachios? I can’t remember the last time I did, but it has to be twenty years.)

The more I thought about this the more intrigued I was. So started looking through a few cookbooks. Finding nothing there, I did a web search and came up with a bunch of grower organizations that seemed to be quarreling with one another about aflatoxins and the difference between machine-shelled and hand-shelled nuts. Nuts!

Pistachios originally came from Iran, which produces more pistachios than any other country. The United States (you could say California) is a close second. They’re very good for you. Eating them in the shell is so slow that you stop before you can eat the equivalent amount of peanuts.

Louisiana Food Celebrities Celebrating

Today is the birthday of three notable people who have been important parts of the local culinary world. Ladies first: Marcelle Bienvenu worked at Commander’s Palace in the 1970s, then went on to become an important figure in the general food scene. She wrote a book for Time-Life Books about Creole and Cajun food, and it became a hard-to-get classic. She would later write most of Emeril Lagasse’s cookbooks. She is currently one of the key people in the culinary program at Nicholls State University. I knew her from the University of New Orleans before any of the above.

This dish, called Veal Marcelle, was for a long time a much-liked dish at Commander’s Palace, and named for Marcelle Bienvenu, food writer and educator .

For ten years, Dick Brennan Sr, Marcelle and I had dinner together at Commander’s Palace. If only I had kept a diary of those dinners!Joe Cahn called himself the Comissioner of Tailgaiting. He was also the founder of the New Orleans School of Cooking. Chef Dennis Hutleywas the chef of the five-star Versailles, then opened his own restaurant called Le Parvenu in the early 2000s. He is still active as a chef.

Annals Of Closing Time

Today in 1945, as World War II was in full tilt, a midnight curfew went into effect for all bars and nightclubs everywhere in America. Wow. That must have been rough here in New Orleans. I’ll bet that gave the restaurant business a boost.

The Physiology Of Eating

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was born today in 1852. He ran a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, and promulgated many offbeat theories of health. One of those was vegetarianism. Another was “fletcherization,” in which one chewed each biteful of food a hundred times before swallowing. He thought people should eat a diet that was primarily grain, and his brother William K. Kellogg created the famous cereal company to make that easier. About half of Dr. Kellogg’s radical ideas actually make sense. But plenty of them were as nutty as a pistachio.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Hot Coffee, Mississippi is literally a wide spot in MS 532, some 20 miles west of Laurel. The place got its name from an old grocery store where farmers on their way to market stopped for hot coffee and cakes. The name has become a matter of fun for the people in those rolling farmlands. A sign that says “Entering Hot Coffee” is followed a few yards later by one that says “Entering Downtown Hot Coffee.” After a few yards more, you’re advised that you’re “Leaving Downtown Hot Coffee” and then “Leaving Hot Coffee.” All that in about a quarter mile.

Edible Dictionary

Malpeque oyster, n.–An excellent population of oysters from Malpeque Bay, on the north coast of Prince Edward Island in southeast Canada. The oysters are of the same species found down the Atlantic coast and into the Gulf of Mexico. But because the water is much colder than it is down here in Louisiana, the oysters don’t get as large. The flavors become concentrated for the same reason, though, and these are excellent oysters. They are much liked in France, which imports many Malpeques.

Food Namesakes

Antoine “Fats” Domino, a major figure in early rock ‘n’ roll, was born today in 1928. He passed in 2017. He has both a food nickname and two restaurant names. And he had a hit song with a food name: Blueberry Hill. But he’s known for his music more than his eating. He’s not very fat anymore–hasn’t been for a long time. A true-blue Orleanian, he still lived in the Lower Ninth Ward when Katrina hit. He lost everything there, but he rebuilt. Good old Fats! . . . Theodore Sturgeon, an American author of science fiction, was born today in 1918. . . Charles D. Baker, the mayor of Las Vegas during that city’s Rat Pack boom years of the 1950s, was born today in 1901. . . Big-league pitcher Preacher Roe took The Big Mound today in 1915. . . Currie Graham–who has a rare double food name–was born today in 1967. He played the station commander in NYPD Blue.

Words To Eat By

“You think that I am cruel and gluttonous when I beat my cook for sending in a bad dinner. But if that is too trivial a cause, what other can there be for beating a cook?”–Martial, ancient Roman author.

Words To Drink By

“Well, as he brews, so shall he drink.”–Ben Jonson, Every Man in His Humour.