Locals prioritized at new Orange Beach restaurant

By Jill Clair Gentry / Food editor people@gulfcoastnewspapers.com
Posted 7/8/13

Renowned New Orleans Chef Tom Wolfe has a new restaurant in Orange Beach, and if you're a local, you won't have to wait for a table for two hours during the summer.

The Louisiana Pantry, located at the Wharf, opened just over six weeks …

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Locals prioritized at new Orange Beach restaurant

Posted

Renowned New Orleans Chef Tom Wolfe has a new restaurant in Orange Beach, and if you're a local, you won't have to wait for a table for two hours during the summer.

The Louisiana Pantry, located at the Wharf, opened just over six weeks ago.

Focusing on locals

“My focus from the very beginning has always been locals,” Wolfe says. “I've learned opening restaurants in other cities, tourists are important to the economy and economic growth of cities, but at the end of the day, if the locals like it, that's the acceptance. My focus is going to be the slow season, because that's where restaurants usually don't make it.”

Louisiana Pantry will have a locals' dinner club — people who live in the surrounding area all year will be able to join the club and receive benefits like a house account, seating in a private dining area, last-minute reservations and being the first to know about wine dinners and other events.

Wolfe says he is still working out the particulars for the dinner club, but it will kick off soon. He does know there will be some kind of verification process to make sure people don't scam the system.

“It's got to mean something,” he says. “It's got to be something special.”

However, visitors to the area aren't going to be neglected — everyone can make reservations in advance, and the restaurant has room for 300 diners.

Focusing on food

Wolfe, a Louisiana native, says he grew up around food and always knew he wanted to cook for a living.

“I grew up in a big family, and my mother was constantly cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner for eight people every day,” Wolfe says. “My parents' friends also had large families, so every time we got together after church we would have something going on — roasting pigs, oyster parties, shrimp boils — a love for food was embedded in me a long time ago.”

Wolfe's restaurants in Louisiana and Mississippi have received high praise from customers and food critics, and Wolfe says he believes his success is rooted in a commitment to using fresh ingredients and having a skilled, courteous staff.

“The focus is on the preparation of food,” Wolfe says. “We don't just talk about using local and fresh ingredients. There are very few, if any, store-bought items in our kitchen. For our corn grits, we shave the corn off the cob that was grown locally. We have fresh oregano, thyme and basil back there, and we actually incorporate that into a 300-seat restaurant.”

Wolfe describes his style of cooking as contemporary creole or “new New Orleans” cuisine.

“If you went to New Orleans 20 years ago, you'd eat at Broussard's, Antoine's or Cobb's, and they generally had the interchangeable menus, but they had the traditional stuff,” Wolfe says. “Today, it's much more modern and a melting pot of different nationalities. If you go to New Orleans now, you get phenomenal Thai, Japanese and Chinese food. Chefs there try to be more authentic than other cities, and it truly is a melting pot.”

This new New Orleans mindset allows Wolfe to push the boundaries of traditional creole cuisine.

“It's my excuse to do anything I want,” he says. “But at the end of the day, we stick to classical French preparations.” 


Wolfe's restaurants

  • Apprenticed at Mr. B's Bistro and Emeril's, New Orleans
  • Wolfe's of New Orleans (2000-2005)
  • Peristyle, New Orleans (owned from 2004-2008)
  • Wolfe's in the Warehouse, New Orleans
  • Wolfe's on Rampart, New Orleans (now Wolfe's on Vets in Metairie, La.)
  • Wolfe's Gulf Coast Grill & Lookout Landing, Pass Christian, Miss.  

Restaurant profile

  • NAME: The Louisiana Pantry
  • CHEF: Owner Chef Tom Wolfe, Executive Chef Frank Szymanski
  • LOCATION: The Wharf
  • FOOD: Contemporary creole
  • WEBSITE: LouisianaPantry.com

Chef Tom Wolfe's marinated tomatoes pasta

Ingredients

  • Angel hair pasta
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup marinated tomatoes, recipe follows
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons brunoise shallots
  • 1/3 cup chiffonade basil
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

Preparation

Cook pasta as directed.

In a medium hot saute pan, warm the olive oil and place the garlic in the oil. Cook for 1 minute

Place the tomatoes and pasta into the sauté pan and warm the pasta thoroughly. Toss the basil once throughout the pasta right before serving it. Finish with the Parmesan cheese by sprinkling it over the top of the pasta once the pasta is in the bowl. Season the pasta with salt and freshly ground black pepper corn.

Note: As you use the marinated tomatoes, you will have to season the pasta with salt and freshly ground black pepper corn. 

Marinated tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 to 3 green onions, chopped
  • 4 to 6 large tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges 

Preparation

Combine all ingredients, except tomatoes, in a large measuring cup or mixing bowl. Whisk well. Place tomatoes in a resealable plastic bag and pour marinade over. Marinate at room temperature for up to 2 hours, turning the bag occasionally.