Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: California

California’s Mediterranean climate is similar to Italy’s, so the Italian immigrants felt at home and were able to bring their food and culture to this new land. The California soil was ideal for planting crops Italians were used to growing, such as eggplant, artichokes, broccoli and Sicilian lemons. Italians also brought with them a love of wine as well as a history of making it.

Nearly 200 members of the Sacramento Italian Cultural Society and the Folsom Historical Society attended the opening reception for the exhibit “Nostra Storia” on January 28, 2000. This is a unique story about that wave of people from Italy, primarily from the area around Genoa in the region of Liguria, who settled in the foothills of the Mother Lode region (Sierra Nevada Mountains) of Northern California in the Mid-19th century. This is the first time that an exhibit has been created to tell the story of these enterprising people who contributed so much to the economic and cultural fabric of California. The history of the Italian Americans is often relegated to the margins of American history despite the fact that the Italians are the 4th largest ancestry group in America with more than 25 million Americans and two million Californians of Italian descent (based on the 2000 Census).This exhibit is part of the determination of this current generation of Italians, to see that the Italian immigrant story is told and included in the history of the nation.

California’s gold country has been profoundly influenced by Italian culture for the last 160 years. Immigrants from Italy’s northern provinces were drawn here by the lure of gold, but it was the allure of the California foothills where they found the terrain and climate similar to that of Italy, that convinced them to stay. California’s fledgling economy provided unparalleled opportunities for Italian businessmen and unclaimed land was available for agriculturalists. Settlement soon brought women and children and, within a decade, Italians represented a significant portion of the population in the region, numbering among the gold country’s leading farmers, merchants and tradesmen. The Mother Lode also offered women unique advantages and Italian women proved wonderfully resourceful when necessity demanded. The 1870s saw a second wave of immigration, as Italian laborers arrived to work in the large, corporate-owned gold mines. Descendents of many of these Italian pioneers remain in the gold country to this day.

Del Monte

Across the state, the Italians also settled on the farmlands and played a prominent role in developing today’s fruit, vegetable and dairy industries. By the 1880′s, Italians dominated the fruit and vegetable industry in the great Central Valley of California. Italian immigrants also left their mark on the California food processing industry. Marco Fontana arrived in the United States in 1859 and along with another Ligurian, Antonio Cerruti, established a chain of canneries under the “Del Monte” label. Most of their workers were Italian and their cannery soon became the largest in the world.

One of the most inspiring of California’s Italians was Amadeo Pietro Giannini, who was born in 1870 to immigrant Italian parents from Genoa. He started the first statewide system of branch banks in the nation by opening branches of his Bank of Italy in the Italian neighborhoods across the state. He later changed the name of his bank to Bank of America, which became the largest bank in the world.

The California wine industry also owes much to the Italian founders of the industry. Italians have been planting vineyards and making wine in America since the early colonial days when Filippo Mazzei, planted vineyards with Thomas Jefferson. The founding of the Italian Swiss Colony at Asti in 1881 as a cooperative of Italian immigrants from the wine growing regions of Italy, promoted the widespread participation and success of the Italians in the California wine industry and the vineyards in Napa and Sonoma.

Largest wine vat in the world, Asti, about 1900. The vat is still there, but today it contains water for fire protection instead of wine. (Cloverdale Historical Society collection)

Oakland, the other city by the bay, was a magnet for Italian immigrants in the early decades of the 20th century. Some relocated from San Francisco after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire; many more came to Oakland predominantly from Italy’s northern regions. As they established new roots and adopted new ways, they congregated largely in north Oakland’s bustling Temescal neighborhood and these Italian Americans nurtured their old country customs and traditions for generations–giving us a rare glimpse of bygone days.

Los Angeles’, “Little Italy”, presents a history of the city’s vibrant Italian enclave during the 100-year period following the arrival of the city’s first Italian pioneers in 1827. While Los Angeles possesses the nation’s fifth-largest Italian population today, little is known about its Italian history which has been examined by only a handful of historians over the past 50 years. Much of LA’s historic Little Italy has been masked by subsequent ethnic settlements, however, the community’s memory lives on. From pioneer agriculturalists and winemakers to philanthropists and entertainment personalities, Italian Americans left a lasting impression on the city’s social, economic and cultural fabric and contributed to Los Angeles’ development as one of the world’s major metropolises.

San Pedro Port

While the downtown cluster (St. Peter’s Italian Church, Casa Italiana and the Italian Hall) may loosely be construed a Little Italy, San Pedro today represents one of the few visible local nuclei of Italians. This clustering on the Los Angeles landscape has arisen for a unique reason. Until recently, San Pedro was geographically and occupationally compact due to its function as Los Angeles’ port and due to what was, formerly, a significant fishing industry. San Pedro Italians came from two Italian island fishing communities: Ischia and Sicily. Although they arrived with the migrations of the early 20th. century (the Sicilians later), the independent nature of this group’s trade and the relative geographic compactness of San Pedro, fostered the preservation of ethnic loyalty.

