His long recovery from a gunshot wound has kept U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise in a Washington, D.C., rehabilitation center for weeks. But the Metairie Republican has been getting a steady supply of flavors directly from home.
Special deliveries from New Orleans have been arriving at Scalise’s room, bringing him po-boys and stuffed artichokes, shrimp remoulade and sizzling, garlicky oysters.
It's a show of support from a circuit of New Orleans-area restaurants.
“For us to take a little time to make his day, we’ll always do it,” said Tommy Cvitanovich, proprietor of Drago's Seafood Restaurant in Metairie, who has taken a lead in the grass-roots effort.
“He’s a friend, and he’s a true advocate for the hospitality culture of New Orleans and Louisiana,” he said.
Scalise was critically injured in June when a gunman opened fire at a practice session in Virginia for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity. The attack brought an outpouring of support for him, from prayers to blood drives.
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The food deliveries began in late July, when Scalise was transferred from a trauma center to a rehab facility, and they've been coming daily.
“These weeks since the shooting are the longest Steve has ever been away, and he’s eager to get home as soon as his doctors say he’s able,” said Scalise spokesman Chris Bond. “But in the meantime, he’s blessed to know that friends and family are going to make sure he gets some good Louisiana cooking to fuel his healing and rehabilitation. He is a man whose heart is full of thanks, and this is one of many reasons for that.”
Cvitanovich compared the food deliveries to a long-distance meal train for a friend, with many hands taking part to keep it rolling.
“When I ask, they love it. I have people lined up,” Cvitanovich said. “It’s the little things we do to help a good friend.”
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Restaurants that have sent food run the gamut from neighborhood joints, like Venezia in Mid-City and Rocky & Carlo's in Chalmette, to high-end restaurants, like Emeril's in the Warehouse District and the Caribbean Room in the Pontchartrain Hotel.
Old New Orleans names like Arnaud’s, Galatoire’s and Broussard’s have taken part.
Scalise’s restaurant supporters also have sent Lucky Dogs, cake from Haydel’s Bakery and hickory sauce from Bud’s Broiler, which helped convert a D.C.-area burger into a Bud’s No. 4.
When the Saints played their season opener against the Vikings on Monday, they arranged for shrimp po-boys and “Dome nachos” to be part of the congressman’s game day dinner.
Drago’s own food has been part of the campaign, too, though to get some of his restaurant’s famous charbroiled oysters to D.C., Cvitanovich has traveled to cook the dish in person.
He said he’s had no trouble rounding up food from other restaurants.
“The cool thing about the restaurateurs in New Orleans is that while we compete, we are very tight, we are each other’s best friends," he said. “The word travels among our group, and people step up.”
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