Millions of people flock each year to New Orleans to celebrate one of the biggest events in the city: Mardi Gras. This holiday revolves around parades, costumes and lots of traditional food. The problem, however, is that many of us don’t have the time to fly down to the Big Easy for this special event. While you may not be in New Orleans for Fat Tuesday fun, you can bring the fun to your living room or backyard.
Make your Mardi Gras party a masquerade and ask people to wear masks and costumes. You can pick a theme like a 17th century ball (the attire of choice for many of the Mardi Gras balls in New Orleans), a favorite celebrity or even characters from comic books or movies. Or, you can simply ask that your guests come in their favorite costume without giving the dress a specific theme.
Traditional food during Mardi Gras includes slow-cooked dishes like gumbo, red beans and rice, chili or jambalaya. Finger food is always welcome, as well as any food that is purple, green or gold. A King Cake is traditional.
Bright and colorful decorations are key to any Mardi Gras party. Purple, green, and gold are the official colors of the holiday, so be sure to incorporate them into your decor You can hang purple, green and gold streamers and beads along fences or the stairs. A fun idea is to get enough beads for everyone coming to the party that you can hand to them to wear as they walk in the door.
The other most frequently tossed items from floats are doubloons, aluminum coin-like objects bearing the insignia of the float krewes. Decorate your table with an assortment of colorful doubloons and encourage your guests to take some home as souvenirs. Scatter confetti on the tabletop and light some votive candles.
I have lived for some years near New Orleans, but I have not developed a taste for their traditional seasoned dishes. So here is my suggested dinner party menu for 8 for some great food that is somewhat close to the New Orleans style.
Don’t forget to play New Orleans jazz or Zydeco music and, then, there are the drinks.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
The Hurricane became popular at Pat O’Brien’s bar in 1940’s New Orleans, after it debuted at the 1939 World’s Fair. It was named after the hurricane lamp-shaped glasses the first drinks were served in. It’s said that O’Brien created this rum drink as a means to get rid of the large stock of rum his Southern distributors forced him to buy.
- 2 ounces light rum
- 2 ounces dark rum
- 2 ounces passion fruit juice
- 1 ounce orange juice
- Juice of a half a lime
- 1 tablespoon simple syrup
- 1 tablespoon grenadine
- Orange slice and cherry for garnish
Squeeze juice from half a lime into cocktail shaker over ice.
Pour the remaining ingredients into the cocktail shaker.
Strain into a hurricane shaped glass.
Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.
Citrus-Marinated Shrimp with Louis Sauce
Makes 10 to 12 appetizer servings
- 2 lemons, halved
- 2 limes, halved
- 1 orange, halved
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
- 4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
- 2 cups fresh orange juice
- 2 cups grapefruit juice
- 2 cups pineapple juice
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 1 orange, sliced
- 1 lime, sliced
- 1 grapefruit, sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- Garnish: citrus fruit slices
- 1 (12-ounce) jar chili sauce
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons grated onion
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Greek seasoning
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
Make the Louis Sauce:
Stir together all the ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Make the Shrimp
Combine the lemon, lime and orange halves, crushed red pepper and salted water to cover in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; add shrimp and cook about 2 minutes or just until the shrimp turn pink. Plunge shrimp into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain.
Peel shrimp, leaving the tails on. Devein.
Combine orange juice with the remaining ingredients, except the garnishes in a large shallow dish or heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Add shrimp, cover or seal and chill 25 minutes.
Drain off liquid. Serve shrimp with Louis Sauce and garnishes.
Fried Green Tomatoes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 cups cornflake crumbs
- 8 medium green tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- Louis Sauce, recipe above
In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and cayenne. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Place cornflake crumbs in a third bowl. Pat green tomato slices dry with paper towels. Coat with flour mixture, dip into egg mixture and then coat with crumbs.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Fry tomato slices, four at a time, for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown, adding more oil as needed. Drain on paper towels.
Place fried tomatoes on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Serve along side shrimp and Louis sauce.
Blackened Steaks with Horseradish Cream and Butter-Basted Potatoes
Serve with the Arugula Salad on the side. Recipe below.
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 3 lbs boneless grilling steaks (such as ribeye, top sirloin, or strip)
- 4 tablespoons blackening seasoning
- 8 oz whipped cream cheese spread
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 8 medium white baking potatoes
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons herb-seasoned salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 8 slices bacon, cut into 2 inch pieces
For the potatoes
Preheat the oven to 475ºF.
Cut potatoes into quarters; place in microwave-safe bowl. Top with butter and cover; microwave on HIGH 5 minutes.
Stir potatoes to evenly coat with butter; microwave 5 more minutes or until potatoes are hot and just beginning to soften.
Transfer potatoes to 2-quart baking dish and arrange in single layer. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and pepper.
