by Ian McNulty
Joe Segreto is a senior senator in the world of Creole-Italian restaurants, and he can normally be found running the show at his darkly elegant trattoria Eleven 79. So it was a little surprising to hear that on Sunday afternoons this summer, “Mr. Joe,” as everyone calls him, will instead be in the patio at an altogether different restaurant serving boiled seafood and beer.
But as it happens, Segreto has teamed up with his friend David Baird for an ongoing series of al fresco events, essentially pop-up seafood boils, at Le Citron Bistro, the restaurant Baird runs a few blocks away from Eleven 79. They hosted the first edition this past weekend and plan to continue them each Sunday, from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., through the summer. If the events prove popular enough, Segreto says, they’ll add a Friday evening edition too.
“People used to go to the West End all the time for seafood like this, Swanson’s, Fitzgerald’s, Maggie and Smitty’s,” Segreto says, reeling off the names of long-gone seafood houses that were once clustered on the New Orleans lakefront. “That’s what inspired us here.”
Le Citron Bistro isn’t near the lakefront, but the courtyard setting for these Sunday boils is relaxing and offbeat, and there’s a charmingly DIY feel to the operation. Segreto and Baird and their crew scoop out portions of crab, crawfish and shrimp, beers and hunks of watermelon are served from coolers and the tabs are kept on a little clipboard.
Segreto sometimes also has one of his personal specialty dishes available: Italian-style marinated shellfish. Chilled portions of cracked crab, shrimp and crawfish are marinated and smothered in an oily salad of olives, peppers, garlic, capers, herbs and more for a recipe Segreto says he learned from the Mosca’s family, of Avondale’s famous Mosca’s Restaurant.
Le Citron Bistro serves brunch on Sundays (and dinner Tuesday through Saturday) for those who want to make more of a meal of it after their boiled seafood course.
Le Citron Bistro
1539 Religious St., (504) 566-9051