On The Road With RL Reeves Jr: Happy Italian Pizzeria in Harahan, Louisiana

House-made sausage and pepperoni pie at Happy Italian Pizzeria in Harahan, Louisiana

It was a fleeting reference on some forgotten food website.

In fall of last year we were on a ramble when we stumbled upon an accolade for an under the radar pizzeria just 20 minutes from our 9th Ward home. The Happy Italian, it stated, is one of America’s great unsung pizza restaurants.

A mental note was filed and quickly forgotten til last week when a drive out Jefferson Hwy towards Louis Armstrong airport saw us traveling through the dusty village of Harahan.

Time for a pizza.

Happy Italian Pizzeria in Harahan

Happy Italian is tiny. Perhaps three dozen eaters could be wedged into the dining room with space for a handful more on the sidewalk outside. It’s lunchtime and a single waitress is hustling between the tables.

The elderly couple adjacent to us has tied on their feasting bibs to address an enormous pie heavily laden with pepperoni and slab-like Italian sausage.

‘We’ll have the same.’

An asked-for Caesar salad makes a fine appetizer with plain jane croutons saved from anonymity by a lemony dressing that would do Julia Child proud. A cross-hatch of cured anchovies would’ve been most appreciated but this simple dish works fine.

Moments later an unbidden large pie arrives [we had ordered medium] but it seems a shame to send it back as it’s sizzling from the heavy duty Picard oven situated in the center of the open kitchen. The waitress is properly mortified at her error.

Happy Italian Pizzeria in Harahan

A well-seasoned chef is afoot at Happy Italian. The high-acid red sauce cuts like a knife through the thick tangle of scratch sausage filets and pepperoni discs. The crust has been timed to the millisecond at high heat yielding slices with zero flop.

The cook has built this pizza grizzly bear-style just grabbing vast hunks of protein and haphazardly stacking it on the crust. It’s a good effect if you’re tired of precious, carefully plated food that focuses more on pretty than flavor.

If you had a drunk Italian uncle who had one dish in his repertoire and it was pizza this is what it would taste like.

And if you stayed on Jefferson Highway to it’s northernmost terminus of Winnipeg Canada it’s unlikely you would find any pizzeria that could hold a candle to Happy Italian along the nearly 1700 mile route.

Happy Italian Pizzeria
7105 Jefferson Hwy, Harahan, Louisiana

(504) 305-4666

Hours of operation
Always call ahead

Happy Italian Pizzeria in Harahan

Read more about Jefferson Hwy

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