Arrange onions evenly over potatoes; top, evenly, with bacon pieces. Bake 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender and bacon is browned and semi-crisp.
For the steaks
Coat grill rack with cooking spray; preheat an outdoor grill.
Season both sides of steaks with blackening seasoning. Place steaks on grill; close lid (or cover loosely with foil). Grill 4-6 minutes on each side or until 145°F (for medium-rare).
Whisk remaining ingredients until blended and smooth. Serve horseradish cream with steaks.
Arugula, Orange and Fennel Salad
- 4 navel oranges
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 (5-ounce) bag arugula, washed, stemmed, and spun dry
- 2 medium fennel bulb, quartered and sliced very thin
- 2 small sweet onion, sliced very thin
- Black or green olives, slivered
Slice off top and bottom of each orange with a serrated fruit knife or sharp paring knife, removing some flesh with the peel and reserve. With the flat end of an orange on a cutting board, cut off peel with a sawing motion from top to bottom, working all the way around the orange. Working over a bowl to collect juice, cut between membranes to separate orange segments and set aside. Repeat with the three other oranges.
Squeeze juice from orange tops, bottoms and membranes into bowl (you should have about 1 cup) and strain into a sauté pan. Add vinegar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 7 minutes. Pour hot liquid into a bowl and whisk in olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Stir in salt and pepper.
Toss arugula with fennel, onion and 1/2 cup of the dressing. Divide among 8 plates and add reserved orange segments to each plate. Drizzle with a little of the remaining dressing and top with olives. Serve immediately.
Country Corn Bread
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt. Whisk together the egg, yogurt and oil. Stir into the dry ingredients just until combined.
Transfer to an 8-in. square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cut into small squares and serve warm
Makes 1 dozen
- 1/2 cup warm whole milk (110°)
- 2 (1/4-ounce) packages dry yeast
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 4 teaspoons
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cake flour
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
- Purple, green, and yellow sugar sprinkles
Combine milk, yeast and 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl. Stir well and set in a warm place for about 10 minutes. In another bowl, combine butter and next 3 ingredients; stir in 2 teaspoons lemon juice.
Combine flours, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and kosher salt in an electric mixing bowl. Add milk/yeast mixture and butter mixture, and beat, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons flour if dough is too sticky, until dough is smooth and forms a shaggy mass. (It should remain soft.)
Place dough in a well-greased bowl, turning to the grease top. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down, and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 12 x 8 inch rectangle. Combine remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 4 teaspoons sugar and sprinkle evenly over dough. Roll dough into a log and cut into 12 equal pieces. Places pieces into paper baking cups in a muffin pan; let rest 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush cupcake tops with beaten egg and bake 20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.
Combine powdered sugar, water and remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a small bowl. Drizzle over cooled cupcakes and top with sprinkles.
This Italian region comprises the historical areas of Emilia and Romagna. Half the territory is formed by the Apennines and the other half is a large plain, which reaches east to the Adriatic Sea. The coastline is flat and sandy with lagoons and marshy areas.
Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest and most developed regions in Europe, with the third highest GDP per capita in Italy. Bologna, its capital, has one of Italy’s highest quality of life standards. Emilia-Romagna is also a cultural and tourist center, being the home of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world. Its cuisine is renowned and it is home to the automotive companies of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, De Tomaso and Ducati.
Popular coastal resorts such as Rimini and Riccione are located in this region. Other important cities include Parma, Ferrara, Modena, Piacenza, Ravenna, Forlì and Reggio Emilia.
Despite being an industrial power, Emilia-Romagna is also a leading region in agriculture, with farming contributing 5.8% of the region’s agricultural products. Cereals, potatoes, corn, tomatoes and onions are the most important products, along with fruit and grapes for the production of wine (of which the best known are Emilia’s Lambrusco, Bologna’s Pignoletto, Romagna’s Sangiovese and white Albana). Cattle and hog breeding are also highly developed.
Tourism is increasingly important, especially along the Adriatic coastline and the art museum cities. Since 187 B.C., when the Romans built the 125-Mile Roman Road/Via Emilia, this thoroughfare has taken travelers throughout the region and connected them with the major trading centers of Venice, Genoa and central/northern Europe. This main roadway crosses the region from north-west (Piacenza) to the south-east (Adriatic coast), connecting the main cities of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and the Adriatic coast.
Emilia-Romagna gave birth to two great musicians, one of the most important composers of music, Giuseppe Verdi and Toscanini, the famous conductor. Marcella Hazan, one of the foremost authorities on Italian cuisine, was born in 1924 in the village of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna. She earned a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara. Her cookbooks are credited with introducing the public in the United States and Britain to the techniques of traditional Italian cooking. She moved to New York City following her marriage to Victor Hazan and published her first book, The Classic Italian Cook Book, in 1973.