Attracted by the mild climate and abundance of fertile land, Italians came to the Santa Clara Valley from all regions of Italy. Beginning in the 1880s, Italian men, women and children filled the numerous canneries and packing houses, supplying the rest of the nation with fresh produce. Once the largest ethnic group in the valley, the Italians’ impact on the region has been profound. Here are some of their stories:

Rodolfo Mussi was born in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania in 1914 to an Italian immigrant father, who worked in the coalmines. Rodolfo’s mother died at a young age forcing the family to return to Italy. The village of Riccione in Northern Italy did not offer much hope to young Rodolfo, who at age sixteen returned with his father’s permission to the United States. His father let him leave Italy on one condition: that he head to California not Pennsylvania. At sixteen with little money, no family or friends or command of the English language, Rodolfo went to work in the mud baths in Calistoga. He later moved to Stockton and went to work on a farm. He noticed a plot of land that was not being farmed and inquired about the property. He had no money to purchase the land or equipment to farm it, but his determination impressed the landowner, Mr. Lucas, who leased the land to Mussi. After thirty years, Mussi secured a twenty-five year lease and his sons still lease and farm the same land today

Joseph Solari II’s great grandfather arrived in Stockton in 1877 and his family was among the first to grow cherries in the area. Four generations of the Solari family farmed in Stockton and their products are sold around the country through the California Fruit Exchange, founded in 1901. The cherries and plums are packed on the Solari Ranch and then sent to the east coast. The Solari family was also involved with the founding of two additional organizations: the San Joaquin Marketing Association (1922) and the San Joaquin Cherry Growers (1935).

In addition to cherries, Stockton was also known for its tomatoes. Two families cornered the market for quality tomatoes and tomato products. The Cortopassi family business began in 1942 with fresh-packed canned tomato products. Today, their products are available only through food service distributors in the United States and Canada. George Lagorio began farming in 1945 on thirty acres. Today the Lagorio family farms over 10,000 acres. The ACE Tomato Company founded in 1968 ships worldwide today. Their Specialty Products include olive oil, walnuts, cherries and wine grapes. George’s daughter, Kathleen Lagorio Janssen and her husband Dean expanded the family business a few years ago with the purchase of olive orchards. Now the company also produces extra virgin olive oil.

Italian immigrants to San Jose, located south of San Francisco in the Silicon Valley, came from many Italian regions, but a majority of them arrived from villages in southern Italy and Sicily. There were two primary Italian neighborhoods in San Jose,  as its population grew in the early to mid twentieth century. The Goosetown neighborhood included Auzarias Avenue and North 1st. Street. This neighborhood bordered Willow Glen, where many Italian Americans still reside. The second neighborhood was around North 13th. Street and it included Holy Cross Church and Backesto Park. One Italian immigrant who eventually made his home in San Jose was Mario Marchese, who was born in 1878 in Palermo Sicily. He left home for New York in 1903 with other family members and, when he arrived in NY, he took a job moving furniture. In 1907 he married his boss’s daughter, Domenica Pavia. Shortly after the birth of their first child, they took the train west to California in search of a better opportunity. Mario and Domenica had ten children and lived in the Italian neighborhood known as Goosetown. Mario initially worked as a prune picker and was eventually hired by Navelete’s Nursery to oversee the orchards.

 

Brothers Andrea and Stefano D’Arrigo were born in Messina, Sicily and emigrated to the U.S. in 1904 and 1911 respectfully. They eventually settled in Boston, went to college and fought for the U.S. in World War I. They started D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of Massachusetts in 1923. Stefano travelled to California in 1925 on a wine grape buying trip. He observed the fertile farmland in San Jose and, soon after, D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California was launched and they were growing vegetables in San Jose. The broccoli seeds arrived from Italy and were planted over twenty-eight acres, making them the first to introduce broccoli to the public under their brand, Andy Boy, trademarked in 1927. They remain one of the largest fresh produce growers in the country and the company is still family run.

Women Cannery Workers 

The Bisceglia Brother’s Canning Company employed many Italian immigrant women and was located on South First Street close to the Goosetown neighborhood. They earned less pay than the men but worked less hours. The women worked on the assembly line peeling, cutting, pitting and slicing by hand. By the 1930s and 1940s women were promoted to supervisors, better known to the employees as floor ladies. These women supervised thirty-five to forty-five women on the production line and they typically supervised their own ethnic group.

More than most people realize, the Italian Americans helped to shape the cultural landscape of California and the modern West. The enterprise and success of these Italian pioneers is a unique legacy – one shared by all of us. 

(Sources: We Are California: Stories of Immigration and Change A California Stories Project of the California Council for the Humanities.  www.weareca.org  The California Italian American Project is designed to make available to students and researchers basic information and resources about California’s original Italian communities.)                       

California is where pizza became “boutique” food, starting in the 1980s, as part of a larger attraction to the Mediterranean cuisine. Alice Waters put a wood-burning oven into her café at Chéz Panisse and Wolfgang Puck became famous by feeding Hollywood stars $100 caviar pies. Puck’s pizza man, Ed LaDou, went on to found the California Pizza Kitchen chain. The chain is widely known for its innovative and non traditional pizzas, such as the “Original BBQ Chicken Pizza”, BLT, Thai Chicken and Jamaican Jerk Chicken pizzas. They also serve various kinds of pasta, salads, soups, sandwiches and desserts. The chain has over 230 locations in 32 US states and eleven other countries, including 26 California Pizza Kitchen ASAP kiosks designed to serve passengers at airports and shopping malls. The company licensed its name to Kraft Foods to distribute a line of premium frozen pizzas in 2000 and Nestlé purchased Kraft’s pizza lines in 2010.

