Tag Archives: creole italian

Casamento’s Restaurant

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From New Orleans Restaurants

Casamento’s Restaurant
4330 Magazine St.
New Orleans, Louisiana 70115

Well, I finally made it to Casamento’s. After several attempts over the last few years, for one reason or another, every time I’ve showed up to their door on Magazine Street with an empty stomach just moaning and groaning for Oysters, I would inevitably be met with a sign to crush my hopes and dreams for that meal period. CLOSED. Granted, it would have helped if I had checked their website or bothered to call, but honestly, I’m not that bright.

On the other hand though, sometimes New Orleans takes you where she wants to take you, or just gives you a nudge in the direction that you want to go. In my experience, this is not a town for itineraries, not if you want to do it right. Go with the wind, come back often, and eventually you will see everything that you want to see. Yesterday the wind finally took me to Casamento’s, and I have to say that it was well worth the wait. I now rank Casamento’s among the best places that I have eaten Oysters in the city, raw or cooked.

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Casamento’s was opened in 1919 by Joseph Casamento an immigrant of Ustica, Italy, who decided to tile the whole restaurant for easy cleaning, the restaurant is often likened to an empty swimming pool. Here is a pic of the front of the restaurant section of the restaurant and Oyster bar (sorry for the blurry pic):

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The floor tiles:

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The back section of the restaurant where I had lunch (I wanted to sit near the kitchen):

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CJ cooking in the kitchen, you can see the Pan Bread in the oven:

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The restaurant has long been loved by locals and when Joseph Sr. died the restaurant was passed on to his son Joseph Casamento Jr. Sadly after years in the restaurant (which he lived above) Joseph Jr. passed away the night Hurricane Katrina hit. Here is a pic from one of my favorite books, the long out of print Time-Life book American Cooking: Creole and Acadian which shows both Joeseph Casamento Jr. and Sr. shucking Oysters for their hungry customers back in the seventies. (I didn’t know who to contact for permission for this pic, as the book is so long out of print. If the owner has any problem with me posting this image, email me and I will take it down immediately!)

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The restaurant is now owned and run by Joseph Sr’s grandson, and Joseph Jr’s nephew CJ and his wife Linda Gerdes, he runs the kitchen and she runs the front, carrying on the traditions of the restaurant and fine cooking that locals and travelers have come to rely on from Casamento’s.

I started my lunch, with a half dozen on the half shell, beautifully shucked, plump, and delicious Louisiana Oysters. Casamento’s has ketchup, horseradish, and Louisiana hot sauce on the tables for mixing your own sauce.

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Detail of one of my Oysters:

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My favorite part of the meal, or my first favorite that is, is the Oyster Stew, simply done with the best Oysters, perfectly poached in the milky broth, succulent with onions, green onions, with a hint of celery and thyme, and glistening pearls of butter of floating on top of the stew as it arrives.

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This is a simple soup, perfectly executed, one of the best things I have eaten in the city. By the way, I’m a Gourmand if you haven’t noticed, not a gourmet.

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By the way, Cassamento’s Oyster Stew Recipe is contained in Kit Wohl’s book
New Orleans Classic Seafood, page 42. I ate a similar Oyster Stew at Grand Central Terminal Oyster Bar in New York when I was a younger lad and didn’t really appreciate it’s simplicity, although Casamento’s version immediately reminded me of that day. I actually ate that Oyster Stew while sitting next to the now late Al Lewis a.k.a Grandpa Munster who was celebrating his birthday at his favorite restaurant. I remember quietly whispering to my friend in between slurps of soup, ‘is that Grandpa Munster??’ (quietly), as he slurped his Oyster stew and casually glanced over and nodded in affirmative, ‘M’hmm, THAT’s Grandpa Munster.’

Anyway, back to the meal at Casamento’s, last stop was the famous Oyster Loaf, perfectly fried Velvety Oysters served, not on the New Orleans French Bread, but rather on Casamento’s signature pan bread, thick slices of toasted bread which serves as a cradle for the perfectly fried Oysters. You can order it dressed or not. Casamento’s Oyster Loaf is dressed with Iceberg lettuce, tomato, and Mayonnaise, quartered sweet pickle on the side. I’m patting myself on the back for this picture, if you would like to do so also, please return my arm to it’s regular forward position to do so. 🙂

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Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes which links to all of the recipes featured on this site!

