French Quarter: 441 Royal Street
If you knew about Tortorici’s century-long history and its prime location across from Antoine’s, you’d likely have guessed that it was one of the city’s better restaurants. If you spoke with someone who ate there in the 1960s or earlier, you’d certainly think so. In a time when few Italian restaurants were serving menus more ambitious than red sauce on top of some kind of meat on top of some kind of pasta, Tortorici’s stood out with its scampi, veal dishes, and fish.
However, the place developed a reputation for thinking more highly of itself than perhaps was warranted. Over the years this was accompanied by a decline in the food. That, combined with the opening of other more ambitious Italian restaurants in the area made Tortorici’s less popular, even though to this day I’m asked about it often.
The Karno family—which operated a few other restaurants in the French Quarter—took over in the late 1980s. Things improved, although not enough to bring many locals back. After Katrina hit, Tortorici’s never really reopened. After sitting there empty for a few years, the Royal House renovated the ground floor and opened up as an oyster bar and seafood restaurant.
So endeth what had been the seventh-oldest restaurant in New Orleans. It’s telling that nobody has ever asked me for a recipe from this restaurant.
This is one of 122 reviews of fondly-remembered but extinct restaurants from Lost Restaurants Of New Orleans, just published by Pelican. It’s available in bookstores all around town, and full of photos, graphics, menus, and memorabilia.