Deacon Carlo Maniglia cooks using family tradition

Deacon Carlo Maniglia’s love for food and faith came from his upbringing in an Italian family.

His recalls his grandparents’ home burning down on North Roman and Gov. Nicholls streets, and soon after, they erected a St. Joseph altar.

“They got out without bodily harm,” said Deacon Maniglia, who has served at St. Clement of Rome since 2012. “They had to rebuild their house but they dedicated the altar to St. Joseph after that.”

He has fond memories of food aromas from when his na-nan (his daddy’s sister) and his grandmother spent a whole weekend making Italian cookies for the altar. His cooking skills come from his mother, who learned from her mother-in-law, Edna Millet Maniglia.

“I watched my mother,” Deacon Maniglia, 68, said. “It’s really kind of  funny because we went to my grandparents’ house every Sunday and had spaghetti and meatballs. That was it. You didn’t make any other plans. When my grandmother (Katie Malizzo Maniglia) got too old to cook every Sunday, my mom took up the tradition.

“One Sunday, my wife and I asked my mom if we could have the recipe. My mom said, ‘There is no recipe.’ So, Debbie and I went to my mom’s house when she started it, and we started writing down everything that she did, and we developed the recipe.”

Makes his own
While his serious cooking might have started with Italian red gravy, what he does today is look at several recipes and take the best of each and “add or subtract to it” to make it his own. He cooks a variety of food, including gumbo. He shares his eggplant and shrimp dish and crab cakes for this feature.

My red gravy is different than my mom’s,” he said. “I learned how to enhance it and do a different way to thicken it.”

Most precious gift
While he might not have fully realized it as a child, his faith has been essential to his life.

“The greatest gift my mother and father gave to me was this beautiful gift of the Catholic faith, and then they raised me in the faith,” Maniglia said. “You don’t just baptize your child; you raise them in the faith. … Faith was always important in my life.”

Even with the church’s sins, he said when one follows Christ and not man, “you stay with the church. The church is flawed because man is flawed,” he said.

Retired since age 55, Maniglia, a proud Eagle Scout, does all the cooking in his family. Since retiring, he’s also had time to study and then become a deacon after an invitation from former St. Clement pastor, Father Ralph Carroll. Maniglia had previously spent 35 years in pastoral music ministry at St. Clement and previously at Nativity of Our Lord and St. Edward the Confessor.

“I fought it for a year,” he said about the diaconate, adding how he was the guy who was “the life of the party that everyone wanted to be with.”

“But, I brought it to prayer and asked the Lord to let me know if this is what I was supposed to do. I knew it was what God wanted me to do. … I realized I had this gift that God gave me … to step up to the ambo and share the words of God before 800 people.”

“I don’t think I was as in love with the faith as I am today when I realized God gave me these gifts and was calling me,” he said.

As part of his diaconate ministry, he does hospital ministry at East Jefferson General Hospital. This involves giving Communion to newly arrived Catholic patients. He also is chaplain for the Kenner Police Department and sometimes acts on stage.

Once he learned the depths of the Catholic faith as a deacon, Maniglia began starting and ending his day with prayer and praying with his wife.

His cooking talents and generosity has led him also to auction dinners at his home for 10 or more for St. Clement and Notre Dame Seminary galas. He also is an active member of the Dawn Busters Kiwanis of Metairie where fundraisers involve donating bikes and books to public schools and hosting a golf tournament. He serves meals with the Lantern Light ministry weekly at the Rebuild Center and volunteers at Metairie Manor. He also auctions dinners for the Please Foundation to raise $4,500 for its insurance.

“It’s a way to give back,” he said. “I think Kiwanis taught me how to give back. Early on, we went to the Methodist Home for Underprivileged Children. and it broke my heart and inspired me to do more in my life. . I just want to give back and help other people.”

Christine Bordelon can be reached at


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