Volume 4, Issue 1
Fall Restaurant Guide
New Orleans' Culinary Treasures
by Marcy McCall
4330 Magazine St.
Casamento's is the granddaddy of them all. Situated on its Magazine Street perch since 1919, it's an eye-catching sight. The restaurant is covered with ceramic tile inside and out, top to bottom,
from the dining room to bathroom. Joe Casamento, the restaurant's founder, figured it would be easier to clean tiles than paint the exterior and walls every year. Casamento's is famed for its fresh and fried
oysters. The gumbo, chock full of shrimp and crab, runs a close second.
Casamento's is entirely family-owned and run. The founder's son, Joseph, puts in his hours cooking for hungry regulars.
Grandson C. J. Gerdes manages the restaurant and shucks plump oysters. Casamento's serves a mean oyster loaf, though don't expect the traditional French load. Here, crisp oysters lay on a pillowy bed of pan
bread akin to Texas toast. Linda Gerdes, C. J.'s wife, says that Joe decided to use pan bread to serve up the novelty sandwich because it stays fresh longer than French bread.
Those who try the fried seafood
often proclaim it the best they've had. So what's the secret? Lard. Yes, fresh, old-fashioned lard. Linda says it gives a better fry because it heats to a higher temperature allowing the seafood
to crisp more, and it leaves no aftertaste. "Some people have a stroke when they find out it's lard," she said of the restaurant's secret ingredient.
While the oysters are famed, the restaurant does offer other
temptations. Shrimp, trout, soft-shell crabs, and calamari also grace the menu. At one time even steak, chicken and frog legs appeared on the menu. Before the Board of Health was created, Joe kept live
chickens and frogs penned behind the restaurant giving new meaning to the phrase, "cooked to order."
As for the future of the restaurant, Linda doesn't foresee any major changes. The family has hope that Joe's
great-granddaughters, teenagers Natalie and Nicole, will want to have a hand in their family's business. That day is a ways off, though. As for now, Linda promises at least another 30 years of tasty oysters,
tiles and lard.