The most popular sport in Emilia-Romagna is football. Several famous clubs from Emilia-Romagna compete at a high level on the national stage: Cesena, Parma and Sassuolo. With 13 professional clubs in 2013, the region is only bettered in terms of a number of professional clubs by Lombardy. It also has 747 amateur clubs, 1,522 football pitches and 75,328 registered players. Another sport which is very popular in this region is basketball and teams from Emilia-Romagna compete in the Lega Basket Serie A. Zebre rugby club competes professionally in the Guinness Pro 12 league. The club’s home ground is located in Parma.
Take a tour of Emilia-Romagna with the video below.
The Cuisine of Emilia-Romagna
The celebrated balsamic vinegar is made in the Emilian cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia, following legally binding traditional procedures. Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese) is produced in Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena and Bologna, while Grana Padano is produced in the rest of the region. Prosciutto di Parma is Italy’s most popular ham, especially beyond Italy where it’s widely exported. With its roots going back to 100 BC, when a salt-cured ham was mentioned in the writings of Cato, Prosciutto has a long and hallowed history in the Parma province.
Antipasto is optional before the first course of a traditional meal and may feature anything from greens with prosciutto and balsamic vinegar to pears with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar. Pasta is often the first course and Emilia-Romagna is known for its egg and filled pastas, such as tortellini, lasagna and tagliatelle. In some areas of Romagna rice is eaten, with risotto taking the place of pasta. Polenta, a cornmeal-based dish, is common both in Emilia and Romagna.
Seafood, poultry and meats comprise the second course. Although the Adriatic coast is a major fishing area (well-known for its eels and clams), the region is more famous for its meat products, especially pork-based, that include: Parma’s prosciutto, culatello and Felino salami, Piacenza’s pancetta, coppa and salami, Bologna’s mortadella and salame rosa, Modena’s zampone, cotechino and cappello del prete and Ferrara’s salama da sugo. Reggio Emilia is famous for erbazzone, a spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano pie and Gnocco Fritto, flour strips fried in boiling oil and eaten in combination with ham or salami.
From grilled asparagus with Parma ham to basil/onion mashed potatoes or roasted beets and onions, vegetables play a major role in Emilia-Romagna side dishes. Residents boil, sauté, braise, bake or grill radicchio and other tart greens. They also serve a cornucopia of other vegetables, including sweet fennel, wild mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onions, chard, sweet squashes, cabbage, eggplant, green beans and asparagus.
Sweet pastas may be a dessert or a side dish. Rich tortes, almond and apple cream tarts, sweet ravioli with winter fruit and strawberries & red wine often find their way to the table. Regional desserts include zuppa inglese (custard-based dessert made with sponge cake and Alchermes liqueur) and panpepato (Christmas cake made with pepper, chocolate, spices, and almonds).
Some differences do exist in the cuisines of Emilia and Romagna. Located between Florence and Venice and south of Milan, Emilia has lush plains, gentle hills and a cuisine that demonstrates more Northern Italian influences and capitalizes on the region’s ample supply of butter, cream and meat that is usually poached or braised. The Romagna area includes the Adriatic coast, part of the Ferrara province and the rugged mountain ranges. Food preferences follow those found in central Italy, with olive oil used as a base for many dishes, plenty of herbs and a preference for spit roasting and griddle baking.
TRADITIONAL RECIPES OF EMILIA-ROMAGNA
PUMPKIN RAVIOLI (CAPPELLACCI)
FOR THE PASTA
- 10 oz all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- Pinch of salt
FOR THE FILLING
- 2 lbs pumpkin, baked and the flesh scooped out
- 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Nutmeg to taste
- 2 oz butter
- Salt to taste
- 1 egg
For the pasta:
Mix the eggs, flour and a pinch of salt until thoroughly combined.
Roll out into thin sheets on a pasta machine and cut into squares, about 2.5 inches a side.
For the filling:
Mix the baked pumpkin pulp with the egg, the grated cheese and the nutmeg.
Put the filling on half the squares of pasta and top with another square. Press the edges with a fork to seal.
Cook them in abundant salted water and season with melted butter, sage and grated cheese.
BEEF FILLET WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR SAUCE
- 1 ¾ lb beef fillet
- 1 ½ oounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for coating the meat
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup beef broth
- Salt to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish
Cut the fillet into four equal slices and flatten slightly with a meat pounder. Coat the meat in flour and shake to remove any excess. Put the fillets on a greased plate, then salt them.
Heat a large skillet and cook the fillets on both sides over very high heat, sprinkling each with some of the balsamic vinegar.
In a separate saucepan, combine the remaining vinegar, the beef broth and the flour. Heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.
