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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Sunday, February 28, 2016

#2441 - Napoleon House, New Orleans - 3/15/2014

Napoleon House, New Orleans
Try the: Pimm's Cup

"It may not be my very favorite muffuletta in the city, but it is my favorite place to eat a muffuletta in the city," said Jeff, New Orleans food expert -- usatoday

This basically captures my reaction to Napoleon House. Even the famous muffulettas, along with the equally famous Pimm's Cups here, are fine, but hardly worth a special trip in themselves. It is the place that is the attraction -- some say classic French Quarter, but it also feels as if you could be in Rome. The sun pours into the patio and through the open front door, Beethoven's Eroiqua, composed for Napoleon, wafts through the interior, and bare plaster spots on the walls alternate with spots of the paint that is said to have last been applied in 1814. The previously flaking ceiling was freshly painted only at the command of the city.

Napoleon House, New Orleans
It feels historic, and it is. The connection with Napoleon himself is tenuous -- in 1821 the first resident, French born Nicholas Girod, offered the residence to the erstwhile emperor in exile, with transportation from the island of St. Helena provided the banished general by associates of the famous pirate John Lafitte. Girod had been the fifth mayor of New Orleans, serving from 1812 to 1815, that is, up to and including the time General Andrew Jackson repelled the British in the Battle of New Orleans (neither side having yet received word of the treaty signed 15 days before). The plot to rescue the exiled emperor ended prematurely with Napoleon's death in May of that year.

Napoleon House, New Orleans
Nearly a century later, Sicilian immigrant Joseph Impastato started renting the building in 1914, and running a grocery downstairs. In 1920 he purchased the property, and in a side room opened a tavern. It was not an officially licensed tavern, as it was in January of that year that federal prohibition took effect, a measure that appears to have had only modest effects on the alcohol consumption habits of New Orleanians. Impastato ran the bar for 23 years, then passed it to his brother Peter Impastato in 1943. Joseph remained living upstairs in the building, and "holding court at a table on the patio" until he died at age 100. The Impastato family continued to operate the Napoleon House through the date of this visit, until selling it to Ralph Brennan (of Brennan's Restaurant fame) in May of 2015. Brennan has pledged not to change the place, and that is very welcome news indeed.

Napoleon House, New Orleans
Postscript: One final small personal memory: While sipping our Pimm's Cups at the bar, we fell into a friendly conversation with Michael and LSU alum Megan, and discovered that she was a mutual friend of my Seattle co-worker Jeff M. We would run into the same couple again the very next night at The Columns.

Bruschetta, Napoleon House, New Orleans
500 Chartres Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130 - 504-524-9752
Est. 1920 (as tavern, and during prohibition) - Building constructed: 1794 (expanded 1814)
Previous bars in this location: None
Web site: - facebook
Reviews: (sale) - - usatoday - wikipedia - neworleansadvocate - fleurty girl video - yelp - tripadvisor

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