Today I am going to take you inside of one of the greatest shops on earth, LUCULLUS, which specializes in culinary antiques. Located in New Orleans’ French Quarter for almost thirty years, the shop offers antiques from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Every object depicts or complements the grand pursuits of gastronomy. This is the first store to specialize exclusively in “culinary antiques”, a phrase coined by LUCULLUS.
As you may know, I grew up in New Orleans. Lucullus has been on my short list of favorite stores for years. Whenever I go home, I invariably find my way to this store, and if I get there outside of working hours, I indulge in a Breakfast At Tiffany’s moment as I get transported into a stylish culinary world of the past. If you look through this store window, you might well imagine yourself at a spirited dinner party, seated at an elegant dining table set like one in the store… or you may make a mental note to have Lucullus redecorate your own dining room. Having sold antiques myself previously, I am acutely aware of how talented the store owner is to have kept this store interesting and full of high quality, specialized inventory all of these years. I had the pleasure of a chat with the charming proprietor, Patrick Dunne, and he graciously indulged my curiosity with a delightful conversation full of quips, wise words, and great stories. His intelligent observations are quote-worthy…
A native Texan, Dunne fell in love with New Orleans as a child and has lived in the Big Easy for years, radiating southern hospitality and charm. His father was a very considerate host, entertaining extended family with good manners and good food. Clearly, as you browse Lucullus’ inventory, you will get the sense that Dunne knows a few things about entertaining. He shared a story about a dinner party he threw years ago for the Editor In Chief of a major magazine. About 45 minutes before the EIC was to arrive, the dining room chandelier crashed onto the table and into a billion shards of what had to be frustration and panic. But Dunne kept it together, got it cleaned up and pulled off his event in style, with humor.
His entertaining tends to vacillate between four and forty guests, depending on whether he is in the country or the city. Don’t you know his parties are spectacular… When in Lucullus, one gets the sense that the proprietor must be ready at all times for a variety of celebrations. His staff is gracious and delightful, helpful yet unpushy, which I appreciate while I am transported into the vortex of rich entertaining possibilities. Even the beautifully polished forks, above, are ribboned and ready for guests.
“One of the great losses in America is the loss of the dining table. It is here that children learn manners and hierarchy.” – Patrick Dunne
The idea for the shop came about after a long lunch at Galatoires, back when he was already in the antiques business elsewhere. Conversation lead to the two things he loved most- food and antiques, and the CULINARY ANTIQUE concept was born. The shop name has an interesting back story: Lucullus was a successful Roman general who was known for his sumptuous banquets. He had a series of dining rooms in his home, each one more spectacular than the last, the piece de resistance being a small jewel box of a dining room- designed for one. It resonated with Dunne that if something matters greatly, it matters enough to do it on your own.
“Delight your guests. Don’t overwhelm them with the urge to impress; make them feel comfortable.” -Patrick Dunne
“Spontaneity can only happen with great planning.” -Patrick Dunne
Makes a lot of sense when you think about it. His entertaining wisdom reflects an innate sense of thoughtfulness and focus on his guests.
Occasionally, a mother with small children will come into the shop, and the mother might understandably be concerned about her young ones around such fine antiques. Dunne is hilarious about this. If the mother politely asks whether it is ok for the children to be in the store, he will reply with his charming wit “yes, but could you please leave? I was enjoying watching what my next generation of shoppers will buy, often times they have better taste than their parents.” LOL. This man truly has a talent for making people feel comfortable.
Dunne is a true Francofile. He even has a place in Lyon (food capital of the world… coincidence? I think not-), and fills his shop with treasures that keep the French Quarter french, thank goodness. Lucullus boasts an international clientele of sophisticated shoppers who consider the shop their go-to secret source for treasures such as these tasting cups, pictured above, – hard to find unless you know where to look. If you are ever burdened with the task of gifting the person who has everything, Lucullus is your jackpot.
Dunne is all about the beauty and the character of the antiques he acquires. His philosophy is that antiques are the GREENEST way to decorate. Unsurprisingly he has decorated quite a few old New Orleans houses and Louisiana plantations. He loves texture, and will be the first to tell you that he is not a minimalist. He encourages clients to be adventurous, original, and sophisticated.
Amen to those wise words.
Lucullus defines in a most beautiful way the relationship between food and culture.
If you have not been to Lucullus, make it a priority for your next trip to New Orleans. I mentioned this shop in a previous French Quarter Guide; it is located about a block away from Jackson Square. This shop is a must.
610 Chartres Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
Patrick Dunne is delightful, and unsurprisingly often gets asked to speak at events across the country. He has been published numerous times in publications such as House Beautiful, Conde Nast Traveler, Martha Stewart Living, Town and Country, Garden & Gun, Vogue, and the New York Times, as well as a number of publications abroad. He has appeared on Martha Stewart’s television program, Mo Rocca’s Food(ography) on the Cooking Channel, and several PBS productions.
And there is more. We can have Patrick Dunne’s magnetic hospitality in our own homes. Or at least a few pointers: