New Orleans' Italian: All in the Famiglia
At Rocky & Carlo’s, Louisiana history comes with a side of smothered macaroni
For those of us who were not blessed to be born in southern Louisiana, a proper education in the gastronomic pleasures of New Orleans requires a four-step process. Command of the French Quarter comes first, and with it an appreciation for olive-oil--soaked muffulettas, purchased from Central Grocery and eaten on the levee bank while tugboats churn the brown Mississippi River muck. Next, the Garden District and Uptown loom, with promises of oyster loaves at Casamento’s, pepper-jelly-gilded duck étouffée at Upperline, and jiggly pecan pie at Brigtsen’s.
Knowledge of the city’s various neighborhoods serves as a sort of finishing school. If you want to eat like a local, you need to know Gentilly, where Zimmer’s Seafood offers turkey necks to gnaw while awaiting your overdressed shrimp po’boy.
Advanced study requires travel beyond the Orleans Parish border to Chalmette—a working-class enclave twenty minutes east of the city—and to Rocky & Carlo’s, a beige brick bunker fronted by picture windows painted to read “Ladies Invited.”
The restaurant is easy to find. Just look for the signs that mark truck turnoffs for the sugar refinery, and slow down when you see what looks like a supersized Erector set, flanked by skyscraper chimneys spitballing exhaust heavenward. That’s the ExxonMobil oil refinery, for which Rocky & Carlo’s, in business since 1965, serves as a sort of cafeteria.