Chef Andrea Apuzzo works about 90 hours per week at his namesake restaurant, Andrea's (3100 19th Ave., Metairie, 504-834-8583; www.andreasrestaurant.com). From 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday, Apuzzo is in the kitchen, on the phone or talking with his customers. After opening his restaurant more than 32 years ago, he still looks forward to cooking.
"Doing what I do makes me happy and gives me energy," Apuzzo says. "I enjoy cooking and I look forward to doing it every day. This comes naturally to me."
Pasta, seafood, soups and salads are available, as are Italian classics like osso buco and veal parmigiana.
"I use all fresh local ingredients," Apuzzo says. "Local fish, local produce. Nothing makes me happier than when a customer tells me how fresh my fish is. That's what inspires me to keep cooking."
Apuzzo says he can prepare almost any request, as long as he has 24 hours notice. "Oxtail, sweetbreads, a particular kind of fish — no problem," he says. "I make my guests feel like they're No. 1, and that's most important. I like to make them happy."
A native of Capri, Italy, Apuzzo says he always wanted to come to America. He started working for his father at age 7 and hasn't stopped cooking since. His vocation has taken him around the world, and he settled in New Orleans in the 1970s.
"I've cooked all over Europe," Apuzzo says. "I was working in Bermuda when I heard about a job in America. I applied and ended up moving to Atlanta. That was in 1975, the year I got my green card. I worked there for two years and got a phone call from the Royal Orleans offering me a job in New Orleans. I worked there for seven years before opening Andrea's."
Apuzzo has written three cookbooks and is working on a fourth. He also is involved with several local charities. Just as Apuzzo has embraced New Orleans, New Orleanians have embraced Andrea's.
"People go out of their way to be kind to me because they see I'm a hard worker and that's something they respect," Apuzzo says. "When people want to take a picture with me, it touches me. I'm appreciative."