La Bella’s Deli
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
La Bella’s is one of many caterers who run a small restaurant on the side. That makes use of their kitchen on weekdays when the catering biz is slow. In general, such places tend to be quite good, because they have better equipment and more reliable personnel than a freestanding cafe of the same size. La Bella’s location in the oldest part of Kenner at first seems odd, but few restaurants exist in that area, so they thrive.
It’s primarily a sandwich shop, with the muffuletta standing out. Every aspect of it is right–including the distinctive Italian bread, which has become hard for restaurants to find since Katrina. The poor boys are also well made, either of ingredients cooked in house or the best quality deli meats. Fried seafood is crisp and light, either in sandwiches or platters. A lot of the plate specials are clearly designed to be taken home for family consumption. Almost all prices stop well short of $10. The catering aspect of LaBella’s is useful for pulling together a spread of easy eats for a business meeting, work site, etc.
Joe La Bella opened a small grocery store with a butcher shop–an Italian tradition if ever there was one–in 1966. Almost immediately, his shop began evolving, first into a place where you could buy a side of beef cut any way you liked, then into a neighborhood restaurant specializing in poor boys. (I remember the latter well, when it was in the shadow of the Westgate Drive-In Theater.) By the 1980s, catering was a mainstay. The poor boys, however, never went away. La Bella’s home and business were both destroyed by Katrina, but after a years or so they were back with a new location on the River Road.
The new place is a spacious, good-looking venue for a neighborhood cafe, in the part of Kenner that has seen a lot of renovation and development in recent years. The big windows running alongside the dining room give a view to the bicycle-trail-topped river levee a half-block away. (Third Street is Kenner’s name for Jefferson Highway.)
»Italian sub (like a muffuletta, but no olive salad)
Stuffed tomato with chicken or tuna salad
Red beans and rice (MO)
»Fried oysters and shrimp (FR)
Shrimp-stuffed bell pepper (WE)
»Soups du jour
FOR BEST RESULTS
Sandwiches and seafood are the best bets, but the daily specials are always worth thinking about.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
It would be great having this place open for at least an early dinner.
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
- Hipness -1
- Local Color +1
- Open Monday lunch
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Often-Asked Question With Few Answers: I have an hour or so before I have to be at the airport. Where can I get a decent fast meal with some New Orleans character around Kenner? Same answer, different question: I live/work in Kenner/River Ridge. Not too many restaurants around there. Any new ideas?
Answer: Read on.