Keepers of the Flame

Pascal’s Manale moves from one family to another

At 110 years old, the renowned Creole Italian restaurant Pascal’s Manale is famous worldwide as the home of New Orleans’ original barbecue shrimp. Frank Manale opened a bar on the corner of Dryades and Napoleon in 1913, originally sharing the space with a barber and a butcher shop. Raw oysters and poor-boys were served in the bar, but when Frank added a dining room, Manale’s became renowned for steaks and seafood.

Frank had no children, but his nephews — Pascal, Pete, Jake and namesake Frank Radosta — worked at the restaurant from its inception. In 1937, when Frank passed away unexpectedly at the age of 57, the family banded together, and eventually Pascal assumed ownership, changing the restaurant’s name to Pascal’s Manale.

In 1953, when horseracing friend Vincent Sutro told Pascal about a shrimp dish he’d tasted in Chicago, Pascal whipped up a version that Sutro proclaimed even better — and barbecue shrimp was born. When Pascal died suddenly of a heart attack in 1958, his siblings and offspring kept the family tradition alive for the next 40 years.

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The beloved Uptown eatery has served as a home away from home for generations of New Orleanians, including the Brennan family.

“Manale’s was always our neighborhood restaurant,” said Lauren Brennan Brower, recalling countless family times there.

“It was last the place I had lunch with my dad before he passed in 2015,” said her brother Dickie Brennan. “He loved Manale’s.”

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When Dickie Brennan & Co. acquired Pascal’s Manale Restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day 2023, famed restaurateur Richard “Dick” Brennan was top of mind for both siblings. Dickie even wore his dad’s emerald-green jacket and shamrock tie to the closing.

“Walking into Manale’s brought me back to my childhood in the early days at Commander’s,” he said. “The kitchen tiles, the wood ceilings — it just all feels so familiar.”

Just as his father had done with Commander’s, Dickie Brennan faced the daunting task of bringing the old building back to its former glory. The first purchase was a new $250,000 roof.

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“Dad always used to say, ‘I wish people knew how much money we put into the walls,” said Dickie. Richard Brennan, Sr., with his siblings, Ella, Adelaide, Dottie and John, bought Commander’s Palace in 1969 and was well acquainted with the upkeep cost of historic restaurant properties.

Since the acquisition, while Dickie may be joking about changing his name to Giuseppe, Steve Pettus, managing partner and chief operating officer of the Dickie Brennan family of restaurants, has authentic Sicilian roots. His maternal grandmother, Irene Crutti, was known as “Red Grandma” because of the wonderful red gravy she always served.

Pettus discovered his “hospitality soul” working in restaurants during undergraduate and law school.

“I realized I derive such pleasure making people happy, bringing them the joy of the dining experience,” he said. After several years in management at the Bourbon Orleans, in 1990 Pettus was hired as opening general manager of the Palace Café. When Dick Brennan Sr. and family reorganized to form Dickie Brennan & Co. in 1997, Pettus became a partner.

“Dick Brennan was very kind to me,” Pettus remembered. “After we closed on the partnership, we went for a drink. Dick raised a glass and said, ‘To my first non-family partner.’ For him to say that meant the world to me.”

“There’s only a handful of 100-year-old restaurants in this city,” Dickie said. “To be able to be the next chapter of the Manale’s story is such an honor. People tell me all the time, ‘My grandfather sat at that table every Friday night and I was there with him for 20 years.’ We don’t own Manale’s, about 100,000 people in New Orleans do! We’re just the latest keepers of the flame.”

Catch Poppy Tooker on her radio show, “Louisiana Eats!” Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m. on WWNO 89.9 FM.


Poppy Tooker has spent her life devoted to the cultural essence that food brings to Louisiana, a topic she explores weekly on her NPR-affiliated radio show, Louisiana Eats! From farmers markets to the homes and restaurants where our culinary traditions are revered and renewed, Poppy lends the voice of an insider to interested readers everywhere.

 

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