Last Updated on Sunday, 17 April 2011 07:32
Sal and Judy’s
Lacombe: 27491 Highway 190. 985-882-9443. Map.
AE DS MC V
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
The most popular white-tablecloth restaurant on the North Shore got that way by serving terrific New Orleans-Italian food in tremendous portions, at prices so low it makes one wonder how Sal Impastato makes a buck at it. It made that reputation during two decades in a smelly wreck of a building. Its much more atmospheric current quarters cement the relationship with a million regulars, and the place is always packed.
WHY IT'S GOOD
You can go a long way with large portions at low prices. But even if they halved and doubled those respectively, the food here would still seem like a good deal. Particularly in the seafood department, Sal Impastato's cooking excels. His pasta dishes (especially those involving shrimp and crabmeat) are light and perfect. First-class sauces make everything a little bit better still.
Sal Impastato and his brother Joe (who runs his own restaurant in Metairie) came to New Orleans from their native Sicily. They wound up working for Jimmy Moran at his La Louisiane in the French Quarter, a legendary and first-class Italian eatery. Moran taught the Impastato brothers their strokes. Joe calls Sal "the chef in the family," and this is a fact. Sal opened Sal and Judy's in the late 1970s. (Judy, his ex-wife, left to open other restaurants.)
Two well-furnished dining rooms provide only a few more seats than the old shack did, but the restaurant seems much more spacious and certainly more comfortable, albeit in a suburban style. Sal is always roaming around the dining room, but he spend most of his time cooking, as the condition of his shirt and apron amply prove.
»Stuffed artichoke (with bread crumbs and garlic).
»Baked oysters Cinisi (mushrooms and Italian sausage).
»Trout Jimmy (with artichokes and lemon).
»Soft shell crabs.
Spaghetti aglio olio with Italian sausage and roasted peppers.
»Spaghetti with oysters.
FOR BEST RESULTS
Make reservations as far in advance as you can, especially on weekends. Order one course less than you normally would, to adjust for the large portions. The restaurant's printed menu hides the fact that they have many more dishes; just ask if you want something a little offbeat.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
They need to use bigger plates, because the food goes all the way to the edge in many cases.
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 +2
- Service +1
- Value +3
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar +1
- Local Color +1
- Good for business meetings
- Open all afternoon
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
It doesn't matter much who you are. It's going to be tough getting a table at Sal and Judy's on moment's notice. That's even if you know Sal. Everybody knows Sal. Sal is one of the nicest guys in the restaurant business. He comes across as just another Italian immigrant who hasn't quite figured things out, and he lets his regular customers fill him in. (It's interesting to watch this, as some of them go so far as to talk with a bad Italian accent.) In fact, Sal Impastato is one of the most savvy restaurateurs around. Nobody except Paul Prudhomme or Emeril can match his success in marketing his sauces, salad dressings, seasonings, and olive oil, which are everywhere in New Orleans supermarkets. (They're successful largely because they really duplicate the flavors served in the restaurant.) And the restaurant is packed all the time. For the best of reasons: the food really is good enough to be worth a trip across the lake and the trouble of making a reservation well in advance.
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