There is a tiny diner tucked away inside Zuppardo’s Supermarket in Metairie, Louisiana. It’s a hyperreal eating experience.
There, the meats and vegetables that are on offer from the supermarket-side of the operation are transformed into hotplate specials like red beans and rice or meatloaf but the transformative menu item is the meatball po boy.
It’s one of the best of this series.
“Who’s the chef and how long’s he been here?” I demand from a passing worker. The startled manager explains that the head cook is a Chef Nunez and he’s only been with the company for about a year.
“Keep him at all costs, this food is incredible”
The man smiles and points toward a portrait of Anthony Zuppardo, the departed patriarch of the family. “Well you can thank Mrs Francis for that, she was married to Mr Anthony and it’s her recipes that we still use today”
Francis and Anthony Zuppardo were married for 64 years and though neither is still alive the family is still going strong and relying on Mrs Francis’ recipes in the here and now.
The short list of po boys on the menu is filled with old-line New Orleans staples like roast beef, ham and cheese, and smoked sausage but it’s the meatball that draws my attention.
By now anyone with even a passing knowledge of the foodways of south Louisiana knows that we have a deeply entrenched Italian food culture here.
New Orleans is a city of meatballs and red gravies.
Zuppardo’s cook is hustling about filling orders and I instantly see that she’s a service veteran. “Yeah, I worked at IHOP before I came over here and that really taught me how to move”
Holly goes on to explain that the roast beef po boy is the consensus favorite among patrons but she sells plenty meatball versions too.
We’ve eaten meatballs across the globe and Mrs Francis must be smiling down from heaven upon this tiny kitchen as these are beatific in their goodness. The beef has been barely worked then bound with prayer, it’s so tender it could be cleaved with but a glance.
The marinara draped across the sandwich is rich with garlic and sparingly applied.
I ask after the roll’s provenance and the cook informs me that the loaves are baked ‘right here’.
All the pleasure in the world is available at Zuppardo’s tiny little diner in their supermarket in Metairie. All you have to do is ask.
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