Interesting posts: the only two chains mentioned are the only ones I've tried, and I didn't know they were chains until or even after I visited. Johnny Carino's
(Alexandria, LA) was okay, and I'd go there again if I were in town. Nothing to write home about, but certainly inoffensive. Limited menu, but mostly done well. Carabba's
(Shreveport, LA) is another story entirely. Excellent food, outstanding service, great menu, and I will most certainly return at the earliest opportunity. I wanted to review it for RF, but Stephen or some other kindly soul told me it was a chain and therefore, by definition, not true road food. He was right, of course, but it sure was good!
I live halfway between the two cities and there are two ± homegrown Italian restaurants.
One, Antoon's On The Lake
is consistently awful: it runs out of food and bar stock regularly, service is so-so, and it's pretentious. It's not even really Italian any more, as the menu has been diluted with a lot of mainstream American dishes. My son, who works at another local restaurant, says there is a camaraderie among local owners, and the owner of this place is the only one who won't be part of it—which is why he runs out of things. The other restaurateurs help each other out.
The other, Beaudion's,
) is an interesting anomaly. The owners are a married couple, he Creole, she a Chicago Italian. He really would prefer, I think, to run a neighborhood bar and grill, while she would like a white-tablecloth joint. They've compromised, and the result is somewhat awkward. The food is pretty good for the most part. They use canned sauce, though, and what they call "fresh garlic" is the minced stuff out of a bottle. Nevertheless, pizzas are done very well indeed, as are salads; I've pretty much restricted my intake to those items, but I hear good things about their other offerings, especially the Italian sandwiches. (I'm blocking on the name: stromboli, maybe? sort of a pizza turned into a pocket, anyway.)