When the fillets are cooked, cover them with the sauce and garnish with parsley.
ERBAZZONE (SAVORY GREENS PIE)
This pie is often served with slices of prosciutto.
- 2 lbs spinach
- 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 oz olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 oz pancetta, chopped fine
- 1 ¾ oz butter
- 3 ½ oz lard
- 1/2 onion, about 2/3 cup
- 1 clove of garlic
- Box frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cook the spinach in boiling salted water until tender. Drain well and chop the spinach. Squeeze well to dry.
Sauté butter, lard and onion in a skillet. Add the spinach and garlic and cook for five minutes. Cool. Then, mix with some grated Parmesan, the olive oil, pepper and salt.
Lay one sheet of pastry in a rectangular oven-dish (about the size of the pastry sheet; cut to fit, if needed). Spread the filling over the dough. Dot the top of the filling with the pancetta. Cover with the second pastry sheet. Press down lightly.
Bake at 350°F until the pastry is golden, about 30 minutes.
Serve hot or warm.
CIAMBELLA (RING CAKE)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- Grated zest of 1/2 a medium orange
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- Powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch ring mold or a springform pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to thoroughly combine them and set aside.
Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in thoroughly in both directions for about 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45 seconds. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.
Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined; continue whisking until you have a smooth, emulsified batter, about 30 more seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning.
The cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back lightly when touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
From the 1940s on, the children of Italian immigrants could be found in all regions of the U.S., in almost every career and in nearly every walk of life. My parents were born in Elizabeth, NJ and my father lived in the Italian section of the city, called Peterstown. This section of the city was home to Italian grocery stores, produce stands, meat markets, fresh fish markets and poultry stores. When he married my mother, they moved to another part of the city.
As a child, I remember my father taking me shopping with him on Saturday mornings, where we would go to many of the Italian shops in Peterstown. He would purchase meat, chicken, cheese, bread and Italian cold cuts. I remember being overwhelmed by all the products that were crowded on to the shelves in those tiny stores. My father would stop and talk to many of his friends along the way and visit his relatives who still lived in Peterstown. On these excursions, he always bought me an Italian Ice at Di Cosmos’ store, a landmark in the area.
Grocery stores were among the first businesses opened in the early Italian immigrant settlements, providing the staples of Italian cuisine: e.g., olive oil, pasta and canned tomatoes. But traditional Italian markets and delis served more than just the shopping needs for the Italian immigrants. They were also community centers, substitutes for the piazza, that is, places where Italians could meet friends and paesani (fellow townspeople), exchange news and speak some Italian.
Traditional markets were more likely to sell local and Italian American products than imported (cold cuts, cheese, oil) and more likely to sell reasonably priced products than the more exclusive labels at the upscale markets.
However, in the 1980s Italian brands such as, De Cecco pasta from Abruzzo, bottles of Coltibuono Olive Oil from Tuscany and Chianti Ruffino wines began appearing in the Italian markets. Many older markets also diversified their inventories by carrying other ethnic foods as well. “A1″ in San Pedro, for instance, carried many products for Croatians as well as for Italians; “Bay Cities” in Santa Monica carried many Greek and Middle Eastern foods; “Sorrento” also served Italian Argentines and other Latin Americans.
The memorabilia on the walls: family photos, posters of World Cup Italian Teams, Italian or regional maps, a portrait of the Pope and tourist posters of Italy, would often identify a market as a more established Italian immigrant locale.
Successive waves of Italian immigration beginning a century and a half ago have blessed New Yorkers with the country’s best collection of Italian markets. While many of these shops can be found right in Manhattan, others are located in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. If you need to find an obscure pasta shape, this is your place. Choose among two dozen types of canned Italian tomatoes to make the sauce. A rainbow of Italian olive oils can also be found, as do seasonal items, like fresh black truffles and fresh porcini mushrooms. Additionally, a cured meat department, usually in the back of the store, offers hard-to-find cold cuts like culatello, a cured ham and other types of salamis.
In 1940, when Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia wanted to get pushcarts off the streets, he created a string of indoor markets, of which the Arthur Avenue Retail Market was one and is one of the few remaining today. Some stalls specialized in veal and variety meats, such as tripe and calf’s liver, while other stalls sold dried pastas and southern Italian prepared foods,that included pizzas, pastas and seafood salads.
The Italian Market is the popular name for the South 9th Street Curb Market, an area of South Philadelphia featuring many Italian grocery shops, cafes, restaurants, bakeries, cheese shops, butcher shops, etc. The Italian Market, frequently referred to simply as 9th Street, had its origins as a marketplace in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
This area, outside the original boundaries of Philadelphia, was an area where the immigrants settled. Italian immigrants began to move into the area around 1884, when Antonio Palumbo began receiving Italian immigrants into his boardinghouse. Shops along 9th Street opened up shortly afterward to cater to the new Italian community and they have remained in the area to this day, with many of the present vendors tracing the founding of their businesses back to the first decade of the 20th century.
