WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
DiCristina’s is as close as St. Tammany gets to the old-time, Italian-accented, New Orleans neighborhood restaurant. Its main influence comes from the archetypal Chalmette restaurant Rocky & Carlo’s, including the massive portions, macaroni and cheese everywhere, heavy applications of New Orleans red gravy, poor boys and seafood platters. But this is a much nicer place with distinctly better food.
Fried everything, poor boys and muffulettas, pasta mountains with slopes slippery with tomato and/or cream sauces, and the entire range of local seafood all compete for your appetite. This is a given: there will be too much food. Consider splitting appetizers. Three entrees will easily food four, with leftovers. The macaroni and cheese–with or without red or brown gravy–will grab you even if you don’t want to be grabbed.
Frank and Maria Pyburn opened DiCristina’s in the right place (across from the new St. Tammany Courthouse) at the right time (2004). The courthouse generates a lot of lunch business for that neighborhood. And after Katrina, the many people who relocated to St. Tammany Parish from the washed-away St. Bernard were happy to find a restaurant with the food of (and a family connection with) Rocky & Carlo’s.
A big, utilitarian space with minimal decoration, DiCristina’s fills with lunchers in a hurry and big family groups at night. It’s perfect for the latter, especially when kids are involved. There will be many of those in all age groups. Nobody here will notice if someone of any age is laughing loudly or otherwise having too much enjoyment. The dining room staff could not be friendlier or more accommodating.
»Meat-stuffed fried ravioli, crawfish sauce
Fried eggplant, crawfish sauce
Fried artichoke hearts, marinara sauce
»Fried eggplant, marinara sauce
Cheese fries, brown gravy
Most salads can be had entree-size with chicken, shrimp, or oysters, grilled or fried
»Oyster, shrimp, or catfish poor boy
Hot roast beef poor boy
Meatball poor boy
»Chicken or veal parmesan poor boy
Hamburger poor boy
Grilled chicken poor boy, grilled onions
»Italian, hot, or smoked sausage poor boy
Ham, turkey or roast beef poor boy
French fry poor boy, brown gravy
Grilled shrimp poor boy
»Fried catfish, oyster, shrimp, or combo platter
»Fried soft shell crab
»Spaghetti or baked macaroni with meatballs, veal parmesan, chicken parmesan, or eggplant parmesan
Cheese stuffed ravioli, red gravy
Beef stuffed bell pepper
»Filet mignon bordelaise
Banana cream cheese pudding
»Bread pudding, rum sauce
Chocolate peanut butter pie
Spumoni ice cream pie
FOR BEST RESULTS
Daily specials are very good and should be considered first. (The braciolone, for example, in the last of the four photos) The thin fried onion rings and macaroni and cheese must be included in your order. It gets very busy here around noon; come later if you can.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Really, the portions are too big by a factor of about 52 percent. Taking food home is a negative to me. However, this is St. Tammany, and the hard-working farmer and his appetite are still alive.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Consistency +2
- Value +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar -1
- Hipness -1
- Local Color +1
- Outdoor tables, drinks only
- Good for business meetings
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
The opening of the new St. Tammany Parish Courthouse in Covington some years ago triggered the development of a new cluster of restaurants in the area. Most of the action has been in the sandwich-and-salad category at the lunch hour. But many restaurants around there have had good luck at dinner hours, too. And some have become major draws for diners.
DiCristina’s is among the most interesting of there. With a pleasant dining room and a large menu of some of the best Creole-Italian neighborhood cafe food anywhere in the area, only the vastly oversize portions keep one from going there often with a clear conscience. Unless you have the discipline to stop halfway through a dish.