As I sat having a succulent lunch of creamy salt-tanged corn-battered fried oysters (accompanied by my niece Virginia, her handsome husband Steve and – let’s not forget our most important guest- a bean-laden Bloody Mary), feeling especially fortunate at having the daily opportunity to enjoy New Orleans cuisine and share it with others, I pondered the history of the place we had found a cool breeze in- the Cafe Pontalba on Jackson Square.
Yes- the food is great, the cocktails better, and the architecture of the building amazing, but what of the place’s history? How did it come to be?
The year was 1798, and a shy three year old girl named Micaela Almonaster, had just become the recipient of a vast New Orleans fortune and the hawks began to circle.
By the age of fifteen she was married off to the son of a French aristocrat (first nibble) and left her beloved New Orleans to live in France and bear effeminate Celestin de Pontalba four children (second, third, and fourth bites- yummy), however, her father-n-law, the Baron de Pontalba, was not happy with his daughter-n-law’s reluctance to hand-over her entire estate to his family (remember to chew), so he shot her in the chest at point blank range, with a dueling pistol, leaving her alive (gulp) but with one crushed hand, less two fingers, and a mutilated left breast (waiter- another round!).
She retaliated by obtaining a legal separation from the whole crew (last oyster consumed), moving back to New Orleans (should we order desert?), and creating a real estate empire which included the fabulous Pontalba Apartment buildings and the restaurant we sat in (yes- let’s order desert)!
Her father-n-law committed suicide, her husband took a lover named Phillipe, her children went on to more arranged (and disappointing unions)…. and little Micaela lived to be seventy-nine, and became the toast of the town.
You can’t make this stuff up.
|Oyster platter served with golden french fries|
546 Saint Peters
|Baroness Micaela Almonaster de Pontalba|