In its earliest days, Gallucci’s was as much a neighborhood grocer as it was an “Italian” store. Starting with a wooden cart, founder Gust Gallucci first opened a shop on Cleveland’s West Side — then, during the mid-1920s, the family moved to Cleveland’s Haymarket District. Close to the city’s produce district, Gallucci’s also served the sprawling immigrant neighborhood on Cleveland’s Near East Side, once called Big Italy.
Gallucci’s grew into a gathering place for newcomers from Italy. There, shoppers and clerks spoke the language of the old country, even though the Italian spoken was broken into scores of regional dialects. More importantly, they could find familiar products unavailable in most other stores — fresh or dried pastas, fat links of sausage, imported cheeses, olive oils and vinegars and familiar table wines.
The Graziano grocery business dates back, approximately, to the same year the Italian Superior Bakery opened on Western Avenue, about 1933, but it was part of the Italian community on Grand Avenue. The business was founded by Jim Graziano, who immigrated to the States in 1905 from Bagheria, a town on the northern coast of Sicily.
The first Jim Graziano left the business to his sons, Fred and Paul, and now Fred’s son and grandson, both named Jim, are keeping the business alive and well. J.P. Graziano Grocery Co. has for some time been a wholesaler and an importer specialising in Italian foods and, as such, is well-known in local food industry circles. Specialties include olives, cheese, large sausages and baccalà (dried codfish).
Italian immigrants, John Bova Conti and his wife Josie, operated the J. Bova Conti Grocery at 960 S. East Street. According to, Indianapolis Italians, by James J. Divita (Arcadia Publishing, 2006), Josephine Mascari, a widow, and her son, Tommaso, were experiencing hardships in operating their grocery on Virginia Avenue. John Bova Conti moved in to run the store and ended up marrying the widow. It was not until the 1920s that they rented a small, wood-frame grocery with an adjacent residence. Signs on the store and visible goods, included Wonder and Yum Yum bread, fruit, macaroni, olives, cheese, Coca-Cola and East End Dairy products.
The store’s business ledger for 1924 through 1927 (housed at the Indiana Historical Society) indicates that many products were imported from Italy and distributed to other stores around the state. According to author Divita “After visiting relatives in Indianapolis, customers from smaller towns would stop at Bova Conti’s to buy 20 pounds of dry pasta to last them for a month. Among the store’s attractive prices were one gallon Berio olive oil, $3; one bottle, Florio Marsala, $2.25; five pounds, Sicilian caciocavallo cheese, $3.75 and one case Brioschi, 75 cents.”
Guilio Forti was one of thousands of Italians who immigrated to Minnesota’s Iron Range in the early 1900s hoping for a better life. But Guilio, already 50, was too old to work in the mines as others did. So he put the skills he’d learned as a baker in Rome to work and started Sunrise Bakery in 1913. From their North Hibbing location, the Forti family distributed Italian and Vienna bread by horse-drawn carriages to the mines.
Each generation contributed new ideas and products to the business. Guilio’s son, Vincent, added mechanization and a line of pastries, donuts and cakes. Vincent’s son, Thomas, together with his wife, Mary, created a deli that featured imported delicacies and foods long cherished by the Iron Range’s diverse immigrant population. And now their son, Tom—the fourth generation Forti—is helping Sunrise bring its Italian entrees, pastas, sauces and other ethnic specialties to locations throughout Minnesota.
Not only had Sicilians established roots in the French Quarter, but those seeking to farm the land moved upriver from the city, to Kenner. These men were called “truck farmers,” because their land was far enough away from the city that they had to haul their crops in by wagon, later trucks. They would sell their produce in the Farmer’s Market, stopping for lunch at one of the groceries along Decatur Street. The groceries would lay out cold antipasti spreads during the day to sell for lunch.
In 1906, Salvatore Lupo opened the Central Grocery at 923 Decatur Street. He began to combine some of the antipasti items, such as mortadella, cheese, ham and olive salad, on loaves of round Italian bread, creating the now-famous Muffuletta sandwich. The truck farmers could pick up a muffuletta and, essentially, eat their antipasti as a sandwich on the return drive to Kenner. Other groceries and restaurants picked up on the muffuletta, which became a New Orleans institution, second only to the po-boy.
in the 1880s, at twenty years of age, Carl L. Stranges immigrated to the United States from Italy. After his arrival in the United States, he moved to Grand Junction and resided there his whole life. Carl Stranges opened his grocery store in the southwestern portion of the downtown area, often referred to as “Little Italy”, due to the concentration of Italian residents and Italian-owned businesses in the area.
