Even after 58 years in kitchens, chef Andrea Apuzzo of Andrea's Restaurant (3100 19th St., Metairie, 504-834-8583; www.andreasrestaurant.com) is passionate about creating classical Italian dishes. His eponymous restaurant celebrates its 30th anniversary this month.
Apuzzo describes his story as an American dream that began on a farm on the island of Capri, where his family grew produce and made its own wine and olive oil. Learning to respect, grow and prepare food as a child gave Apuzzo "the potential to learn how to be a great cook and a good person." He left home at age 14 to pursue his career cooking in hotels across Europe. His job took him to France, Germany, Mexico and, in 1966, New Orleans, where he worked as executive chef at the Rib Room in the Royal Orleans hotel.
"[New Orleans] looked like a European city," Apuzzo says. "[It's] a great place for people who enjoy cooking. ... [I] felt right at home"
In 1984, Apuzzo's uncle bought a restaurant, which Apuzzo and his cousins opened a year later. At Andrea's, he combines local ingredients with Italian recipes. One of the most popular menu items is eggplant crab cake, which combines fresh Louisiana eggplant with fresh crabmeat. Veal chops, porcini ravioli, cheese ravioli Roberto and smoked salmon are other stalwart menu items.
Apuzzo holds his restaurant to time-tested standards, to which he credits its success.
"Anybody who walks in the front door is a VIP," he says. "Treat people how you want to be treated: give them quality, give them consistency, give them good service. If God gave it to you, you have to share with others."
Many customers have dined at Andrea's for years. "[They] grew up here and bring their children and come back for generations," he says.
Apuzzo celebrates the restaurant's 30th anniversary with discounted prices: Monday, Jan. 19, through Sunday, Jan. 25, menu prices will be the same as they were when the restaurant opened in 1985. Musician Ronnie Kole will play. "You can listen to music and celebrate our restaurant," Apuzzo says.
The chef says he is grateful for years of support from New Orleanians and will leave a legacy of cookbooks and the recipes served at Andrea's.
"Young people can continue traditions and carry on the legacy, the love and passion of cooking," Apuzzo says.