Dozen Best Italian Red Sauces
This list is certain to start arguments, but really, that’s not my goal. These are the restaurants where I’ve enjoyed the marinara/red gravy/tomato sauce better than anywhere else. Others that didn’t make the list might well be excellent, but we have an embarrassment of riches. You think Venezia should be here? Fine. Mandina’s? Manale’s? Sandro’s? You’re not crazy. You’re just not the same as me, that’s all. Let me hear your thoughts on the messageboard.
1. Frank’s. French Quarter: 933 Decatur. 504-525-1602. This was the most enjoyable red sauce I’ve found in the last few years/ Dating back to the 1960s and serving more tourists than locals (it’s across from the French Market), Frank Gagliano’s sons have a masterpiece of a long-cooked red sauce, with pepper and garlic and that slightly smoky taste that comes with this maroon color.
2. Sal and Judy’s. Lacombe: 27491 Highway 190. 985-882-9443. Impastato’s. Metairie: 3400 16th St. 504-455-1545. Sal Impastato makes the sauce for both his own and his brother Joe’s restaurant. He also puts it up in jars, but that’s not exactly the same.
3. Fausto’s. Metairie: 530 Veterans Blvd. 504-833-7121. This one is at its best when it comes out bubbling, notably on the manicotti.
4. Bosco’s. Mandeville: 2040 La Hwy 59. 985-624-5066. Tony Bosco used to work at Sal & Judy’s, but his sauce is different. It’s straightforward in flavor and texture, but you leave none of it on the plate.
5. Tony Angello’s. Lakeview: 6262 Fleur de Lis Dr. 504-488-0888. Although Mr. Tony’s menu is better known for dishes without red sauce, there are many customers who would not imagine eating there without a red-sauce dish. My favorite: tripe.
6. Vincent’s. Riverbend: 7839 St Charles Ave. 504-866-9313; Metairie: 4411 Chastant St. 504-885-2984. Vincent’s sauce is the smokiest one around, and for those who like that style (I do) it’s a killer.
7. Assunta’s. Slidell: 2631 Covington Hwy (US 190). 985-649-9768. A remarkable sauce in a lighter style with an enormous flavor. My wife says she could eat it with a straw.
8. Eleven 79. Warehouse District: 1179 Annunciation. 504-569-0001. Joe Segreto’s place is not a red-sauce palace, but there’s no denying that his marinara is made in the classic style.
9. Cafe Giovanni. French Quarter: 117 Decatur. 504-529-2154. Cafe Giovanni isn’t really a red-gravy restaurant, either. His best in that department is is bolognese sauce, made with beef and pork and laid thick on the ravioli.
10. Andrea’s. Metairie: 3100 19th St. 504-834-8583. I don’t like Andrea’s standard red sauce. But I love a variation on it, found on the fra diavolo dishes. It’s spicy, light, and a great companion with any seafood.
11. Ristorante Da Piero. Kenner: 401 Williams Blvd. 504-469-8585. Piero is from the area of Bologna, and the bolognese sauce he uses on the wide noodles made in house is a classic of the genre.
12. Gio’s Villa Vancheri. Mandeville: 2890 E Causeway Approach. 985-624-2597. Here’s another one of those smoky, intensely flavorful sauces, for those who like the biggest possible flavors from their tomato sauce.