Chéz Panisse’s wood-burning oven

Italian Recipes That Make Use of California’s Bounties

Sweet Pepper Martini

Makes 2 Drinks

Giuseppe Luigi Mezzetta, founder of G. L. Mezzetta, immigrated to America from Italy to start a new life. He eventually saved enough money to bring his new wife, Columba, to California where their son, Daniel, was born in 1918. Giuseppe continued to work hard and was soon able to earn a better wage as a janitor for two large import/export firms. In 1935, father and son decided to open a small storefront business and the new company began importing Italian peppers, olives and other staples of the Mediterranean table.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Mezzetta Roasted Bell Pepper Strips, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup or agave syrup
  • 2 strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 2 basil leaves, cut into strips
  • 1 dash hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vodka or gin
  • 4 Mezzetta Sweet Cherry Peppers, to garnish

Directions:

In a mixing glass or cocktail shaker add and mix all of the ingredients except the vodka. Fill the skaker with ice and add the vodka. Shake vigorously.

Strain the drink, using a fine mesh strainer, and pour into two martini glasses. Garnish with sweet cherry peppers.

(Note: to prepare simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water. Boil until the sugar has dissolved. Cool the syrup before using.)

Pesto Arancini Stuffed with Mozzarella

During his 25 years as a chef/restaurateur, Michael Chiarello has been acknowledged by the Culinary Institute of America, IACP, Food & Wine Magazine and many more for his success as both a Chef and restaurant professional. He has developed over 10 restaurants, including his hugely popular Bottega Restaurant in Yountville, California (Napa Valley), his new Spanish restaurant Coqueta on Pier 5 in San Francisco and his first in California, Tra Vigne, of which he was executive chef/partner until 2000. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY.

I visited Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega, two years ago when I was in California, and the food was outstanding. Restaurants don’t come any better than this one.

Recipe from Bottega by Michael Chiarello (Chronicle Books, 2010)

Makes 16 arancini; serves 4

Arancini, or rice-balls filled with a melting cheese, are for leftover-risotto days. I never make the rice from scratch when I’m making arancini at home. If you don’t have leftover risotto, you can make these balls from cooked Arborio rice but be sure to add a teaspoon or two of salt while the rice cooks. (Honestly, you’re better off making a big pot of risotto and then making arancini the next day.)

Arancini always remind me of my friend Mariano Orlando. He always made arancini the Sicilian way, his rice balls the size of oranges. We talked once about arancini and he kept saying in Italian, “telephone wire,” making a motion with his hands as if to stretch a length of cord. “What are you saying?” I asked him. “Why are you talking about telephone wire?” The cheese, Mariano said, should stretch like a telephone wire when you take a bite from a perfect arancini and pull it away from your lips.

Our arancini don’t have that same telephone wire of cheese; we use a little less cheese in the middle and a lot more cheese in the risotto. You can add more cheese to the middle if you want to go for the telefono filo effect. If you want to make these a few hours ahead, pour panko crumbs into a baking dish and rest the arancini on the panko before covering the dish in plastic wrap and refrigerating.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups leftover risotto or cooked Arborio rice, cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups Blanched Basil Pesto, double recipe below
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, preferably bocconcini
  • Peanut oil, corn oil, or canola oil for frying
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

Directions:

Line a platter with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir the risotto and pesto together until blended. Divide the rice into 16 more-or-less-equal portions.

Cut off about 1/2 teaspoon of mozzarella and then with your hands ball up one serving of rice around the cheese so it’s completely encased in rice. Gently place on the prepared platter. Repeat to form 16 arancini. Slide the platter into the freezer for 30 minutes to allow the balls to firm up.

Before you take the rice balls from the freezer, set up your dredging station. Pour the flour into a shallow bowl; the eggs into another shallow bowl; and the panko into a third shallow bowl.

In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 inches oil over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F on a deep-fat thermometer. While the oil heats, dredge each rice ball in flour and lightly shake off the excess. Dip in the egg and then in the panko. Gently drop 4 to 6 balls into the oil and cook until lightly browned, 60 to 90 seconds. Don’t overcook them or the cheese will leak out into your oil. Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat to cook the remaining arancini. Serve at once.

Blanched-Basil Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

Powdered vitamin C- also called ascorbic acid-is my secret for keeping pesto a fresh, appetizing green. The herbs go in boiling water and then straight into an ice bath, so I like to use a large sieve or colander to transfer all the herbs in one smooth move.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, preferably ground sea or gray salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon powdered ascorbic acid
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Set up a large bowl of ice water. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Place the basil and parsley leaves in a sieve or colander that fits inside the pan. Lower the sieve full of herbs into the boiling water, and use a spoon to push the leaves under so the herbs cook evenly. Blanch for 15 seconds, and then transfer the sieve to the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Let the herbs cool in the ice bath for 10 seconds. Remove the sieve, let drain, and then squeeze any water that you can from the herbs. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop.

In a blender, puree the herbs with the oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and ascorbic acid until well blended and somewhat smooth. Add the cheese and whir for a second or two to mix. Transfer the pesto to a bowl; taste and adjust the seasoning.

Press plastic wrap directly top of the pesto to keep it from turning brown and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze it for up to 1 month.

Chef’s Note: Toast pine nuts in a small dry skillet over low heat, shaking the pan frequently. Heat for just a minute or two; as soon as you smell the fragrance of the pine nuts, slide the nuts out of the pan and onto a plate so they don’t burn.

Chicken in Tomato & Olive Braise

Chef David Katz, owner of Panevino, and faculty member at the Culinary Institute of America created this recipe to specifically pair with Mirassou wine. Chef Katz has spent nine years in the Napa Valley as a working chef and instructor at CIA Greystone focusing on the business of cooking and on food and wine education.

