Unless you see a line of folks waiting outside, you could almost walk right past Casamento’s Restaurant, near the corner of Magazine and Napoleon streets. The front window shades are often closed, the vintage neon sign on the front balcony isn’t flashy, and the decorative green and white tiles, on the building’s façade, gently blend into the neighborhood’s funky vibe.
Beloved by both locals and visitors, Casamento’s is one of the most authentic dining experiences in town. From the time you walk into the shiny interior, surrounded by pristine tile-work and marble, you feel rather insulated from the outside world. Prepare to be an adventurous eater, partake in a leisurely, large-plate experience, watch the efficient staff bustle around, and enjoy one of your most memorable NOLA meals.
Italian immigrant Joe Casamento opened the restaurant in 1919, and members of the Casamento family, including grandson C. J Gerdes and his wife, Linda, continue its operation today. Don’t go to Casamento’s looking for a large Italian menu: spaghetti and meatballs are the only remnants of old-world staples. Instead this shiny, white-tiled diner with expert shuckers up front at the oyster bar, and a hyperactive grill in the back, is known for fresh oysters and grilled seafood, soft shell crab, seafood gumbo dishes, and its signature oyster loaf —Casamento’s famous, one-of-a-kind version of the po’boy sandwich.
Casamento’s oyster loaf (you will also find shrimp, trout, catfish, soft shell crab, and meatball loaf on the menu, but the oyster version is the draw) is different from a traditional po’boy because, instead of using crusty French bread, it is made using thick slices of fried in butter pan bread.
The oysters inside are crisp and tender, dipped in corn flour and fried in cast-iron skillets. It is a big messy meal — the chunky toasted bread barely contains the overflowing mélange of oysters, lettuce, tomato, and dressing. Don’t forget the hot sauce! Also notable is Casamento’s seafood gumbo with jumbo shrimp, crab claws busting out of a peppery broth rich with tomato and okra.
Closed for the summer, when the Gulf waters are too warm for plump, juicy oysters, this Uptown institution — and mecca for bivalve lovers — re-opens on September 15. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm for lunch and Thursday through Saturday from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm for dinner. 4330 Magazine Street.