The restaurant identifies itself as Italian, and most of its customers think of it that way. But since its earliest days the most distinctive part of the kitchen's work involves seafood. Chef-Owner Andrea Apuzzo makes much of the fact that, with few exceptions, all the fish he serves are bought fresh, whole and filleted in house. It is not uncommon for there to be six or more species of finfish on hand, with pompano, red snapper, trout, redfish, puppy drum, salmon, Dover sole, amberjack and flounder usually available. The shellfish offering is no less comprehensive, with crabmeat, shrimp, oysters (shucked to order), mussels, clams, lobster and scallops almost always to be had. The range of preparation is equally strong, to the point where it's possible to say that the chef will cook his seafood in almost any imaginable way. It all adds up to a big enough seafood menu to stand alone. It's better than any other part of the menu.
The most useful aspect of Andrea's is that it's a white-tablecloth restaurant capable of serving a first-class repast made with excellent fresh ingredients, with excellent service and a seriously good wine list in pleasant surroundings. . . in Metairie. Where there are surprisingly few such restaurants. Another advantage: Andrea's is open all the time. [caption id="attachment_29480" align="alignnone" width="480"] Pompano.[/caption]
Chef Andrea spent the first half of his long career as a hotel executive chef, winding up in New Orleans in that position at the Royal Orleans. In 1985 he and two cousins opened Andrea's in the former Etienne's in Metairie. In its early years, it became unquestionably the finest Italian restaurant ever to open in the area. Chef Andrea bought out his cousins after a few years, and the restaurant began to change and grow. Andrea's is now a very large restaurant, open lunch and dinner 364 days a year (closed Labor Day, because nobody dines out then). On top of that, it has a bar that has its own menu, and a lot of inside and outside catering. It's too big an operation for the fine points of old to be counted upon. In recent times, Andrea has turned over the everyday kitchen to Christian Rossit, a Venice native with a great track record around New Orleans. [caption id="attachment_24045" align="alignnone" width="500"] The bar at Andrea's.[/caption]
The restaurant feels distinctly suburban, but after importing Italian art and furnishings for many years the place has personality. The main dining room is bright and glittery, in a somewhat old-fashioned way. Private dining rooms, some capable of serving a hundred people, line up one after another. The new Capri Blu Bar is striking and comfortable, serving a menu of wood-oven pizza and appetizers. It has live entertainment many nights. The service staff is low-key and widely varying in competence. Chef Andrea himself spends a lot of time in the dining room, schmoozing the regulars.
Find out whether Chef Andrea is present. He usually is, but when he's not, things can slip. The restaurant is overambitious, and often fills the facility with more people than can be served at the restaurant's best level. Overbooking occurs on holidays. The dining room staff seems always on the brink. If something isn't right, make a fuss and they'll start paying attention.