Serves 6.

Ingredients:

  • 6 chicken thighs, 5-6 ounces each
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced about 1/8th inch thick
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch hot pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/4 cup Mirassou Pinot Noir
  • 1 large can (1 pound 12 ounces) excellent quality diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 teaspoons brine-packed capers, rinsed
  • 1 cup whole pitted green olives, rinsed
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 loose cup whole parsley leaves, plucked from the stem

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F.  Select a 3 to 4 quart oven-safe baking dish, and set it aside. Heat a large, heavy skillet over a medium-high burner. While the pan is heating, season the chicken with the salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the olive oil to the skillet, allow it to heat through, then add the chicken pieces skin-side down. Cook until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes, then turn and brown equally on the other side, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet, and return it to the stovetop over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and stir often for 3 minutes, or until it smells sweet. Stir in the pepper flakes and fennel. Deglaze with the wine, stirring against the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release the browned juices. Add the tomatoes, capers and olives, and bring the skillet to a simmer. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the seasoning to taste, then pour the tomato mixture into the oven-safe baking dish. Arrange the chicken pieces over the tomato mixture, skin-side up, and sprinkle the shaved cheese over the chicken. Place the baking dish on the center rack of the oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 160 degrees in the center of the largest piece of chicken.

Garnish the dish with parsley leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with soft polenta or your favorite short pasta and a crisp green salad.

Italian Padella

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

“Padella” is Italian for skillet, as “paella” is in Spanish.

Ingredients:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 peppercorns
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage
  • 1/4 pound sliced ham
  • 1/4 pound salt pork
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 3 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1-1/2 pounds squid, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 cups cooked peas
  • 24 mussels, scrubbed
  • 24 clams, scrubbed
  • 8 large prawns, shelled, deveined and cooked
  • 2 tablespoons pimientos

Directions:

Combine 2 tablespoons oil, oregano, peppercorns, garlic, salt and vinegar; mix with mortar and pestle to make a paste. Rub chicken with oregano paste.

Heat 1/2 cup oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; brown. Add sausage, ham, salt pork, onion, green pepper, capers and coriander. Reduce heat to low; cook 10 minutes.

Add rice and tomato sauce; cook 5 minutes. Add medium shrimp, squid, broth and saffron; mix well and cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir in peas.

Steam mussels and clams in water until open; add large prawns and pimientos. Transfer rice mixture to large serving platter; top with mussel mixture.

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The images above on the Italian Heritage Mural are part of the life work of Italian immigrant Gino Sbrana, who started his American life in San Francisco as a vegetable peddler. By 1911, he had launched a large photographic studio, Pisa Foto, at Columbus and Broadway in San Francisco. Later Gino founded a studio in Oakland and, in 1919, settled in San Jose. Not content to confine his artistry to the formally posed studio portrait, he traveled over the Bay Area countryside with his large wooden field camera, using soft light on the shady side of barns or under large oaks to capture his fellow countrymen. Gino posed them in the coastal mist with machetes poised to harvest cauliflower, perched atop their brand new motorcycles, assembled by trucks loaded with produce from the fields, sleeves rolled up and holding their “vino”.

Children in Columbus Day Parade, 1925

The first Italian wave, to arrive in California (1850 –1924) came from five parts of Italy: Genoa in Liguria, Lucca in Tuscany and a few provinces of Piedmont, Sicily and Calabria. Driven mostly by poverty in their homeland, many had no formal education and spoke little English. What they did bring were the skills gained as peasants and fishermen in Italy and, then, used those skills creatively in America. An advantage they had over their countrymen who had settled on the eastern seaboard was that California was not as developed as the eastern states and needed people with their work ethic and vision to help it grow. The first wave found California a diverse economy. When they proved unsuccessful in their search for gold many became wine growers, vegetable farmers, boarding house operators, merchants, loggers or fishermen. One well known “failed” goldminer, Domenico Ghirardelli set up a tent in Stockton selling supplies and confections to miners. His sweets were so popular that in 1852 he opened the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in San Francisco. By 1880 the fishermen from Genoa and later from Sicily could be found throughout the state and by 1910 Italians were said to control 80% of the fishing industry in California. 

Buon Gusto Sausage Factory, Columbus Avenue, 1926

Many chose to settle in small towns, gravitating to work in agriculture, initially as market gardeners, fruit growers and nurserymen. They raised crops that were sold in nearby cities and mining camps. It was during this time the wine industry started to develop. It was California’s suitability for grape growing that drew many of the Italians to this area. The Italian Swiss Agricultural society was a cooperative formed by Andrea Sbarboro in 1881 to aid Italian and Swiss immigrants with settling into their new land. Hiring peasants who had worked in the vineyards in Italy, the society gave them a fair wage, free wine and stock shares. Although the wine industry has changed over the years, Italian Americans still play a very significant role, owning or managing 15 percent of California wineries, including three of the largest and ten of the oldest. 

After the Civil war in the 1860′s, more Italian immigrants began to settle in North Beach and parts of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. Many put down roots, established businesses and raised families. The Genoese came to dominate banking, truck gardening and grocery wholesaling.The Lucchesi from Lucca in Tuscany were merchants, produce vendors and peddlers, who opened small retail outlets, restaurants and produce stores at the base of Telegraph Hill. In the 1880’s the Sicilians followed and took over the fishing industry, settling around Fisherman’s Wharf at the northern end of North Beach.

