Last Updated on Monday, 30 January 2012 12:16
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
DiMartino's started out as a specialist in the muffuletta, the iconic New Orleans Italian sandwich. It was a good idea, and while DiMartino's version of it has never been among the top two or three, it is consistently well made. Over time the restaurants' menu expanded to include most of the other New Orleans basics: poor boys, red beans and rice, and seafood platters. Plus a handful of Italian pasta dishes, and hamburgers for those too shy of palate to dig a muff.
Although the standardization concomitant with chain operation dilutes the soul of most of the food here (the word "commissary" always comes to my mind when I eat here), what comes out of the kitchen looks and tastes pretty good, and is generously served. The one exception is the muffuletta itself. The classic muffuletta is almost by definition too much to eat and eye-popping in its overstuffed quality. That is not in evidence here. You will be able to eat at least half of it.
Peter DiMartino must have felt that he was on the verge of something big when he opened his first shop in 1975. He was the first to market muffulettas the way fast-food places sell hamburgers. Perhaps he saw the sandwich, with his name on them, multiplying from coast to coast. What he proved was that muffulettas are too distinctive and good to boom in the mainstream. This didn't keep him from doing well with them, as he opened and closed locations here and there around town. He has four of them now.
Particularly in the newest DiMartino's in Covington, these are much nicer-looking restaurants than you might imagine. It's easy to imagine a white-tablecloth operation moving in without much renovation having to be done. But that makes the fast-food-style method of operation stick out like a sore thumb. Ordering at the counter from a menu posted on a wall doesn't fit in here, particularly if you're going for one of the platters. They already have a wait staff in place; why they don't do table service is beyond me.
»Red beans and rice
»Veal or chicken parmigiana
Panneed veal or chicken Alfredo
Spaghetti and meatballs
»Fried shrimp, oyster, catfish, or combo platters
Roast beef poor boy
Ham poor boy
Meatball poor boy
»Italian or hot sausage poor boy
Turkey poor boy
Fried catfish, shrimp, oyster, or soft-shell crab poor boy
Grilled chicken sandwich
»Chicken parmigiana poor boy
FOR BEST RESULTS
The Covington DiMartino's runs excellent fish specials at two widely disparate prices. The cheap one is made with tilapia and is to be avoided.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The main problem with the muffuletta is not the quality of the meats, but the fact that they slice them too thick.
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 +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar
- Local Color
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