LA 10 was once one of the busiest routes across our state, today just a few cars trickle through. Trees hang over the roadway and the train still passes now and again. As we travel along we end up in Melville, a tiny town on the banks of the Atchafalaya River. A community of a little over a thousand, but most businesses have left town. Except one, Cannatella’s Grocery, now run by fourth generation Grant Cannatella.
Grant says Melville wasn’t always a sleepy little town.
"The railroad was the major mode of transportation, getting in goods, shipping out goods. We had a sawmill here that made staves for whiskey barrels, and the Standard Oil Company was here, so Melville was booming!"
Before the major highways were built, LSU Football Saturday’s meant lots of visitors!
"On Saturday afternoons in the 30s and 40s, there was just a line of traffic coming from the west to cross the river to get to Baton Rouge on a Saturday night," says Grant.
You probably didn’t know that Melville was a settlement for many Italians and Sicilians. Grant explains that there were grocery stores on every corner during the town’s heyday. "My grandfather had this one, his brother had one on Main street, The Napoli’s, the Cortes, the Artall’s. We’re the last one!"
"This was your part-time job and your summer job," says Grant who worked at the store since he was a kid. "I don’t recall getting paid for anything until maybe high school."
The store was also a community shelter that Grant says his grandfather would open up to the people of the town and feed them salami sandwiches. The store has also weathered the flood of 1927.
"The water was chest high. My grandfather sent the whole family to Baton Rouge on the train."
Some of Melville’s buildings came from Cannatella’s. Grant says that many of the supplies needed to build homes were purchased through the store. "They came here and bought everything they needed to build a house on credit and my dad and uncle wouldn’t demand any money at the time and went as a handshake."
Fast forward to today, the store has expanded. You can get just about anything! Pipe, lumber, groceries, cleaning supplies, fishing gear, sporting goods, kerosene, fresh baked goods, boudin and their original recipe for Italian sausage.
"From my great grandfather from Sicily, my dad says it’s still the way he made it pretty much to his recipe, a very unique Italian sausage," says Grant.
And the Muffuletta, that is a must try.
"It was always a treat when my parents would go to New Orleans and bring back a muffuletta. We still bake the bread here and my own olive salad.
Grant says the olive salad that finishes off the muffulettas has legendary origins. To make sure nothing was ever wasted, olives at the bottom of the big olive barrels were mixed with olive oil to create the delicious salad.
Marrying the sandwich together, Cannatella adds Genoa salami, provolone cheese, and Mortadella bologna to create layers of meat and cheese. Muffuletta perfection and a taste of Melville!!
It was a pleasure to meet the shoppers and employees at Cannatella’s, including, Mr. Stelly who’s been working there since he was in the 9th grade, almost 40 years! If you’re ever on LA 10 or LA 105, make your way to Melville and pay a visit to Cannatella’s. You’ll all be glad you did.