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Shrimp and Eggplant Dressing Recipe

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From Nola Cuisine

Shrimp and Eggplant are a perfect flavor match in this traditional Creole Italian dish, neither trying to overpower the other, just existing in perfect harmony, kind of like Oysters and artichokes, and Okra and Tomatoes.

Besides the Muffuletta, you don’t hear as much about the Italian and Sicilian immigrant contribution to Creole Cuisine as you do the French influence, this is just one.

By the way, there is a great little book from Pelican Publishing in Gretna called The New Orleans Italian Cookbook, a compilation of recipes from the Italian American Society of Jefferson Auxillary. It was first published in 1979, it features recipes from a lot of different people, from Chefs to homecooks, a great little book.

Back to the dish, it’s important to use small eggplant, because they have very few seeds, it’s just less headache. Also, you could alternately boil the eggplants whole, scoop out the pulp and save the shells to bake your dressing in, if you’re into that sort of thing.

As far as the shrimp, I only use wild caught American shrimp these days, if I can’t get American, I don’t eat Shrimp. True, they are more expensive than the flavorless Southeast Asian farm raised stuff out there, and harder to find for that matter, but they taste a whole lot better; and more importantly, purchasing them supports our own Shrimp fisherman who are absolutely suffering these days.

Anyway, back to the recipe, it’s hard to cook when you’re standing on top of a soapbox. 😉

I served this as a side to a big plate of Fried Chicken, Green Onion mashed Potatoes, and Cornbread.

Shrimp and Eggplant Dressing Recipe

1 lb Wild Caught American Gulf Shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped (Reserve the shells)
1 Bay leaf
1 bundle Fresh Thyme, tied with butchers twine
Water, enough to cover the eggplant by 1 inch
1 splash Liquid Crab Boil
4-5 small Eggplant, peeled, enough to yield about 2 1/2-3 Cups Cooked
3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 Large Spanish Onion, finely diced
1 Medium Green Bell Pepper, finely diced
4 Toes Garlic, minced
2 Green Onions, sliced thin, keep the green and white parts seperate
1 Egg, beaten
2 Tbsp Fresh Thyme, chopped
1 Tbsp Italian Parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp Fresh Basil, chopped
1 Cup Bread Crumbs (preferably homemade from leftover French bread)

For the topping:

1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1/4 Cup grated Parmeggiano, and Pecorino Romano
3 Tbsp Melted Butter
1 Tbsp Italian Parsley, chopped
A pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring the water to boil in a Dutch Oven. Add the Bay Leaf, bundled Thyme, reserved Shrimp shells, crab boil, any trim from the diced onion, and a handful of Kosher salt. Boil for about 15-20 minutes, skim off the scum from the shrimp shells. Add the Eggplant and reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, melt the 3 Tbsp butter in a saute pan. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and a pinch of salt, saute until the onions are translucent, add the chopped Thyme and the chopped shrimp, cook until the shrimp are just cooked through; set aside to cool.

When the eggplant is very tender remove with tongs to a colainder to cool. When cool, squeeze some of the liquid from it and chop.

In a large bowl combine the eggplant, onion & pepper mixture, egg, fresh basil, and parsley, mix ingredients together well. Add the bread crumbs a little at a time until the right consistency is achieved; it should be not too wet, not too dry. Check the seasoning; season to taste with Kosher salt, Cayenne, and black pepper.

Add the mixture to a buttered gratin or baking dish. Mix together the topping ingredients, top the shrimp and eggplant dressing with it. Bake in the preheated oven until bubbly and the topping is a nice golden brown.

Makes enough for a side dish for 4.

Be sure and check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes which links to all of the recipes featured on this site!

Related Posts:

Muffuletta Recipe
Shrimp Stuffed Mirlitons
Creole Stuffed Peppers
Creole Smothered Okra & Tomatoes Recipe

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