San Francisco, a city born in the excitement of the Gold Rush of 1849 and a city noted for its gourmet restaurants, was also the city of Italian provincial restaurants that served their clientele dishes in a congenial atmosphere reflecting the universal belief among all Italians that food and the pleasure of eating meals shared with relatives or friends remains essential to maintaining kinship ties. For Italians, the quality and quantity of food eaten by a family has always symbolized the economic earning power of the menfolk and the family’s social position guarded by the women. Equating food with family life was the formula recreated in San Francisco’s osterias and trattorias, where patrons felt the reverence Italians demonstrated towards their food. San Francisco’s first Italian restaurateurs introduced the city to the cuisine of northern Italy. Although the city’s Italian community was small from the 1850′s through the 1880′s, it was the largest in the United States and characteristic of the pattern in Italian immigration.

Catering to the specific appetites of this varied patronage, there was a blend of hearty foods which aimed to satisfy all the provincial palates. Ravioli and cioppino for the Genoese; beans for the Florentines along with rigatoni and grilled meats; veal ragu, for the Tuscan palate; saltimbocca for the Romans; risi e bisi (rice and peas) and scampi for the Venetians; bollito misto for the Piedmontese and zabaglione for the Sicilians–these delicacies not only pleased the various provincial tastes, but, in a far corner of the American West, Italian proprietors laid the groundwork for a restaurant industry which would contribute to San Francisco’s recognition as a gourmet city. At the same time, these restaurateurs set the stage for social interaction within a society represented by the cosmopolitan tastes of a transient frontier community. Notable among these pioneers were six provincial Italian restaurateurs: Frank Bazzurro, Giuseppe Campi, Stefano Sanguinetti, Frank Luchetti, Giuseppe Coppa and Angelo Del Monte. Each paved the way for successive generations of Italian restaurateurs who would continue to promote respect for the Italians through the medium of food.

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Local Italians led the founding of the Farmers’ Market at Market and Duboce

Genoese Frank Bazzurro came to San Francisco in 1852, where he purchased for fifty dollars, the schooner “Tam O’Shanter,” one of hundreds of ships abandoned in San Francisco Bay and opened his restaurant. Utilizing crabs, which were plentiful and one of the cheapest foods in the city, Bazzurro introduced San Franciscans to the Genoese delicacy, Cioppino – the Italian version of bouillabaisse. Bazzurro moved his restaurant from this waterfront location twice, once because the area was reclaimed by the city and the land filled in and the second time because of the destruction caused by the 1906 earthquake and fire. Bazzurro relied upon bountiful resources from the bay and the city’s outlying truck farms to prepare his provincial specialties.

San Francisco Bay provided as much fish and shellfish (most of which was caught by Genoese and Sicilian fishermen) as was found in the Mediterranean Sea. Dungeness crabs, oysters, clams, squid–which became calamari in the saute pans of Italian cooks–were in abundance, as was cod for baccala and salmon and striped bass were perfect for fish meatballs. From the fertile soil of the city’s truck farms and the ranches along the Peninsula where the Tuscan and Genoese farmers settled, grew the vegetables essential to the provincial Italian diet, such as artichokes, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, fava beans, Swiss chard, cardone and the aromatic herbs: garlic, anise, sage, fennel, oregano and sweet basil. As the city spread out from the waterfront towards Montgomery Street and along Broadway bordering “Little Italy,” Italian restaurants opened their doors. Offering menus of inexpensive and informal home cooked food, they captured the gastronomical hearts of San Franciscans.

Equally patronized by working people and gourmets was Campi’s Italian and Swiss/French Restaurant located on Merchant and Sansome Streets. The restaurant, opened in 1859, bordered the city’s pungent fish and fowl markets. Managed by Natale Giamboni after Giuseppe Campi’s death, Giamboni was known as the “King of Hosts,” charming the ladies and remembering the likes and dislikes of his clientele. Italian-born financier, Andrea Sbarboro recalled in his 1911 memoirs, the early restaurant days of the 1870′s when all the Italian businessmen of Washington and Sansome Streets lunched at Campi’s. “At the time, I had for ten years been a steady patron and, for thirty years more, I have continued to eat at this restaurant.”

Campi’s rival was Sanguinetti’s Restaurant, which was in full operation by 1888. Once located on Vallejo Street and then on Davis Street, Sanguinetti’s chief clientele were the fishermen from the nearby Union Street wharf. One could get a bowl of thick minestrone, an entree and a bottle of wine for twenty-five cents. For a nickel’s worth of beer, however, one also got a generous free lunch of spaghetti, Italian bread and fried fish. Two bartenders patrolled a line of ten beer barrels, drawing the brew slowly, first from one, then another and finally a third to fill a single glass from very small spigots. If drawn too quickly, the barrels’ pressure would turn the unique steam beer into froth.

Sanguinetti’s, owned by Stefano Sanguinetti, who later Americanized his name to “Steve,” was an attractive eatery with a low-beamed ceiling and dark walls. To give the restaurant an air of unconventionality, sawdust was spread on the floor. Writing for the Overland Monthly, Roland Whittle found the spontaneity of Sanguinetti’s to his liking and typical of Italian restaurants, he also liked their familial ambience. “One can drop into the little place almost any evening and hear the Italian folk song sung in the sweet, languorous music and tongue of South Italy,” he wrote.

