Last Updated on Thursday, 03 January 2013 12:28
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Deep along the seam where Gretna and Terrytown come together, Cafe DiBlasi is a pleasant, casual cafe that serves the basics of New Orleans Italian cooking. That mean heavy reliance on red sauces and seafood, and the coming together of veal Marsala and seafood gumbo. Its regular clientele loves the place--to some extent because the West Bank has few Italian restaurants. I don't know if I'd say it's worth a trip across the river.
In one sense, the food is completely familiar. You won't find a dish here you haven't had before. On the other hand, the chef's take on a lot of things is offbeat. I've never had braciolone served me without its having been simmered in red sauce, and I wouldn't say this is an improvement. The red sauce itself leans toward the brown edge of the spectrum, reminiscent of a style seen widely in Sicily but not often here. Let's say it's interesting, and that it must be approached without preconceived notions. The main ingredients have been pretty good in my experience: tender veal, fresh fish, moist chicken
Chef-owner Mario DiBlasi's family goes back three generations of restaurateurs. He opened this one in 1987 in a tiny space on the edge of Terrytown. He moved in the 1990s to a much nicer, larger address, still in Terrytown. The rest of the story is about building up a strong base of regular customers, all of whom tell me they love the place when they call about it.
The restaurant is in the corner of an L-shaped strip mall that has seen better days (especially when China Blossom was in it). But the triangular dining room is entirely comfortable, even bordering on elegant. The service staff is friendly and efficient, and very good about recommending dishes and options you might not know about.
»Oyster and artichoke soup
Pasta and meatballs or sausage
Eggplant, chicken, shrimp or veal parmesan
Pannee veal (with or without crabmeat)
»Shrimp Mediterranean (spicy marinara sauce and pasta)
Blackened catfish with shrimp
Crab cakes with shrimp and cream sauce
»Redflsh di mare (with crabmeat and lemon cream sauce)
Veal piccata or Marsala
»Tournedos alla DiBlasi (with marsala and porcini mushrooms)
»Almond bread pudding
FOR BEST RESULTS
Seafood is what they do best here. Many of those dishes are only barely Italian, if that (blackened catfish, for example). Exception: the seafood fettuccine, whose sauce is much too thick. Chicken is better than you expect, too. They give you salad and pasta with most entrees, so order light.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
I know a lot of Italian cooks brag about how long their sauce has been cooking, but I find they overcook just about all the sauces and soups here.
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
- Service +2
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine and Bar
- Hipness -1
- Local Color
- Good for business meetings
- Medium private room
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations honored promptly
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