DiningDiarySquare-150x150 Rizzuto’s Tomahawk. Another One At Apolline. The Latest Line-Up For Dinner. I continue to find more evidence for my conviction that thick pork chops of excellent intrinsic merits are better than all but the very most expensive steaks. (Which someone will order for no reason other than to obey the imperative that one should spend the most for what might be the best.) This one came from the steaks-and-chops side of the menu at Rizzuto’s, where I repaired for dinner a month ago. (I meant to report on it sooner, but developments around the Cool Water Ranch have kept me busy.)

The printed menu at Rizzuto’s doesn’t say much about the pork chop. They have it listed only as the Pork Tomahawk, the chef-jargon name for a thick chop with a long bone that makes it look like some kind of hatchet. But the servers and others on the restaurant’s staff were unanimous about it, while at the same time taking no points away from the steaks. Also a noteworthy datum: the tomahawk is almost twenty dollars less expensive than the comparable steaks at Rizzuto’s.

What makes them so attractive in the eating is a tenderness that we get only from filets, which tend to be too tender and not flavorful enough. The New York strip is more interesting in total.

During the subsequent dinners I found myself eating three more pork chops, one of which is a candidate for best in New Orleans. I’ll return to that one after first reporting on a related phenomenon.

Rizzuto’s is the successor to the Lakeview restaurant where Tony Angello’s cooked and made friends for almost fifty years. Mr. Tony passed away several years ago. His family decided against keeping his restaurant long term. When Rizzuto’s opened, the management made it clear that while it would have a large selection of Italian dishes, these wouldn’t be the same food that Mr. Tony purveyed. It was a wise move: as good and popular it was in its heyday, Tony Angello’s needed a rebirth.

That has apparently occurred. Some of Mr. Tony’s family–including some who worked in the old Tony’s kitchen and who knew most of the recipes for the magic–unified to open a new restaurant in Metairie. The name of the place is Nephew, which describes the relation between Mr. Tony and Frank Catalanotto, who worked at Tony Angello’s for decades. (No relation between Frank and Vincent Catalanotto, the owner of Vincent’s in Metairie and Riverbed.)

Nephew is on West Metairie Avenue near the corner with Houma Boulevard. (It’s in a building that once was Cafe Fresco.) I haven’t been yet, but I have many early reports, most of which about the large number of people who have stacked up to wait for tables. My advice to them is to give it some time. I’d say a lot of time. But when that plays out, I will be at Nephew to see how it handles oysters Bienville, the lobster cup, eggplant Tina, and others from Mr. Tony’s repertoire. I wonder if they will have tripe stew, which Mr. Tony always had available for people like me.

Moving right along, I turned up in another restaurant that I have not visited lately, mainly for a not-irrational fear that I would break an axle or worse on the side streets off Magazine. (And a lot of rough riding on Magazine itself.)

I got lucky today and found across from Apolline. A few spaces were open on the relatively smooth Magazine Street around Bordeaux (the street, not the French wine district). I never miss such cues from the outside universe. I entered, got a table next to a window in the otherwise empty (It was only about six o’clock.) There I was served a four-course dinner decided upon after a discussion with the server. Soup du jour was made from a thick puree of red peppers and grated goat cheese. The redness of the pepper did not deliver much pepper heat until I added some Tabasco, but it otherwise was very good. (Odd coincidence: we will have something like this in the Eat Club dinner we have planned for Vyoon’s on the sixteenth.)

Then the sous chef came in from the kitchen, a plate of pasta in his hand. He told me how flattered he was by previous writeups I’ve made of this restaurant. He thought I would find this large amuse-bouche good enough to eat. It was rich, tossed with the skin and slivers of the meat from duck legs and a few other ingredients. I could have stopped right after that without incurring hunger for a day or two more.

But we already had the pork chop on order. The waiter said that the chop had been from the estimable Beelers pork specialists, and had been cold-smoked. I’ve never heard of that, but a few bites left me convinced. This could be the best pork chop in New Orleans. The texture was easy to slice up into wonderful morsel. There wasn’t much of a sauce, but the chop stood on its own, surrounded by cubes of baked sweet potatoes and little sticks of fried onion. Everything I look for in a pork chop was here. Yum yum yum yum.

Apolline. Uptown: 4729 Magazine St. 504-894-8881. www.apollinerestaurant.com.


Lost Bread (Pain Perdu)

“Pain perdu,” as the Old Creoles like my mother called it, got its name from its use of day-old stale French bread. Lost for most purposes to which French bread is usually put, these crusts are soaked in eggs and milk, fried or grilled, and served for breakfast. It is, you’ve noticed, quite like French toast, but a good deal richer.

This is another one of those dishes for which my mother’s version remains definitive for me. She soaked the bread in the custard until it was almost falling apart, and then (hold your breath) deep-fried it. The most outstanding characteristic of this stuff is its oozy richness. It is not oily in any way.

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 dashes nutmeg
  • 18 slices of stale French bread, about 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup vegetable oil

1. In a wide bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar, vanilla, half-and-half, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

3. Soak the slices of bread in the egg custard. Lower two pieces at a time into the oil and fry about two minutes on each side. Let it cook to a darker brown than your instincts might tell you.