Next door to Sanguinetti’s on Sansome Street was Lucchetti’s which opened in 1874 was a major competitor. Whittle put down the equally popular Lucchetti’s as “a large, straggling barn, uncomfortable in its fittings and devoid of artistic setting. The walls are devoid of ornament, except for gaudy advertisements of cigarettes and liquor,” he wrote. On Sunday nights, Lucchetti’s was in its glory, since that was when the Italian local fishermen who frequented the restaurant left the place to younger Americans eager for a night on the town. Their rowdy behavior indicated to Whittle that they were not interested in the fifty-cent meals of soup, fish, chicken, ravioli and spaghetti, but in a “mad, wild frolic” and “rough flirtations” with the ladies.

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1906 Earthquake

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Fires Following the 1906 Earthquake

Coppa’s restaurant in the old Montgomery Block, 1910

Coppa’s, located in the Montgomery Block Building, was the most famous of all the city’s favorite Italian eateries before the 1906 earthquake and fire. Located close to the stock exchange, Coppa’s attracted brokers and financiers during the day, but once the sun set, it was the mecca for “Bohemians”. The food was rated above average, thanks to the culinary expertise of Giuseppe Coppa, the Turinese chef, who had trained in some of the city’s top restaurants. Although Coppa’s survived the earthquake and fire, the landlord raised the rent, forcing Coppa to relocate and, thereafter, open a series of mediocre restaurants.

The fanciest of Italian meals came from the Fior d’Italia, which opened at 504 Broadway on May 1, 1886, under the proprietorship of Angelo Del Monte. Specialties of the house that first year included risotto with clams (ten cents); tortellini (five cents); veal saute (five cents) and a squab casserole (forty cents). Double porterhouse steak-an American dish-was sixty cents.”

Angelo Del Monte and ‘Papa’ Marianetti and Marianetti’s sons Frank and George

Del Monte took in a partner in 1896, a young immigrant known to his customers as Papa Marianetti, from Maggiano, a town between Lucca and Pisa. Like other Italian restaurants, the Fior d’Italia was a family operation that included Marianetti’s, two sons, George and Frank, who shelled peas, bused tables and washed dishes after school. The “Fior,” as the restaurant was known among San Francisco’s Italians, became the Italian community’s “in” spot, where important family events–weddings, baptisms, anniversaries, birthdays and first communions–were celebrated. The Fior d’Italia, presently located near Washington Square in front of St. Peter and Paul Church, was the city’s oldest surviving pioneer Italian restaurant. In 2012, after 126 years of business, Fior D’Italia served its last meal in San Francisco. Citing financial strain, the restaurant closed.

Certainly Bazzurro’s, Campi’s, Coppa’s, Sanguinetti’s, Lucchetti’s and the Fior d’Italia were not the only prominent Italian restaurants in San Francisco before the turn of the century, but they were the most popular among discriminating Italians and locals.These six restaurants laid the groundwork for a gastronomical industry that has profitably contributed to the economic structure of San Francisco. By 1900, when the influx of Italians increased, North Beach had become an eating paradise–at workers’ prices. Italian restaurants stretched along Columbus Avenue from Montgomery Street to Francisco Street, along upper Grant Avenue and along almost every side street between Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Source: The Argonaut, Volume 1, No. 1, Spring 1990

San Francisco’s Italian neighborhood, North Beach, is where you will find Italian cafes, restaurants, and shops. You’ll still hear lots of Italian spoken in North Beach and find:

  • Museo Italo Americano at Fort Mason: The museum has a small permanent Italian art collection that includes a beautiful Sicilian cart, changing exhibits, special events and lectures, books, DVDs, a gift shop, Italian language classes and children’s classes. The museum is open to the public daily, noon to 4:00, except Mondays, free.
  • Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco: 425 Washington Street – The cultural institute holds special events, weekly films on Tuesday evenings and lectures. They have exhibits and a large library and video library, Italian language classes. The Cultural Institute is open Monday-Friday, 9-5. They have a Saturday radio program at 8:00 am, Italian Culture around the Bay, on KUSF 90.3
  • A. Cavalli Italian Bookstore: 1441 Stockton Street off Columbus in North Beach – The store has been in business since 1880. They sell Italian books, magazines, greeting cards, videos and gifts. They now have a cafe, too. The store is closed on Sundays.
  • Molinari’s Deli: 373 Columbus Avenue in North Beach – Molinari’s has been in San Francisco for more than 100 years. It has lots of Italian imports including wines, meats, cheeses, pasta and dry goods. You’ll still see many Italians shopping there, ordering in Italian. It’s a good place for a sandwich. The deli is closed on Sundays.
  • Liguria Bakery: 1700 Stockton Street, in North Beach,

Italian Specialties From San Francisco

Cioppino

Serves 4–6

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 cups fish stock
  • 1 ½ cups whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed
  • 10 leaves basil
  • 1 lb. cod, cut into 2″ chunks
  • 1 lb. cleaned calamari, bodies cut into ½″-wide rings
  • 12 oz. medium shrimp, deveined
  • 12 oz. bay scallops
  • 16 clams, cleaned
  • 16 mussels, cleaned
  • 2 2-lb. Dungeness crabs or snow crab legs, halved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in an 8-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chile flakes and garlic; cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add stock, tomatoes and basil; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add cod, calamari, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels and crabs, cover with lid and cook until seafood is cooked through, about 8 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

Pizza with Wild Nettles

Pizzas with wild nettles are very popular in the Bay area. Nettles grow wild all year in northern California, and chefs use them in as many ways as possible. Because raw nettles can make you itch, it’s best to handle them with gloves or tongs. Once cooked, the nettles lose their sting and have a deep, earthy flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups wild nettle leaves, baby spinach or kale
  • Semolina flour

Pizza Dough

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

Peel outer skins from garlic bulb, leaving cloves attached. Cut off top quarter of the bulb. Place bulb, cut-side up, on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and seal foil tightly over garlic.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 45 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven; cool. Scoop out garlic pulp, mash and stir until smooth.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F with a pizza stone on the bottom rack.