Three other grocery stores and an icehouse were located within a two-block area of the Stranges store. Carl Stranges owned and managed the grocery until shortly before his death in 1942. He willed the store to his niece and her husband who continued to operate the store until 1963.
Italian immigrants owned and operated groceries and delis in Stockton, CA just as they did across the country. Genovese immigrants, Joseph & Emilio Silva, operated a grocery store on Main and East Streets from 1890-1925 and a number of their wholesale providers were also Italian. Caesar Gaia, born in 1892 near Torino, left home at the age of seventeen to follow his brother Frank who left for California years earlier.
Gaia first worked on a ranch in Gilroy before moving to Stockton in 1914. He, along with Louis Delucchi, bought E. Fontana’s Ravioli Factory which later became the site of Gaia & Delucchi at 320 East Market St. The grocery featured ravioli, salami and other Italian specialities for their customers in San Joaquin county.
The first Italian to arrive in Los Angeles was known to be Sardinian-born, Giovanni Leandri, in the 1820s. He operated a shop on Calle de los Negros, an alley situated near Old Chinatown. Many of the first wave of Italian immigrants lived in boarding houses in the area around what is now part of the Arts District and Civic Center. In the 1890s, Italian-Americans bought homes and opened businesses in El Pueblo, Sonora Town, Dogtown, Lincoln Heights, Solano Canyon and Victor Heights.
The corner of College Street and Broadway has been home to Little Joe’s since 1927. Little Joe’s began as the Italian-American Grocery Company, established at Fifth and Hewitt, by Charley Viotto in 1897. The deli counter evolved into a full-fledged restaurant, named after, then, co-owner Joe Vivalda.
Cooking From The Italian Deli
The hero sandwich is one of the standout achievements of Italian-American cuisine. Taking a French baguette — which became faddish in Italian-American bakeries around 1920 — and loading it up with cold-cuts, produced a final product that was as American as it was Italian, though nothing like it had ever been seen in the Old Country before.
There were also hot versions that often included fried meat cutlets, fried calamari, eggplant parm and the great Italian-American invention – meatballs. The heroes were aimed at working men who needed thousands of calories to fuel their back-breaking work. The hero/sub/grinder/hoagie is here to stay and will be a main feature at parties on Super Bowl Sunday, next month.
- 1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
- One 12-inch loaf soft Italian bread
- 5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 pound deli-sliced provolone cheese
- 1/4 pound deli-sliced Genoa salami
- 1/4 pound deli-sliced boiled ham
- 1/4 pound deli-sliced mortadella
- 1/4 pound deli-sliced capicola
- 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced pickled pepperoncini
- 3 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Soak the onion slices in a large bowl of cold water for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, split the bread lengthwise, then pull out some of the bread from the inside. Drizzle 2 tablespoons each vinegar and olive oil on the bottom half. Season with salt and pepper.
Layer the cheese and meat on the bottom half of the bread. Drain the onion and pat dry. Top the meat with the onion, lettuce, pepperoncini and tomatoes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons each vinegar and olive oil and sprinkle with the oregano. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Drizzle the cut side of the bread top with the remaining 1 tablespoon each vinegar and olive oil, then place on top of the sandwich. Cut into 4 pieces.
- 1 large head iceberg lettuce, coarsely chopped
- 1 (1-inch) slice (about 1/2 pound) deli ham, cut into cubes
- 1 (1-inch) slice (about 1/2 pound) turkey breast, cut into cubes
- 1 (1-inch) slice (about 1/2 pound) deli hard salami, cut into cubes
- 1 (1/2-inch) slice (about 1/2 pound) provolone cheese, cut into cubes
- 1 (16-ounce) jar peperoncini, drained
- 1 (6-ounce) can pitted black olives, drained
- 1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into 1/2-inch strips
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 cup Italian dressing
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the dressing; mix well. Add dressing and toss until well coated. Serve immediately.
Chicago Italian Beef Sandwiches
1 boneless beef roast (sirloin or round), about 3 pounds with most of the fat trimmed off
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 6 cups of hot water
- 4 cubes of beef bouillon
- 10 soft, hoagie rolls, sliced lengthwise but hinged on one side or a loaf of Italian bread
- 3 medium-sized green bell peppers
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup hot giardiniera
Mix the rub in a bowl. Coat the meat lightly with vegetable oil, sprinkle the rub generously on the meat and massage it in. There will be some left over. Do not discard it; it will be used in the juice.
Put a rack just below the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.
Pour the 6 cups of water into a pan and heat it to a boil on the stove top. Dissolve the bouillon in the water. Add the remaining rub to the pan.