4. Remove the lost bread as it’s cooked, and drain it on paper towels. Use another towel to blot the excess oil from the top, and to keep it warm. Continue cooking the rest of the bread in small batches, allowing the temperature of the oil to recover between batches.

5. Serve immediately with powdered sugar. Warn your guests about the lava-like heat of the insides!

Serves six to eight.

AlmanacSquare May 4, 2017

Days Until. . .

Jazz Festival–Under way today through May 6
Mother’s Day–May 13

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

The Big Mac was introduced at McDonald’s today in 1968. It sold for forty-nine cents, a big jump up from the fifteen-cent standard McDonald’s hamburger of the time. The chain’s brilliant advertising people infected everyone’s mind with the datum that a Big Mac consists of two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun? (See? I still remember that and I didn’t even like Big Macs!) The Big Mac big-time nonconformity is that it has three bun segments, not two. The middle one is there to keep the thing from slipping apart. However, it’s a bun surplus, unbalanced from a flavor perspective.

Food Calendar

Today is National Orange Juice Day. At this time of year, those of us who squeeze oranges every day find ourselves with California navel oranges, whose only drawback is skin so thick that it sometimes tears when you push down in the juicer. Florida juice oranges this time of year are Valencias. Unfortunately, Florida barely keeps up with the demand for its frozen orange concentrate, and unless you live in the state or nearby you almost never see their extra-juicy oranges in stores.

It is also Candied Orange Peel Day. In conjunction with National Artisan Gelato Month, we can observe that a cannoli, contains candied orange peel. So we can observe two things at once.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Snacks is an old crossroads in what was once an entirely agricultural area, but which has been almost completely absorbed into sprawling Indianapolis. In the 1800s and well into the 1900s, ranchers driving their cattle to market stopped here for the namesake refreshments. A school was built there in 1913, but closed in the Depression. The building was restored and became a school again in 2001. Some fields are still near snacks, but subdivisials ond shopping centers have eaten up most of the land. That makes it easy to find something to snack on. I like the sound of Formaggio, right on the main road the farmers once traveled when they stopped for snacks in Snacks.

Edible Dictionary

oysters Mosca, n.–A registered trademark for the popular New Orleans Italian baked oyster appetizer. Sometimes its served in a shell, other times in a small casserole. Either way, the oysters are covered with a bread crumb stuffing seasoned with garlic, oregano, grated parmesan cheese, olive oil, and (sometimes)lemon juice or white wine. It’s baked until aromatic, and is quite irresistible. In other parts of the world the dish goes by the name oysters (or clams) areganata. It was popularized in New Orleans by Mosca’s (which never did use its name on the dish) and the extinct Elmwood Plantation, where chef Nick Mosca did attach his ID to it.

Deft Dining Rule #782

When a menu mentions the presence of gremolata, micro-greens, or any other minor ingredient used as a finishing touch, it’s because the main ingredients aren’t impressive enough on their own.

Fine Dining At Sea

Cunard Steamship Lines was founded today in 1839 by Samuel Cunard in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It became the quintessence of luxurious sailing, and kept its standards through the times when ocean-crossing ships were almost extinct. The Queen Elizabeth 2 was the ne plus ultra of sailing for decades. It successor, the Queen Mary 2, is a stunning ship, but whether it duplicates the style of yesterday is open to question. It is the only line in which passenger classes are still rigidly enforced.

Food At War

Today is the day in 1942 that food rationing began in the United States. It was very serious business at first, but within months it gave all the radio comedians a great new source of jokes.

Music To Eat Dessert By

The song “If I Knew You Were Coming I Would Have Baked a Cake,” sung by Eileen Barton, hit Number One on the music charts today in 1950. Which should tell you something about the state of popular music in that post-jazz, pre-rock period.

Food Namesakes

James Lance Bass, a singer in the pop group ‘N Sync, was born today in 1979. . . Edward Toner Cone, a composer, pianist, and musicologist, was born today in 1917. . . Sir William Fothergill Cooke, one of the inventors of electric telegraphy, was born today in 1806. . . Sidney Lamb, linguist and grammar expert, was born today in 1929. . . Doctor and novelist Robin Cook experienced Page One today in 1940. His novel often have medical undercurrents, but not much cooking. . . Colin Bass, who coincidentally plays bass with the English rock group Camel, plucked his first E string today in 1951.

Words To Eat By

“She set about preparing her supper. It would have to be one of those classically simple meals, the sort that French peasants are said to eat and that enlightened English people sometimes enjoy rather self-consciously–a crusty French loaf, cheese, and lettuce and tomatoes from the garden. Of course there should have been wine and a lovingly prepared dressing of oil and vinegar, but Dulcie drank orange squash and ate mayonnaise that came from a bottle.”–Barbara Pym, English novelist of the mid-1900s.

Words To Drink By

“Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully.”–Graham Greene.


What Really Motivates Some Restaurant Operators.

No, it’s not the freshness and local origins of the food, nor even what the chef read in a book.

Click here for the cartoon.