Unlike most towns and villages in southeast Louisiana, Houma’s name is not French. It was named after an Indian tribe that was known to camp nearby at the mouth of Ouiski Bayou on Little Bayou Black, and in the aboriginal, Houma’s tongue, the name means “red.”
Terrebonne Parish was carved out of Lafourche Parish in 1822, and its first seat of government lay at Bayou Cane at about where Southland Mall is located today. Bayou Terrebonne flowed free from Bayou Lafourche in Thibodaux thus connecting the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, and the stream was the main transportation route in the area. The new parish had about 2,000 people. In 1834, two entrepreneurs, H. M. Belanger and R. H. Grinage, donated ample sites for a courthouse and other amenities to the parish government in what was to become the town of Houma. Grinage bought out his partner’s interests and laid out lots around the courthouse property. On the original map, lot No. 9 is the site where Milano and Aficionados are situated today.
For nearly a hundred years, a livery stable and feed store owned by Holden Wright and his heirs occupied this site. In the late 1920s, that frame building was razed, and the present brick structure was erected for a feed store where the restaurant is now located. Aficionados once housed the offices of the Community Homestead Association (eventually absorbed by Teche Federal Savings Bank) and the Montegut Insurance Company.
Since the 1990s, this has been the location of a succession of restaurants, beginning with John Hardeman’s Il Giardino. The late Parish Attorney Steve LaRussa acquired the restaurant, renamed it Cafe Milano, and added Aficionados. Restaurateur Sam Castalano, of the local Castalano’s Deli and Custom Catering (www.castalanos.com), purchased the building and took over the restaurant and bar operations in early 2011. The restaurant name was simplified to Milano the same year.