Mark Twain's Pizza Landing (2035 Metairie Road,Metairie, 832-8032; www.marktwainspizza.com) is different from other pizzerias, says owner Jacques Broussard. For one thing, a mannequin of Mark Twain sits in a window.
In an homage to the previous owner's fascination with the literary giant, many dishes at the restaurant are named after Twain's books, such as Life on the Mississippi and The Mysterious Stranger. An art student who worked at the restaurant when it opened in 1985 made the mannequin.
In another departure from most pizzerias, Mark Twain's Pizza Landing is geared toward the dining room experience rather than being a delivery-based operation. "You can't focus on two things and excel at both," Broussard says. "Domino's would have a dining service if both worked."
Pizza crust, too, is subject to an approach that differs from the norm: Pizzas are cooked on a regular pan, then moved to granite slabs. The Picard oven takes longer to cook the food and requires more skill to operate, but Broussard believes the results are worth it.
He also constructs gluten-free pizzas at customers' tables to keep regular crust ingredients from entering the mix. "If we're going to be pioneers in pizza, we've got to be knowledgeable," Broussard says. "We take extraordinary care to make sure it's handled properly. We don't make it to go. We don't just wipe down the same counter like some other places do."
The 70-seat restaurant offers a loyalty program which rewards and tracks customers' purchasing habits. Birthday coupons are part of this system. Broussard says the main reason people dine out is for birthdays, and he has capitalized on this to keep his customers coming back.
"We know our returning guests, and they know us. Most of the staff has been here for several years," Broussard says. "After all, dining out is like a short vacation away from home. We just want to offer the best dining experience possible."
Broussard honed his service industry skills by working in restaurants throughout his high school and college years. He later owned a chain of pizza restaurants which were shuttered after Hurricane Katrina. His extensive experience with restaurants led him to love the work he does.
"The excitement and adrenaline of having a full house with everyone having a good time is one of the best things about this job," he says.
Mark Twain's Pizza Landing owner Jacques Broussard has worked in restaurants since he was in high school.