Breaking Bread in NOLA….

If you are travelling to New Orleans for the game this weekend, there will plenty of spots that will command your attention. However, there is one that deserves a visit by Tiger and Tide fans alike (any college football fan, really). The place is Mike Serio’s Po-Boys & Deli. The deli is barely a 6 iron away from Bourbon St., and offers up world famous muffalettas and po-boys a, cold beer and a ton of football history. It is also place where fans know they will be sampling some of the same foods that their own teams have enjoyed through the years, including both the Tigers and the Tide.

For decades, the owner, Mike Serio, has slowly turned his family business into a shrine to LSU athletics and college football. There is a smattering of professional sports memorabilia, but it is plain to see that Mike has a passion for LSU and college sports. Mike’s commitment to his Tigers runs deep. He has attended 347 straight Tiger football games (home and away). Not even losing his home to hurricane Katrina could put a damper on his Tiger spirit. It is this type of notoriety that has landed Serio and his deli on ESPNU’s Road Trip and the Food Network. That and delicious food. Whether it is the Italian staple, the muffaletta or a famous New Orleans po-boy, Serio’s delivers the goods.

As loyal as Mike is to LSU, his commitment to family runs even deeper. After his beloved brother and game day companion, Jack passed away in 2007; Mike called upon his son Mickey to help run the family business. Mickey, like his father is also no stranger to LSU athletics having played baseball for the Tigers…something Mike will be happy to talk about as he keeps photos from his son’s signing day and playing days with him at the deli.

That’s the thing that makes the deli special. Mike is a walking LSU almanac who is willing to talk to all of his customers about his passions. Whether it is his family, LSU or the time he and his brother threw down with the Food Network’s Bobby Flay in an epic muffaletta battle and won, Mike will talk with you as if you were long lost friends. If you are willing to listen, Mike is ready to share. On my most recent visit, Mike was holding court over a restaurant full of Michigan and Virginia Tech fans, while still dishing some inside scoop about a recruit heading to Ole Miss. He was dead on by the way.

Aside from the food, Serio has also accumulated a treasure trove of memorabilia. Of course his collection of LSU memorabilia alone is worth the visit, but the other items make it a treat for any fan. He has signed jerseys and even a monstrous Shaq shoe, but it is the helmets that make Serio’s unique. Each has its own story and was usually given to Mike by someone he has befriended through sports.

Typically, each starts with some connection to former LSU equipment manager, Jeff Boss. Up until Boss’ death, he and Serio were good friends. Boss always had Mike cater for his training staff when the Tigers came to New Orleans. Given the turnover in college athletics, many of those trainers would switch schools, but would always remember to look up Mike when they hit town. It wasn’t long before coaches and players started demanding their own tastes of Serio’s wares, even when they move on from Baton Rouge. The result is a plethora of helmets that have never even been on the Tiger schedule. Former players, baseball and football alike, also make sure Mike gets a new helmet when they move. Yet, one of the stories that sticks out the most is the helmet sent to Mike from a ladies basketball coach from some school none of would have ever heard of. That is almost as cool Mike’s latest addition from the Detroit Lions, whom he just fed last month.

Of course there are even a few Bama helmets, which will hopefully be hanging from the jaws of Serio’s six foot fighting Tiger. A place currently reserved for LSU’s latest victim, Georgia.

So do yourself a favor and head over to Serio’s this weekend. Several sports shows will be calling the deli home over the weekend. You will also be sure to hear plenty of LSU-Alabama talk and maybe even pick-up on some recruiting info. Mike is sure to know!

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