300 Roman Candy

A mule pulls along the custom-made Roman Candy cart. 

The Charles L. Franck Studio Collection at the Historic New Orleans Collection

The Roman Candy cart is a look at, and taste of, New Orleans’ past. The Cortese family started selling the molasses taffy from the family fruit and vegetable cart in the early 20th Century to help support Sam Cortese after his legs were severed by a street car. Sam hired wheelwright Tom Brinker to make a specialized wagon so Sam could stand on his wooden legs and make and sell the candy from the cart. He called the Italian treat “Roman Candy.”

The wagon, with windows all around, a marble table and running water hit the streets in 1915. That same cart, first pulled by horse, and now by mule, is still making the rounds with Cortese’s grandson, Ray Kottermann behind the candy counter.

Kottermann makes about 600 sticks of hand-pulled vanilla, chocolate and strawberry taffy a day. Cortese sold the sticks for five cents each until 1970. Kottermann sells the treats for $1 each.

The mule that pulls the cart knows the route so well that Kottermann can make the taffy while the mule travels the route. Occasionally, on the mule’s day off, Kottermann moves the cart around by truck.