Greater New Orleans
Regional Reports From Across the State
Ristorante Del Porto antipasti
FORK IN THE ROAD:
Torre and David Solazzo, a husband-and-wife chef team, have given the Covington area a primo, not-to-be-missed gem of an Italian restaurant christened Ristorante Del Porto. This eatery is worth the drive to Covington on lazy summer evenings to partake of robust and rustic Italian dishes as you sip from the inviting selections on the Italian wine list. You must first imbibe one or two of the unique, cooling cocktails: the Grapefruit and Basil Mojito, the Caffé Shakerato con Vodka (shaken espresso, espresso beans and vodka) or the Negroni (Bombay gin, Campari and sweet vermouth). Precede your main course with either the antipasti or insalates — you can’t go wrong with either. The white bean zuppa swirls with fennel-flavored house-made sausage and greens. The Grilled House Made Fennel Pork Sausage, accompanied by pickled sweet peppers and onions and whole grain mustard, spills across your palate in a perfect aria of flavor. Garlic crostini dipped into the silken blend of White Bean and Lemon Braised Artichoke Puree borders on the sublime. Del Porto has captured that quality of Italian cooking that I like best — creamy, sumptuous textures and flavors that have an underlying tang of the bitter infused into the sweetness of tender meats, vibrant vegetables and velvety-to-firm cheeses. The pastas, like the cheeses, are house-made and come to your table in the form of cannelloni wrapped around roast chicken, creamy ricotta, Montasio cheese and braised greens; pork-jus soaked pillows of ravioli are accompanied by pork shoulder confit, Parmigiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses.
The Dolci (dessert) menu is no less tantalizing and again represents another of the aspects of Italian cuisine that most impress me; after partaking of such hearty flavors in the previous courses, the Italians wind it down with cooling creations. Del Porto carries on this tradition. The ubiquitous Tiramisu is offered, and the Meyer Lemon Napoleon, a light, tangy froth of lemon curd and fresh berries served with a buttery shortbread cookie, is a perfect summer evening meal ender. I always love to end an Italian dinner with cooling lemon ice, and diners of similar bent will appreciate the lemon-thyme sorbetto served here. For variety, choose the Giardinetto — the samples of light anise biscotti, candied citrus, dark chocolate truffle, pear cake with white chocolate glaze and Zaletti are scrumptious when paired with a somewhat-sweet Italian wine. As enchanting as a sip of Strega, Del Porto provides a delicious and unique dining experience.
Ristorante Del Porto, 501 E. Boston St., Covington, (985) 875-1006, delportoristorante.com
For Leon (in memory):
Agapanthus, lilies of the Nile, seem at home in the gardens of greater New Orleans, rising like exotic blue and green wands that always conjure visions in my mind of baby Moses being discovered in the reedy green banks of the sparkling blue Nile. They also remind me of Leon.
In the late ‘80s I worked at a local Catholic Social Services Agency that was in the throes of newly incorporating AIDS prevention and counseling programs. Most of the workers already ensconced in the agency did not take too kindly to the influx into our heterosexual floor of AIDS workers with their sexual orientations. Leon, a quiet, cultured gentleman who hailed from an old Natchez, Miss., family, came to me as an AIDS volunteer and was invaluable in his assistance. One day, I overheard another worker asking him personal questions about his diagnosis in a condescending manner, a display of “concern” that lacked both perception and sincerity and showed her contempt just as clearly if she had cursed him. When she passed my desk she told me, grandly and loud enough for him to hear, “Give him lots of strokes, Jeanne.” I didn’t reply. A few minutes later, Leon appeared at my desk looking rather stricken, with “I’m getting the hell out of here –– and fast” written all over him. I asked him point blank if the woman had upset him. He admitted she had, so I simply took the bull by the horns and asked him, “What do you expect from a yuppie (expletive deleted) like that?” I told him I didn’t blame him if he left, but I really wished he would stay.
Leon stayed and grew less ashamed of his predicament. He started giving AIDS education lectures and enjoying his time as a volunteer. One morning flowers were delivered to my desk, a wildly beautiful arrangement on a piece of mossy driftwood that looked as if someone had gone on a flower-gathering foray through a Louisiana bayou. Rising above the arrangement was a splendid blue agapanthus.
Leon, who at the time did not know I was a Louisiana-phile with bayou water running through my veins, had sent the arrangement to me. When I thanked him profusely, he told me it had reminded him of me and that’s why he wanted me to have it. It moved me very much that he had just known.