Pour the water mixture into a 9 x 13″ baking pan. Place a meat rack in the pan. Place the roast on top of the rack above the juice. Roast until the interior temperature is about 130°F for medium rare, about 40 minutes per pound.
While the meat is roasting, cut the bell peppers in half and remove the stems and seeds. Rinse and cut into 1/4″ strips. Cook the peppers in a frying pan over a medium high heat with enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, about 1 tablespoon. When they are getting limp and the skins begin to brown, in about 15 minutes, they are done. Set aside at room temperature.
Remove the roast from the oven. Take the meat off the rack and remove the rack. Pour off the juice, put the meat back in the pan, and place it in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Let it cool for a few hours or long enough for the meat to firm up. This will make slicing easier. Chill the juice, too, in a separate container. Slice the meat against the grain as thin as possible.
Taste the juice. If you want, you can thin it with more water or make it richer by cooking it down on top of the stove. In Chicago beef stands, it is rich, but not too concentrated. Then turn the heat to a gentle simmer. Soak the sliced meat in the juice for about 1 minute at a low simmer.
To assemble the sandwich:
Start by spooning some juice directly onto the bun. Then layer on the beef, generously. Spoon on more juice. Top it with bell peppers and giardiniera. Serve with plenty of napkins.
Deli Style Italian Meatball Subs with Peppers
- 6 large meatballs, cooked (recipe below)
- 1 1/2 cups Marinara Sauce
- 3/4 cup shredded provolone
- 1 (6.7-ounce) jar Italian Sliced Sweet Peppers, drained
- Loaf of Italian bread or 2 hoagie rolls
Heat meatballs in the marinara sauce in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Fill rolls with meatballs (3 per sandwich). Top with shredded provolone and peppers. Serve immediately.
Italian Deli Meatballs
- 2 loaves stale Italian bread (at least 2 days old), cubed
- 2 cups milk
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 cup grated Romano cheese
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 2 pounds ground veal
- 2 pounds ground pork
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.
In a large bowl, combine cubed bread, milk and beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly until the bread absorbs the liquid. Add garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, basil and Romano cheese.
Add beef, veal and pork. Mix until fully combined. Roll into balls and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes.
Makes about 40 meatballs.
Italian Cheese Cake
- 3 ½ cups of ricotta cheese, drained overnight
- 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1 lemon zested
- 1 orange zested
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup of sugar
Mix all ingredients thoroughly in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Pour in a 9 inch spring form pan.
Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour until firm. Refrigerate overnight. Remove cake from the pan and cut into serving pieces.
Like all the northern regions on Italy’s border that I have written about so far in this series, the regions are heavily influenced by the countries they touch.
Friuli–Venezia Giulia is Italy’s most North-Eastern region and is the fifth smallest region of the country. It borders Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. To the south it faces the Adriatic Sea and to the west. The region spans a wide variety of climates and landscapes from the mild Mediterranean climate in the south to Alpine continental in the north. The total area is subdivided into mountainous-alpine terrain in the north, hilly areas in the south-east and in the imterior the coastal plains area.
The regional capital is Trieste; the other important cities are Udine, Gorizia and Pordenone.
The ancient Romans left many remarkable traces, mainly at Aquileia, which is a famous archaeological center. In Grado and Cividale, there are important architecture examples of the Byzantine style. The Basilica of Aquileia, which is in the Romanesque Gothic style, houses splendid mosaics.
In Trieste, the Revoltella Civic Museum, holds an important collection of sculptural and pictorial works from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the Civic Museum of the Sea, shows the history of navigation from its origins to the end of the last century, with models, instruments and projects. The Civic Museum of Risorgimento is an interesting review of Trieste’s struggle for freedom; the Civic Museum of Art History holds a remarkable collection of archaeological relics, from the Paleolithic to the Roman Age with collections of archaeology, sculpture, painting, ceramics, coins and jewelry.
Italian is the official national language. Friulian language is also spoken in most of the region — with a few exceptions, most notably Trieste and the area around Monfalcone and Grado, where a version of the Venetian language and Triestine dialect is spoken instead. The local languages are more common in the countryside, while in the larger towns (Udine, Pordenone, Gorizia), standard Italian is the predominant language.
Take a visit to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region via the video below:
Friuli Venezia Giulia Cuisine
The food culture has been enriched by the historical melting pot of peoples, languages and traditions, with influences from the Mediterranean and Slavic countries detectable in a range of flavors and recipes.
The legendary San Daniele ham and wines from Friuli vineyards have become the ambassadors of Friuli Venezia Giulia food production. There are 8 D.O.C. zones where D.O.C.G. wines are produced, including robust reds such as Ramandolo, Picolit and Rosazzo, the strangely-named Tazzelenghe (do you know how it got this name?). Tazzelenghe, in English, means literally “tongue-cutting or stinging,” which refers to a great combination of acidity and tannins, born from a long, cool growing season. Tazzelenghe is an indigenous varietal that disappeared and only saw cultivation and production as recently as the late 1970s and early ‘80s.
