Fleur De Lis

There are legions of stories about places of business that begin life as one thing, and end up being beloved for something else. That tells me that whether through hook, cook, or Divine Providence, they have ended up where they were destined to go.

Witness the march to immortality of the Fleur De Lis.

It began as a cocktail lounge in the late1940s. It still looks like a cocktail lounge—one right out of Hollywood Central Casting. Take pink stucco exterior, lots of neon, glass brick. Even a neon "air conditioned" sign to draw thirsty patrons off the sweltering sidewalk. And in case you didn't know, put the words "Cocktail Lounge" in huge red neon letters on the outside façade.

Inside you'll find an appropriately dark interior. At night, the only light penetrating to the tables comes from two round globes flanking the bar mirror and the lights coming from the kitchen area. The owners have intentionally tried to keep the whole place true to its roots. You don't even have to close your eyes to imagine you're in 1950s Baton Rouge . I will swear that some of the "Coke" signboards on the wall have been there since the place opened up. No old-timey reproductions here—its vintage cocktail lounge stuff.

The cocktail lounge motif was enough the raise the Baptist hackles on my son's 12-year old neck. "Are we goin' to a BAR?!?" he asked.

Lest you stop reading now, rest assured that this is a family restaurant wholly bent on remaining a family restaurant. It just uses its cocktail lounge heritage as a drawing card. Sure you can get wine, beer, even mixed drinks. A TV sits high in the corner. It looks as much a bar on the inside as it does from the outside, but rest assured, the emphasis here is on the food.

The story holds that the pizza side of the business began in the early 1950s with the lounge's need for an appetizer. Grandma Annie Guercio made her pizzas with a radically different concept than what's used today.

The crunchy crust is made fresh each morning. The tomato sauce recipe is Grandma's own, and no, they won't tell you what's in it—only some "Italian seasonings." It's thinly spread on the crust covered by the toppings of your choice and finished off with separate coats of ground Romano and shredded Provolone.

And mind you, the toppings and cheese go all the way to the crust's edge. You won't see the one inch of crust at the pizza's edge as you do in so many pizza restaurants today.

The effect is a pizza that oozes taste. You bite through the melted, salty cheese till your tongue gets to the pepperoni, salami or Italian sausage. Then the thin, hot tomato sauce with its Italian seasonings tells your teeth to keep going down into the crispy, thin crust.

How am I doin' so far??

You wash this down with beer or soft drinks poured from bottles into small glasses of ice—another throw back to the cocktail lounge life. (My son swears that a small bottle of Dr. Pepper poured over ice in a small glass tastes different from any other Dr. Pepper. I feel the same way about 6.5 oz Cokes.)

This is a great place to bring the family. It's only drawback goes back to its cocktail lounge roots. It's such a tiny, intimate place that it would be hard to ban cigarette smoking, so the smoke does get thick at times.

My son was not used to this setup. Raised at a local Pizza Hut, he expected a buffet and occasional visits by a moonlighting high school student. But he had to wait for his food. These pizzas are cooked to order. Usual wait time is about 15 minutes. But you'll wait for nothing else. The service is expert and attentive. You know the food is good when the waitress is eating pizza for supper.

And look twice before deciding the place is too crowded. There are booths off the main floor where the video poker machines used to be. (Used to be—that's another bow to keeping the place family friendly.)

The large pizzas are all about $10 bucks and are square, because Grandma Guercio used cookie pans when she began baking her "Roman Pizza Pies." The smaller pies are about $6 and are round.

Did I mention the pans?? I'm told that some of the pizza pans are original to the restaurant. And when they need more, a local foundry has to fill the bill.

You can plan on feeding a family of four for about $12 a person. That's great food at a great price. In a real pizza "joint," too.

They have a neat neon pickup window for call in orders. They'll even half bake a pizza—just enough to give it that "in-house" taste before you freeze it for reheating later at your house.

Fleur De Lis is a wonderful change of pace for you and yours. Pretend you are Ozzie and Harriet dragging the kids out to a Cocktail Lounge. For pizza...

I know, Ozzie in a bar is kind of a stretch.

Local checks accepted—no credit cards accepted.