Blanch nettle leaves in salted boiling water 1 minute, drain and plunge into ice water. Remove nettle leaves from water, wringing out excess, and set aside. (If using spinach, place in a microwave-safe bowl and heat at high 3 minutes. Set aside.)

Sprinkle surface with semolina flour and roll pizza dough into a 12-inch circle.

Spread dough with mashed garlic (garlic won’t cover entire surface); sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper. Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano and thyme.

Roughly chop nettles and spread over thyme. Sprinkle mozzarella, provolone and fontina evenly on pizza. Carefully slide pizza onto the preheated stone; bake 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and crispy. Slice, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil to taste.

Yield: makes 4 servings

Note: Place pizza on parchment paper—helps slide onto pizza stone.

 

Named after an historical term for “garlic”, The Stinking Rose offers contemporary California-Italian cuisine prepared and adorned with garlic – and strives to accommodate every palate. There is hearty fare for the truly adventurous, mild for the novice, and “sans “garlic for those finding the herb’s folklore and aroma more appealing than its taste.

This recipe is from their cookbook, The Stinking Rose Restaurant in San Francisco.  As the name implies, garlic is their featured ingredient.

Roasted Rabbit With Garlic and Olives

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 rabbits, cleaned, cut into pieces
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of peeled garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup pitted assorted olives
  • 3 sprigs thyme leaves, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a shallow bowl, stir flour, salt and pepper together. Dredge rabbit pieces in flour mixture, completely coating meat on all sides.

In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Put rabbit in the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, until nicely browned.

In a small bowl, toss the garlic with 1 tablespoon olive oil to coat completely.

Transfer rabbit to a baking dish and sprinkle with garlic, olives and thyme. Bake, uncovered, for about an hour or until the garlic cloves are golden brown and the rabbit is browned on the outside and opaque throughout.

Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in an abstract pattern on a serving platter and arrange rabbit on top. Scoop the garlic cloves and olives from the baking dish and sprinkle over the rabbit. Serve immediately.

 

SPQR is an acronym for Senatus Populusque Romanus and translates to “The People and Senate of Rome” and was the emblem of the Roman Empire. 

Executive Chef Matthew Accarrino at SPQR in San Francisco was born in the Midwest and raised in New Jersey, Accarrino began his culinary journey in high school working his way up from dishwasher to cook in small local restaurants. With the desire to receive formal training, Accarrino enrolled in The Culinary Institute of America, where in 1998, he received his Associate Degree in Culinary Arts.

He has trained abroad in Italy and worked for some of America’s best chefs including Todd English, Rick Moonen, Tom Colicchio and Thomas Keller. In late 2009 he moved to Northern California and joined the intimate restaurant SPQR as Executive Chef. Since his arrival, Accarrino has been named Star Chefs’ 2010 Rising Star for his “innovative vision, finesse and deeply satisfying cuisine,” and in 2011 he took top honors at San Francisco’s Cochon 555 competition. Accarrino was nominated by the James Beard Foundation as a semifinalist for “Best Chef: Pacific” in 2012 and the restaurant received its first Michelin star under his direction in the 2013 guide. He is also co-author of the book SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine, which was released in fall 2012.

Here is one of Chef Accarrino’s recipes:

Tagliatelle with Poppy Seeds and Prosciutto

Serves 4–6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb. tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • 2 oz. prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more to garnish
  • 4 scallions, cut into ½″ slices
  • Juice of ½ lemon

Directions:

Heat butter and oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, about 2 minutes.

Add poppy seeds; cook, stirring, until fragrant and shallots just begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Add wine; cook until almost all liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes.

Add buttermilk and cream; cook, stirring, until reduced slightly, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil; add pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving some cooking water, and add to the sauce in the skillet.

Add prosciutto, Parmesan, half the scallions and lemon juice; toss to combine, adding pasta cooking water if necessary to make a smooth sauce.

Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving dish; sprinkle with remaining scallions and more Parmesan.


Oranges have been cultivated all over the world for many years. They are native to southeastern Asia and China.  The Persian Orange, grown widely in southern Europe after its introduction to Italy in the 11th. century, was bitter. The sweet oranges that were brought to Europe in the 15th. century from India by Portuguese traders quickly displaced the bitter ones and are, now, the most common variety of orange grown around the world. The sweet orange was cultivated in the 16th. century in Eastern Europe and grows to different sizes and colors according to local conditions, most commonly with ten carpels, or segments, inside. In England, they were a sign of wealth and were often used during the holiday season for decorations.

All citrus trees are of the single genus, Citrus, and remain largely inter-breedable; that is, there is only one “superspecies” which includes lemons, limes and oranges. Nevertheless, names have been given to the various members of the citrus family, oranges often being referred to as Citrus sinensis and Citrus aurantium. Fruits of all members of the genus Citrus are considered berries because they have many seeds, are fleshy, soft and derive from a single ovary. An orange seed is sometimes referred to as a pip.