The foremost white wine produced in this region is the Tocai Friulano, as it is called now. Because of a confusion between a Hungarian grape called Tokaj and a French one called Tokay, the European Community had demanded a name change of the French and Friuli grapes allowing Hungary to keep the original Tokaj name.
Seafood dishes include crostacei e conchiglie (a crustacean and shellfish dish), specialities such as boreto from Grado, “scampi a la busara” from Istria, sardoni from the Gulf of Trieste and ribalta vapor from the Marano lagoon.
Montasio, smoked ricotta cheese with the taste of Alpine meadows is the best known cheese of the region and cheeses that are little known but much-loved, are formadi frant and Asìno. Dis
Delicacies such as Sauris cured ham, cured ham from Cormòns, salami, speck (smoked ham), local bacon, brusaola and pitina, smoked meatball of sheep, goat or wild animal are all characteristic foods of the region.
Specialties of the region include frico (a kind of cheese fritter, either soft or crunchy), with musèt and brovade (sausage with soured turnip). Other specialities include cjarsòns (ravioli with a sweet or herb-flavored filling) and gnocchi di susine (plum gnocchi) from Goriziano. You will also find trout (especially the Regina smoked trout from San Daniele), honey, Julia Dop apples, grappas, oils and Slavic desserts such as gubana and presnitz.
If you want to taste and buy typical Friuli products, go to the Farmers’ Market in San Daniele: it’s an open air market organised in collaboration between the San Daniele Agro-food Park and the Slow Food Movement.
Recipes from Friuli Venezia Giulia
Asiago is a good replacement for Montasio cheese.
Ingredients for 1 frico ( 4 people):
- 8 oz (250 grams) of potatoes
- 1 onion
- 9 oz (260 grams) of Montasio cheese, cut into small cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Grated Grana Padano cheese
Place potatoes in a pot of cold water; when it begins to boil cook them for 20 minutes. Drain and mash with a fork.
In the meantime chopped the onion. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet and add the onion. cook until lightly brown. Add the mashed potatoes to the pan with the cheese cubes. Flatten the mixture with a wide spatula and cook until the underside is brown.
Slip the spatula under the mixture and flip it over. Cook until brown on the bottom.
Sprinkle with the grated grana padano cheese, cut into four and serve as an appetizer.
Fresh Pasta with Poppy Seeds and Sugar
This is an unusual sweet sauce not usually found in Italy.
For the pasta:
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 pound fresh egg tagliatelle or reginette pasta
For the sauce:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 ounces poppy seeds
- 1/4 cup sugar
Make the pasta:
Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente; then drain, reserving about 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.
Make the sauce:
Warm the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the poppy seeds and warm through until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Keep warm.
Transfer the drained pasta to a large serving platter and toss with the warm poppy-seed butter. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking water, as needed to thin out the sauce; it should coat the pasta nicely. Sprinkle with the sugar and toss again. Serve hot.
Cevapcici with Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce
- 8 ounces ground beef
- 8 ounces lean ground pork
- 1 onion plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion, divided
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Dash cayenne pepper
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 small eggplant
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Dash cayenne pepper
To prepare the Cevapcici:
In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork, 2 tablespoons chopped onion, garlic, paprika, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Roll the mixture into sausage shapes about 3 inches long and ¾ inch in diameter.
Preheat a grill (or heat a large skillet over medium-high heat). Place the sausages on the grill; cook until done, about 5–6 minutes, turning to brown each side.
Serve with the sauce and the onion, chopped.
To prepare the Sauce:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the bell pepper and eggplant on a baking sheet; bake until the eggplant is tender and the bell pepper skin begins to brown, about 30–40 minutes. When the bell pepper is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin, stem and seeds.
Slice open the eggplant and scoop out the flesh. Place the bell pepper and eggplant in a food processor, along with the olive oil, vinegar, sugar and cayenne pepper; purée until smooth. Season to taste with salt.
Friuli Chocolate Fondue
- 2 bananas
- 12 fresh, ripe strawberries
- 2 pears
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- 1 ¼ lbs (500 gr) dark melting chocolate of excellent quality, chopped
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream, slightly scalded
- 2 tablespoons rum
Wash all the fruit. Slice the bananas and pears into wedges and rub with the sliced lemon to keep them from turning brown. Take care not to use too much lemon as it will alter the flavor of the fruit.
Melt the chocolate pieces in a double boiler.
Remove from the heat and add the rum and the heavy cream.
Serve the chocolate sauce in a warmed ceramic (or clay) bowl and arrange the fruit around it.