Fast Break: La Contea offers authentic, reasonably priced Italian lunch specials

Growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, I ate my fair share of Italian food.

Every time I go home I usually order a pasta dish from my and my dad’s favorite pizzeria. It’s about a 5-10 minute drive from my house, so we stop by often for a dinner full of comfort and garlic.

When I moved to Baton Rouge, I didn’t realize how much I’d miss the Italian restaurant culture back home. There are still places around the Capital City where you’ll find me ordering something slathered in red sauce, but I have a shorter favorites list now.

So when La Contea Italiano Ristorante recently opened its doors, I knew I needed to stop in to see if this would be the Italian place.

Garlic knots and house salad come with every lunch order.

The restaurant offers lunch specials Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The menu is split into two sections: pasta and lunch specials. Pasta dishes are priced at $7.95 and lunch specials are $8.95. Both come with a house salad and garlic knots.

I typically judge an Italian restaurant based on how it does the classics. If you can’t master those, I don’t usually trust your innovative options.

La Contea seems to have mastered those classics.

I decided to order the Baked Ziti, a dish I order often back home. When I say this brought me back to the dinner table with my dad, I’m not exaggerating. The penne pasta was covered in a red sauce loaded with chunky tomato bits. It was all covered in a thick layer of melted cheese.

I dove in, wrapping the stringy cheese around my fork and grabbing as much penne as I could. It was baked to perfection and was spiced just the right way.

The portion size was also perfect. With the salad and garlic knots, I left the restaurant just the right amount of full. Plus, the amount of food-to-price ratio is just right. La Contea is definitely a contender for an authentic, reasonably priced Italian lunch.

A classic version of Chicken Parmigiana

My lunch partner ordered another classic, the Chicken Parmigiana. She had the same sentiments—simple and authentic. I’m interested in going back to La Contea to experience the restaurant’s full menu. Plus, taking my family for dinner when they visit will be the ultimate test. But I’m betting the dishes will pass with rave reviews.

La Contea is at 7970 Jefferson Highway. It’s open Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.