History of Antoine's

Established in 1840, Antoine's is the country's oldest family-run restaurant.

It was spring in 1840, when New Orleans was queen city of the Mississippi River, when cotton was king and French gentlemen settled their differences under the oaks with pistols for two and coffee for one. "Dixie" had not yet been written, destined to become the marching anthem for Confederate forces in the War Between the States.

This was the city young Antoine Alciatore adopted, after stopping in New York, to establish a restaurant that would endure under his family's direction for more than 177 years and set the standard that has made New Orleans one of the great dining centers of the world.

It was on St. Louis Street, just one block from the spot the famed restaurant occupies today, that the 18-year old Alciatore started what was to become simply "Antoine's" as a synonym for fine food. He felt at home in the French-speaking city of lordly aristocrats and their extravagances, an ideal audience for his culinary artistry.

The main dining room at Antoine's as it appeared in 1951. Even at that late date the gas chandeliers provided the only heat for the room during the winter months! [Louisiana Photograph Collection, New Orleans Public Library]

After a brief period in the kitchen of the grand St. Charles Hotel, Antoine opened a pension, a boarding house and restaurant. 

It was then that he made arrangements for his fiancée' to join him from New York. She came to New Orleans with her sister and she and Antoine were married. Together they worked to build up their pension with culinary emphasis.

New Orleans' gentility was so taken with the restaurant that it soon outgrew its small quarters and Antoine's moved down the block and eventually, in 1868, to the spot on St. Louis Street where the restaurant stands today.

In 1874, Antoine being in ill-heath, took leave of his family, with the management of the restaurant in his wife's hands. He felt he had not much longer to live and wished to die and be buried in his birthplace in France. He told his wife he did not want her to watch him deteriorate and said as he left; "As I take boat for Marseilles, we will not meet again on earth." He died within the year.

After Antoine's death, his son Jules served as apprentice under his mother's tutelage for six years before she sent him to France where he served in the great kitchens of Paris, Strassburg and Marseilles. He returned to New Orleans and became chef of the famous Pickwick Club in 1887 before his mother summoned him to head the house of Antoine.

His genius was in the kitchen where he invented Oysters Rockefeller, so named for the richness of the sauce. They remain one of the great culinary creations of all time and that recipe remains a closely-guarded Antoine's secret, though it has been imitated countless times.

Jules married Althea Roy, daughter of a planter in Youngsville in southwest Louisiana. Jules and Althea had three children: Roy, Jules and Mary Louise. Roy followed in his father's footsteps and headed the restaurant for almost 40 years until his death in 1972.

Roy Alciatore managed the restaurant through some of the nation's most difficult times, including the Prohibition era and World War II. His contributions still remain vibrant today. The 1840 Room, a replica of a fashionable private dining room, still contains the great silver duck press and is a museum of curios treasures including a cookbook published in Paris in 1659.

Marie Louise married William Guste; and their sons, William Jr., former attorney general of Louisiana, and Roy Sr., became the fourth generation of the family to head the restaurant. In 1975, Roy's son, Roy Jr., became proprietor and served until 1984. He was followed by William's son, Bernard "Randy" Guste who managed Antoine's until 2004. In 2005, Rick Blount, Roy Alciatore's grandson became proprietor and CEO.

The long line of the Alciatore family members and descendants has guided Antoine's to continued greatness, through the War Between the States, two World Wars, Prohibition, the Great Depression and Hurricane Katrina.

The kitchen at Antoine's as it appeared in 1951. The restaurant's chefs were still using ancient coal burning stoves to prepare meals for their many patrons. Note the oyster shells ready and waiting to be transformed into Oysters Rockefeller and the row of little baskets, soon to be filled with the delectable soufflé potatoes. Photograph by R. E. Covey. [Louisiana Photograph Collection, New Orleans Public Library]

Countless celebrities have dined in Antoine's dining rooms. Lining the walls are photographs of the rich and famous who have feasted amid the splendor ... musicians, politicians, military personnel, sports figures, roya

lty ... the list is endless. It includes George Bush, Bill Clinton, Franklin Roosevelt, Pope John Paul II, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise, Kate Hudson, Jimmy Buffet,Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby to name just a few!

What's in store in the years ahead? Are there other family members, perhaps too small at the moment to wield a chef's whisk, waiting to join that long and distinguished line?

Private tours available upon request


The History behind Antoine's Dining Rooms 

The names of each of the dining rooms at Antoine's Restaurant are steeped in history.

When entering through the grand doorway, you step into the original Main Dining Room. This a beautiful, light-filled room that contains many of the original décor fixtures including the chandeliers.

The vast, glistening dining room located just past the main dining room is named the Large Annex. It has been a local favorite for decades and was a tribute to Antoine’s Alsatian wife, Julie. Many New Orleans families have had the same waiter for years.

Three of our private rooms bear the names of Carnival krewes -- RexProteus, and 12th Night Revelers and our bar is named after the Krewe of Hermes. To this day, these rooms serve and perpetuate one of New Orlean’s great institutions - Mardi Gras. Their walls are adorned with photos of royalty and memorabilia, including crowns and scepters of many years long past.

The Mystery Room acquired its name due to Prohibition when the 18th Amendment prohibited the sale of alcoholic drinks (from 1919 until 1933). It covered the era of the bootlegger and the Al Capone reign of terror in Chicago. During this time, some would go through a door in the ladies' restroom to a secret room and exit with a coffee cup full of booze (in spite of the Blue Laws). The protocol phrase at table when asked from whence it came was: "It's a mystery to me." The name stuck and to this day, it's still the Mystery Room, nestled charmingly at the end of an interesting corridor. The room is dotted with souvenirs of famous restaurants around the world, including Groucho Marx's beret.

The 1840 Room is fashioned in the style of the period and ultimately is a charming salon for dining. Photographs of successive generations of the Alciatore family also dot the room and add to the richness of the warm, red interior. It replicates a fashionable dining room from that time and is also a museum of sorts, housing a Parisian cookbook circa 1659, and the restaurant's silver duck press among other treasures.

The Roy Alciatore Room was formerly the Capitol Room, named because the wooden panels on the walls were taken from the old capitol building in Baton Rouge. This room has a twin next door, the Maison Verte Room. Both rooms are almost identical in size and contain four black marble fireplaces, two in each room. The rooms also share a charming balcony overlooking Rue St. Louis and the French Quarter.

The Japanese Room was originally designed with Oriental motifs popular at the turn of the century. All of the decorations, down to the hand-painted walls and ceilings, spoke of things Japanese. Many large banquets were held there until December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor to usher the United States into World War II. Roy Alciatore then closed the room and it remained closed for 43 years. It was reopened in 1984. Recently the room has been refreshed with a new updated look that included the preservation of the hand painted ceiling.

The Last Room or the Tabasco Room is the last named room at Antoine’s. It is an intimate space with just one table. It was recently renamed after one of Antoine’s most distinguished customer and community leader, Paul McIlhenny of the famous Tabasco family. The room is appropriately painted “Tabasco” Red and is rumored to be the location of most engagements in New Orleans.

The long and narrow Wine Cellar, which measures 165-feet long and 7-feet wide, holds approximately 25,000 bottles when fully stocked. It is a legendary space and can be viewed from a small window on Royal Street.