You don’t hear much about Rocky and Carlo’s outside of southern Louisiana, but locals know it as a culinary gem. Located out in St. Bernard Parish, it is a spacious eating hall that opened in 1965 and has since survived hurricanes, floods, and a devastating fire in 2012. The food is an expression of the brilliant trinity of south Louisiana cooking: Italian, Cajun, and Dixie. Walk along the cafeteria line and select from a hot-lunch menu that includes pork chops with greens, braciola, veal parm, stuffed peppers, muffalettas, fried shrimp or oysters, and gorgeous baked chicken.
Rocky and Carlo’s seafood gumbo, loaded with shrimp, crab, and crawfish and thickened with okra, just may be the best in or out of New Orleans. The blackboard menu also lists wop salad, the locals’ politically incorrect term for garlicky iceberg lettuce with green olives, and many customers come for the excellent roast beef po boys. Heaps of wispy, deep-fried onions adorn almost every table.
No matter what you eat at Rocky and Carlo’s, the single dish that you likely will remember best is the inconspicuous menu listing, “macaroni.” There is none better. Very different from typical mac ‘n’ cheese made with elbow noodles, this mountain of baked pasta is built from substantial percatelli tubes that come plastered with orange cheese – tender gobs from the from the heart, chewy strips from the top, and crisp webbed bark from the casserole’s edge. It is fine as it is, but some people get it topped with sweet red marinara sauce or glistening mahogany brown gravy, each of which adds unique character.