the Italian issue

Diamond jim & the fettuccine king by Kit Wohl

M any of us want to cook like momma. I was always eager for someone else’s momma to be in the kitchen. Mine could barely cook; she was much better at opening cans and boxes. It could be that I’m prejudiced. I’m certain of it, so I honestly appreciate a great meal. At lunch one afternoon, Jimmy Moran, one of Jimmy Brocato Moran’s four sons, was almost giddy when he confided that his mother was in the kitchen. Mary Latino Brocato (the restaurant Brocatos were distant relations via Cefalu, Italy, to the ice

cream Brocato family) wasn’t cooking for the restaurant — Moran’s La Louisiane on Iberville — although the entire family would pitch in from time to time, but this day she was cooking specifically for Jimmy. “She picked these crabs herself,” he explained to everyone at the table. Mrs. Brocato had coaxed béchamel sauce (only a coincidence that it is one of the five classic “mother” sauces) into an embrace with jumbo lumps of crabmeat, then crowned the dish with buttered and toasted breadcrumbs. Ethereal. For me, another

food benchmark. Still is, and a lesson in the rewards of patience, carefully picking out itty-bitty pieces of shell, leaving the crabmeat lumps intact, and cooking the béchamel sauce long on low. Jimmy’s mother taught her sons to cook.Her late husband had changed his name from Brocato to Moran, hiding a misspent youth from his mother, Jimmy’s grandmother. A brief boxing career and a flirtation with slot machine distribution led to a gamble on Moran’s La Louisiane. The flamboyant restaurateur’s instinct for publicity was



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