Who Killa Da Chef?
Mosca’s. Tony Angelo’s. Vincent’s.We know a thing or two about red sauce down here in New Orleans. The French Quarter was once a Sicilian ghetto. Lasagne at Tony’s on Bourbon on Wednesdays was once an institution. Sunday dinner out in an Italian Place means putting on a jacket, something only the most ostentatious of the city’s restaurants still require. “Who killa da chief” was the famous taunt used aganst Italian immigrants after the murder of the Chief of Police and the subsequent mob lynching of the Italian suspects at the turn of the last century. The most obvious piece of the 1984 World’s Fair is the Piazza d’Italia in the CBD. With the same thoughtful grace with which this city once boasted a Home for Incurables (get in the goddamn cab, grandma!) and built Crippled Children’s Hospital, the “wop salad” drowning in marinated “olive salad” was once a menu staple of the city.
We’re not Italian, but had a (now severed) tie by marriage to the Marcello tomato empire. My sister the foodie still make a mean “Sunday Sauce”, a slow reduction meat sauce which acquires upon completion a specific gravity that flattens the pasta and guarantees a good Sunday afternoon nap, especially if you wash it down with a couple of glasses of what is still affectionately known by some as “dago red”. (Serve with a wop salad of iceberg, tomatoes, an anchovy or two and enough olive salad to require a garnish of an extra does of your blood pressure medication).
If you are going out to dinner somewhere everything on the menu that is not pasta comes with a small plate of Spaghetti No. 1 in marinara sauce on the side, the drink of choice is a good “dago red”. Nothing French or Napa mind you, and nothing white. You might be allowed a beer if it’s lunch in the middle of the week and you’re afraid the wine is going to jump on top of all that pasta and put you down for the count, but at dinner? At a fancy place?
Maybe I should follow LaDonna’s Sixth Ward common-sense advice and let the guests pour their beer in the wine glass, but if the new Metairie steakhouse king takes you out to dinner at a highly regarded Italian restaurant in New York, you order a beer? Worse, you order a Schaefer? When I was living in the 1300 block of Esplanade you could buy Schaefer in New Orleans. I used to get mine after work when I was a broke-ass suburban newspaper reporter–three for a dollar–at Egle’s Pharmacy. That’s right, three for a dollar. High class stuff, perfect for sitting on your stoup for an after work drink with a spare can should a neighbor stop to chat. Schaefer took over the market niche of Jax, that product of the secret Fabacher Family Recipe which was deservedly buried deep in a cave in a remote and inaccessible mountain range under a horrible curse until it was discovered by Miller and made the basis for Miller64.
Schaefer, America’s oldest brewery (or so they claimed) succumbed to consolidation and was acquired by Strohs and later Pabst, a progression a lot like that starting with a second drink at lunch, then one at breakfast, and ending up at the corner with a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20. The only possible explanation is Product Placement, and I hope that the food consultants had a fit on the set so disruptive that David Simon had to peel off a couple of hundreds and send them off to go have lunch somewhere. An Italian place maybe. With a good bottle of Sicilian Red. Marco, make some recommendations.