When Louisiana native Brian Battistella was a youngster, the shores of Lake Ponchartrain near New Orleans was a vibrant community. Hundreds of fishing camps off Haynes Boulevard were the summer homes of many of New Orleans’s residents that would spend time during the hot weather months fishing and enjoying the lake breezes.
The rustic houses of the Lake with colorful names like Six Little Fishes and Trajan’s Cajun Hideaway, sat high on barnacled encrusted stilts. Brian’s Grandfather, Rodney Battistella, owned the fishing camp known as Batt’s Nest along the eastern shore of Lake Ponchartrain, Little Woods.
Louisiana native, Brian Battistella’s love for cooking began at an early age, with family gatherings where large tables full of Italian favorites dominated Sunday afternoons. The smell of smoky roux and “Holy Trinity” browned slowly in black iron pots. This was the essence of traditional New Orleans cuisine and family fun. Growing up in New Orleans, Chef Brian’s childhood centered on Lake Ponchatrain where he fished, shrimped, and crabbed. His fresh catches always ended up on the Battistella family dinner table.
Chef Brian’s culinary heritage goes back many years. His relatives operated the oldest seafood market in New Orleans, Battistella’s Seafood Company. Italian immigrant, Walter Battistella, began the seafood business in 1877 at an open stall in the famed French Market, supplying fresh fish to the restaurants, hotels and markets of the Crescent City. Grandson Preston Battistella bought out other family members in the family seafood business after returning home in 1946 after serving as a Navy seaman in World War II. It was Preston Battistella that built Battistella’s Seafood, Inc. into a thriving national player in the fish trade with customers from coast to coast.
After training racehorses in New York, Brian returned to his roots in the South and rediscovered his love for New Orleans cooking. In 2000, he began working at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, a culinary landmark since 1880. As Garde Manger, he mastered all of the twelve stations of the restaurant in only three years. Brian trained directly under James Beard Award Winner, Chef Jamie Shannon, who in turn, had trained under the legendary Master Chef, Emeril Lagasse.
After his years at Commander’s Palace, Brian broadened his culinary skills in Sous Chef positions at C’est Bon Bistro, Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House, and the New Orleans Country Club.
After Hurricane Katrina, Brian left New Orleans and came to Raleigh. After working with several of the areas leading restaurants, Brian opened a take-out restaurant, Louise’s Restaurant in Clayton.
Later, Brian relocated to the Crabtree Inn in Raleigh as Battistella’s New Orleans Kitchen and quickly built a loyal following of customers who returned often to savor Battistella’s Gumbo, Red Beans & Rice, Crawfish Etouffe and Shrimp Creole.
To reach the restaurant’s full potential the restaurant moved to Downtown Raleigh, the restaurant name was changed to simply Battistella’s, and the cuisine was expanded to include not just classic New Orleans cuisine but to encompass Chef Brian’s take on local and regional dishes from across the South.
Today, Chef Battistella creates not only his classic New Orleans favorites but also upscale Southern dishes while sourcing his ingredients as much as possible from the farms and fishermen of the Southeast.