Annie's famous "fried chicken and angel-hair pasta with marinara sauce" has been ordered by five generations of customers. That signature Italian-American dish was the creation of Mary Ann Pagano in 1928, when she and husband Sam opened the Henderson Point restaurant.|
Schmedtje Shrimp Royal, stuffed flounder, steaks, Peggy's Beer-Battered Shrimp, onion rings, corn-crab bisque, green beans - anyone familiar with coastal cuisine understands the menu.
After every fire and hurricane, Annie's magically reappeared with a core menu that changed little, except for nightly fine-dining specials to accompany traditional Southern-comfort foods. That would only be possible if the next in line stepped in, and that's what happened with their two daughters, Catherine and Annie.
Catherine moved into the kitchen with her cooking talents and Annie moved out front with the customers, keeping them happy with her warm-hearted nature. Annie married Thayer Lutz and he joined the restaurant picture, too.
The parents are gone, and so is Thayer, but a grandniece named Niki Butterworth stepped in to help "Miss Annie," now of an age she keeps as secret as her family recipes.
The "modern" team of Niki and Miss Annie kept customers coming back.
But since Hurricane Katrina, there's nothing to come back to. Little of Henderson Point remains.
"I miss my wonderful friends and loyal customers," said Miss Annie. "This wasn't a restaurant. This was a family, and it was such a joy to see the customers every day. It was a wonderful way of life. God's been good."
Since the storm, Miss Annie has faced congestive heart failure with the same aplomb her customers would expect.
"There's not all the family to rebuild like there has been in the past," she said. "If Niki wants to reopen a restaurant, I'm 100 percent behind her."
Ask Niki and you get the impression there will one day be another Annie's: "We're gonna have to do something. I hate for the tradition to end and if I don't do it, nobody will."
Determining location factors, she says, will be new height requirements for Henderson Point, and the timing could be affected by the opening of a new U.S. 90 bridge over the St. Louis Bay.
- KAT BERGERON