Extinct Restaurants

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Harvey: 3300 Fourth Street

For a restaurant with as long a history as Bertucci’s enjoyed, it wasn’t nearly as well-known as it should have been. However, those who lived on the West Bank–especially if you lived anywhere along the old main traffic corridor that was Fourth and Fifth Streets–you not only knew about it but raved about it.

Because it had been around as long as it had, Bertucci’s had most of the qualities we cherish most in our restaurants. It had the menu and prices of a neighborhood cafĂ©. But it also had tablecloths and a certain old-style formality not often seen in that category.

Like the many other Italian restaurants that opened in New Orleans just before and after World War I, Bertucci’s cooking was Sicilian. But local prejudices against Italians were still current. To ingratiate itself with non-Italians, Bertucci’s seems always to have served many of the dishes you’d find in other local restaurants. It was as famous for its red beans and rice as it was for its spaghetti and meatballs.

And that was saying something. Among those who’d eaten there, Bertucci’s had as luscious a red sauce as any other restaurant in the area, bar none. It made a great gumbo and an even better turtle soup. Seafood never filled a large part of the menu, but it was there, cooked in the New Orleans way.

When the main flow of east-west traffic moved to the West Bank Expressway in the 1950s, what inevitably happened to old main drags across America happened to Fourth Street and Bertucci’s. However, Bertucci’s was close enough to the Jefferson Parish Courthouse to get a good deal of lunch business from it.

Still, Bertucci’s slowly declined in the 1980s, faster in the 1990s. A combination of family attrition and the aging of the regular customers took its toll. In 2003, Bertucci’s closed, but was soon after taken over by some former employees who promised to keep everything the same. That didn’t work out for long, and the restaurant came to an end after almost nine decades of deliciousness.

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