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Sam Petrossi and his wife, Mary, both Italian immigrants, opened Petrossi’s Restaurant on Laurel Street in 1924.  Mr. Petrossi lived in the adjoining structure with his wife, Mary, and five children: Charles, Joe, Clara, Frances, and Eleanor. As the children grew in age, each worked at Petrossi’s in different capacities, be it a bartender, oyster shucker, or restaurant assistant.

When Sam Petrossi passed away, his sons continued to carry the Petrossi family torch in the restaurant business: Joe took over Petrossi’s in the 1960’s, while another son, Charlie Petrossi, started the iconic Charlie’s Steakhouse. Petrossi’s Restaurant gradually wove itself into the culinary fabric of New Orleans as a neighborhood restaurant serving marinated crab claws, poboys, and traditional New Orleans staples. Joe Petrossi sold the restaurant in 1985.

Iler Pope, one of New Orleans’ venerable restaurateur-matriarchs of the 1980’s, adopted the space, bringing with her a new and eclectic menu every bit as eccentric as the woman herself. Pope let go of the older neighborhood fare in favor of dishes like Crabmeat West Indies and Speckled Butterbeans. Café Atchafalaya’s 1980’s renaissance mimicked a trend happening in many other New Orleans restaurants at the time: chefs were placing a contemporary spin on traditional New Orleans cuisine.

In 1985 the James sisters, Beth & Laurie purchased 901 La. Ave from the Petrossi family and christened their new venture Cafe Atchafalaya, honoring their roots in Acadiana often referred to as Cajun Country.   From their farm in Opelousas, LA Beth and Laurie James would bring in their own crawfish, rice and produce for their homespun menu, essentially pioneering the “farm to table” movement here in New Orleans. Interestingly, Cafe Atchafalaya was one of the first restaurants in town to offer hot boiled crawfish to its patron, a very uncommon practice at the time.  The James’ menu reflected the fresh local harvests of La.’s farmers and fishermen and along with the legendary New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme, helped usher in the Cajun Cuisine era of our culinary history.  In 1992, the sisters leased their Cafe to Iler Pope who essentially continued their Cajun/Creole menu with the popular addition of fried green tomatoes.  A storm of her own, the tempestuous Miss Pope operated the restaurant in a colorful fashion right up to Hurricane Katrina.  After which, the James sisters sold the property to local caterer and property developer Mr. Timothy Howard.

In 2005, the restaurant underwent yet another transformation, this time spearheaded by Tim Howard. He remodeled the interior using reclaimed materials left in the wake of Katrina’s fury. The result was an interior that remained reverent to the building’s pre-storm roots, while also looking forward to the building’s new place in New Orleans’ rapidly changing restaurant scene.



In 2008 Rachael Jaffe and Tony Tocco took the helm and shortened the name to  “Atchafalaya.” The restaurant is now known as an establishment that embraces New Orleans’ culinary traditions while pushing boundaries. The introduction of live music, innovative food, and a smart cocktail menu begin yet another chapter for a building operated originally as a grocery, then a bar, and finally found its stride in New Orleans’ rich culinary landscape.

Meet the Team

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