Saturday, February 11, 2012

It’s Time for Lunch

And that can be a problem. One thing you quickly learn when visiting the Lafayette, LA, area is that lunch service ends at 2:00 p.m. (I am talking about non-franchise operations.) Either the restaurant closes for the day at 2:00 p.m. or it closes to then reopen sometime around 5:00 p.m. for dinner. Yes, there are exceptions, but this is a good general rule to follow.

It is also a Saturday. And that poses a new set of problems. Many of the smaller “mom and pop” places are open only Monday through Friday. And the larger restaurants may not serve lunch at all since they are busy prepping for their busiest night.

So it was almost by default that we found ourselves at Fezzo’s in Scott, LA, (there is also another Fezzo’s in Crowley, LA) which was named the Times of Acadiana's "Best of" for 2011 in the Best Cajun Restaurant and Best Seafood Platter categories. Fezzo’s serves lunch on Saturday and stays open until closing at 9:00 p.m.

“A long time ago when Phil Faul's father was a young boy in Church Point, LA, he was very creative with his toys. His favorite playthings were those made from his mother's empty wooden thread spools. In Cajun French the word for these wooden spools is ‘fezzo,’ pronounced ‘FEE-zo.’ Everywhere Phil's father went he took these wooden-spool toys with him. One day a local postmaster began calling young Phil, ‘Fezzo’, a name he still carries with him. In July 1979, Phil's family opened a grocery store in Rayne, LA, and called it ‘Fezzo's Supermarket’. Both Phil and his childhood friend Pat Bordes II worked in the family grocery store for many years. In July 1999, exactly 20 years later, Phil Faul and Pat Bordes II opened their first restaurant as co-owners. When it came time to name the restaurant, it was clear what name was to be given. In honor of Phil's dad, they named it Fezzo's Seafood, Steakhouse and Oyster Bar” (fezzos.com).

Fezzo’s interior is an anomaly. Many restaurants calling themselves “Cajun” are decorated with a proliferation of stuffed heads, wildlife prints, gator skulls—you get the picture—to convince (or fool?) travelers of their authenticity.

Here, the walls are almost unadorned except for the soft colored brick. The only exceptions are the holiday garlands which are now decorated for Mardi Gras. In fact, you will still find many a restaurant with a Christmas tree still standing, but the holiday ornaments have been replaced by masks, beads, and green, purple, and gold garland.

Unlike many Cajun restau-rants, Fezzo’s menu includes a variety of non-fried items along with giant salads, steaks, and pastas. The list of bisques and gumbos includes chicken and sausage gumbo, shrimp and okra gumbo, seafood gumbo, crawfish bisque, corn and crab bisque, and Fezzo’s Cajun Trio—a choice of any three gumbos, bisques, or etouffe├ęs. I was ready to order the Trio with crawfish bisque, corn and crab bisque, and seafood gumbo plus an appetizer portion of Fezzo’s crab cakes.

Then Chuck sprung a surprise. “I am going to order pasta,” he proclaimed. To be specific, the Grilled Vegetable Alfredo.

“I didn’t see the pastas.” I responded. “That sounds good. So I chose the Creamy Crawfish and Tasso Pasta over angel hair. But the menu said that I could substitute another pasta so, knowing that angel hair is tricky to prepare right even in Italian restaurants, I asked for the fettuccini instead.

With our entrees came a small salad with iceberg and romaine with a tomato wedge and one—I repeat one—red onion ring. I chose the house tomato basil dressing which resembled a Russian or—in the Midwest—Western dressing with the addition of basil plus a lot more sugar. This was so sweet that I was glad that I didn’t pour the entire cup over the greens.

My pasta was quite good. Small crawfish tails, cubes of tasso ham, and green pepper bits were mixed into a rich cream sauce that had a slight spiciness which probably came from the spicy ham. And I was right to choose the fettuccini, which was cooked just past the al dente stage. The angel hair might have been served way too overcooked.

If my pasta was good, Chuck’s was excellent. Yes, the fettuccini in his dish could have been closer to al dente. But the sauce and vegetables were amazing. This was a light alfredo—by that I mean light on the parmesan cheese which is fine with Chuck—and was flavored with garlic and oregano. But the veggies—carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower—made the dish. Our server told us that they were seasoned with the house Cajun mix and then grilled to bring out their natural sweetness. Chuck couldn’t stop raving about the carrots in particular, and nary a vegetable remained when he was finished.

This wasn’t a WOW! lunch but still an enjoyable one—one that earns 4.0 Addies—and it’s good to know that there is a place to go on Saturday’s that is open for lunch and doesn’t close at 2:00 p.m.

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