#7 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
One of the most important goals a restaurant must have is a good source of first-class raw materials. Even in the realm of seafood–which you’d think should be very abundant in our part of the world, but isn’t–the person who buys food for a restaurant kitchen must either 1) pay top dollar; b) know somebody well-connected to the commercial fishermen; or iii) spend a lot of time on the phone tracking the every-changing seafood markets. Joe Impastato and his brother Sal do all three of those things. At Impastato’s, for example, I often find soft-shell crabs when nobody else has them. Live soft-shells, at that. Can’t fake that.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Impastato’s is the definitive restaurant for New Orleans-Sicilian cooking. A strong base of enthusiastic regular customers comes for the homemade pasta prepared tableside, the buttery seafood dishes, and the standard red-sauce range. Dining here is an exceptional value, particularly when it involves the five-course dinners available for prices in the mid-$30s all night every night.
Certain dishes here are matched in goodness only by the same items at Sal and Judy’s (see below). The paper-thin, made-in-house fettuccine is so perfect and light that, for all its simplicity, it’s the dish that lingers in the memory. Variations on a sauce of lemon, butter, sherry, crabmeat, shrimp, artichokes, and mushrooms appear throughout the menu; all of these are delicious, particularly the fish and soft-shell crabs. Portions are generous. The bar makes exceptionally good drinks.
Joe Impastato is one of two Sicilian-born brothers (the other operates Sal & Judy’s on the North Shore) who got a feel for the New Orleans palate from Jimmy Moran at the old La Louisiane. The brothers opened their own restaurants in 1978. Impastato’s took over an existing restaurant called Joe Soab’s, at a time when a major commercial boom was underway in the area. Joe let it be known that Saints players were always welcome as his guests, and they started hanging out there.
Two rooms: a busy, convivial main room with walls and ceilings covered with stained glass. And a smaller room off the bar, with a staggering collection of first-class sports memorabilia (i.e., a helmet from every NFL team, signed by its biggest stars). The bar also features the Sinatra-style singing of Roy Picou every night. The service staff has been here a long time and does its job.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Seafood-stuffed mushrooms with crabmeat
Sauteed crab fingers
Crawfish Nonna (cream sauce, Cajun seasoning)
Baked oysters Heebe (bread crumbs, garlic, oregano, olive oil)
Pasta ascuitta (light, spicy tomato sauce)
enne all’arrabbiata (spicy red sauce and cream sauce)
Seafood salad for two (lobster, crabmeat, shrimp, crawfish, olive oil, lemon juice)
House salad (artichokes, salami, cheeses, black olives, anchovies, tomatoes)
Fish or veal or soft-shell crab with lemon butter and sherry, with mushrooms, artichoke, crabmeat, shrimp, or any combination of those four ingredients)
Steamed Maine lobster
Braciolone (sliced beef, rolled around sausage, ham, boiled egg, Parmesan cheese)
Spiedini (roast pork or veal, Italian stuffing, fried on a skewer)
Pecan-smoked filet mignon
Rack of lamb for two
FOR BEST RESULTS
Ask the waiter what kind of fish is available; there’s usually more than what you’re initially told. If the only fish they have is tilapia, get the soft-shell crab or veal version of the same dish. Make reservations even for weeknights. Although a five-course dinner seems excessive, get it anyway. Nothing is held back in terms of quality or portion size.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The goodness of the food varies across the menu. Steaks, for example, are just okay. Desserts are also not a strong course. Regulars get seating preference, sometimes delaying those waiting. Show up early to avoid this.
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 +1
- Consistency +2
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness -1
- Local Color +1
- Live music every night
- Outdoor tables, drinks only
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday before or after Saints’ games (but not always).
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted