337 Dauphine, French Quarter.
Anthony DiPiazza passed away a few months after Katrina. His last chaffing gig–and there quite a few that bore his stamp–was partnership with his friend Joe Segreto at Eleven 79. Like all of Anthony’s restaurants, that one was deliciously Italian, with more than a few surprises along the way.
A microscopic café in the French Quarter captured Anthony’s style best, though. In its first years, DiPiazza’s served the best food per unit floor space of any restaurant in New Orleans. The room (it’s now the Louisiana Bistro) had space for only 30 or so seats. During the heyday, all of them stayed occupied, as were the pair of pews on the sidewalk in front, with people waiting patiently for their turn at Anthony’s food.
DiPiazza’s was a “feed me” restaurant. For a tab ranging between $15 and $25 per person in 1990s money (depending on how hungry you were), a procession of the day’s specials came to the table, along with plates for splitting each. Six to eight courses was typical. All were delicious; some of it was rather unusual.
Here’s a sample from an article I wrote in 1989.
The meal started with marinated calamari–not the little ones we always get in Italian places, but steaks cut from gigantic squid–were grilled with bell peppers.
An oval baking dish had baked oysters with garlic, bread crumbs and bacon on one end, and spicy roasted red and yellow peppers with mozzarella on the other.
Then quail with spinach and mushrooms in a very buttery sauce.
Followed by broad noodles with a white beans and lentils with herbs.
Finally, veal sirloin with mushrooms, peppers, and onions. No dessert was noted in my report, but where would I have put it.
Anthony also had an a la carte menu with the standard Italian dishes, done Anthony’s way. And all that was good, too.
Then, one day, something happened. DiPiazza’s wasn’t as good anymore. And it stopped being popular. And then it closed. But the next time Anthony showed up somewhere else, he was back to his old, delicious tricks. Too bad his career ended early. (He was barely in his fifties when he died.) He was one of the best New Orleans Italian chefs of all time. And fun to talk with. He was full of it.