Since 1966 the LaBella family has been feeding the families of New Orleans and beyond. Papa Joe LaBella’s dream, to open a neighborhood meat market, laid the groundwork for this 44 year-old family tradition. Since the mid-sixties the LaBella family business has grown considerably, however it has kept “neighborhood” friendliness that Papa Joe established all those years ago. This hospitality is readily felt each and every time a customer walks through the front door and is greeted with a welcoming smile.
LaBella’s Meat Market began in 1966 in a rented space inside of “Little General Convenience Store”, 2315 Veterans Blvd. in Kenner, Louisiana. In a time before large supermarket chains, the local butcher was the only place to get fresh cut meats. After two years of selling hanging beef, fresh cut and wrapped in the back of the Little General store, Joe and his dad, “Papa” Joe, moved LaBella’s across Veterans into its own location behind the Westgate Drive-In. This location of LaBella’s Meat Market sold groceries, fresh cut meats and cigarettes. Business was brisk at this location for meat sales in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. It was not uncommon for Joe to have up to 5 butchers working on a Saturday.
In 1974 Joe and his family moved the meat market back to 2315 Veterans Blvd, but this time the entire location was occupied by the newly established LaBella & Sons, Inc. LaBella’s operated out of this location from 1974 until 1989, selling fresh cut meats, some groceries and cigarettes. It was during this time that the Saints’ “Turkey Scam” was played. It was also here that the deli and catering side of the business began. Meatballs & red gravy, and roast beef poboys paved the way in the late 70’s through the 1980’s for the LaBella’s that was about to come.
The late 1980’s and early 1990’s were a very busy time business-wise for Joe LaBella and family. In 1988 Joe and wife, Judy, established LaBella’s Catering, Inc., and in 1993 LaBella & Sons, Inc. was dissolved following the death of “Papa” Joe. The business moved to 2219 Veterans Blvd. in 1990, the largest location LaBella’s has held to date. Over the course of the next fifteen years, Joe was able to provide his customers with a full service restaurant and bar, lunch deli, full meat counter, catering and shipping services. Between 1999 and 2001 Joe traveled extensively promoting LaBella’s and cooking from his 20 ft., fully functional mobile kitchen. In June of 2001 LaBella’s of Louisiana, LLC was established in support of Joe’s traveling kitchen.
August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf south and LaBella’s lost their home of fifteen years. The building collapsed hours after the storm passed. Joe was able to salvage some equipment and started over, this time in Rivertown, 2118 Third Street. The deli is scaled back to lunchtime only hours, and the old-fashioned meat counter was a casualty of Katrina, but LaBella’s is available for full service catering for any occasion. The holidays are as bustling as ever and the upcoming Carnival Season is quickly approaching as Joe and Judy wait with anticipation to see what’s to come next.