The seeds of the plant were often carried to different regions by the explorers. Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and Middle Eastern sailors planted citrus trees along trade routes to prevent scurvy. On his second voyage in 1493, Christopher Columbus brought the seeds of oranges, lemons and citrons to Haiti and the Caribbean. They were introduced in Florida (along with lemons) in 1513 by the Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon, and were introduced to Hawaii in 1792.

A single mutation in 1820 in an orchard of sweet oranges planted at a monastery in Brazil led to the navel orange, also known as the Washington, Riverside or Bahia navel. A single cutting of the original was then transplanted to Riverside, California in 1870, creating a new market worldwide. The mutation causes a ‘twin’ fruit, with a smaller orange embedded in the outer fruit opposite the stem. From the outside, the smaller, undeveloped twin leaves a formation at the bottom of the fruit, looking similar to the human navel. Navel oranges are almost always seedless and tend to be larger than other sweet oranges. They are produced, without pollination, through parthenocarpy. Parthenocarpy produces a seedless fruit which cannot reproduce by sexual means but only by asexual or artificial ones.

Brazil is the leading country for orange production, with the state of Florida second to Brazil. California, Texas and Arizona are the only other orange-producing states in the United States. Blood oranges are grown in Italy, Clementines in Morocco and Jaffa oranges in Israel. The United State also imports oranges from Australia, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

The varieties of orange come sweet, loose skinned or bitter. Some variety names are navel, blood oranges and Valencia.

Navel

Mandarin Oranges

When selecting oranges, look for skin that does not have blemishes, wrinkles and mold. Oranges are often green before they ripen. Over sized navel oranges are overripe, so smaller ones are better. When Valencia oranges turn ripe on the tree, they turn yellow orange. They have some green on the stem because of the chlorophyll that is redistributed to the skin. This green is not a sign of immaturity or blemishes.

Fresh oranges reach their peak availability in the winter and early spring months. Storing oranges properly, whether from the supermarket or harvested from your own tree, prolongs the life of the fruit by preventing mold and spoilage. Firm, heavy fruits with a pronounced citrus aroma are at peak ripeness and store best. Wrinkled fruits or those with a rough skin are more prone to early spoilage and don’t have the best quality of flavor. Store whole, unpeeled oranges at a temperature between 38 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

A sliced blood orange.

Oranges in Italy

They’re grown throughout the southern half of the Peninsula, and if you go out for a drive anywhere from Rome south you’ll pass roadside stands piled high with them. While there are a great many varieties; Italian oranges fall into three major groups:

  • Bionde are yellow to orange in color and include the Washington Navel.
  • Sanguigne are colored red, hence their English name, blood oranges.
  • Sanguinelle are oranges with skins are that colored with red.

As one might expect, oranges play an important role in the Italian diet. Bionde generally appear as fruit at the end of the meal, though they can be squeezed or used as a recipe ingredient, while sanguigne and sanguinelle are most often squeezed. During the winter months almost every bar has a juicer and a basket piled high with oranges for those who would rather begin their day with fresh juice rather than a cappuccino.

Anatra all’Arancia

Orange essence is a vital ingredient in many southern Italian pastries. Orange essence refers to orange oil derived from the orange’s peel that is dissolved in alcohol.  Its use is somewhat restricted due to its alcohol base. And the peels of all, including bitter oranges, are candied for use in cakes and other desserts.

Finally, oranges have also long figured in main course dishes, many of which have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity following the rise to prominence of Anatra all’Arancia, the Italian equivalent of the French duck à l’orange.

Painting of Gathering the Oranges, Muravera, Sardinia

Cooking With Oranges

Cocktail

 

Blood Orange Mimosa

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle Prosecco, Italian sparkling wine
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed blood orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon superfine granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier

Directions

Chill the bottle of Prosecco. Combine fresh blood orange juice with sugar and orange liqueur in a large measuring cup and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. To serve, pour into the bottom of Champagne glasses and slowly top-off with ice-cold Prosecco.

 

AppetizerPicture of Marinated Olives with Rosemary, Red Chili, Orange and Paprika Recipe

Marinated Olives with Rosemary, Red Chili, Orange and Paprika

Ingredients:

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 large sprig rosemary
  • 4 to 5 whole orange slices, peel on
  • 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish smoked sweet paprika
  • 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 quart large green Spanish olives, unpitted

 Directions:

Combine garlic cloves, fresh rosemary, orange slices, red chili flakes, paprika, and extra- virgin olive oil in a saucepan and set over low heat. Slowly warm up to infuse the oil and soften the garlic – do not let it fry or bubble. Once hot, about 5 minutes, pour in olives, turn off heat and steep until cool. Serve at room temperature.

First Course

Orange Sage Risotto

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 5 fresh sage leaves, julienned, additional leaves for garnish
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Additional orange segments to stir into the risotto of for a garnish

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, bring orange juice and water to a boil. Reduce the heat and keep the liquid at a low simmer.

In a small Dutch oven, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat with the butter. Continue toasting the rice, stirring constantly, until it is golden brown in color, about 3 minutes.

Add the white wine and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated.

Add 1/2 cup of the simmering juice and stir until almost completely absorbed by the rice. Continue cooking the rice, adding the juice 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of juice to absorb before adding the next. Continue doing this until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total.

Remove from the heat. Gently stir in the sage leaves, salt, and pepper. Add orange segments, if desired.

Finish with the remaining tablespoon of butter and  Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  Garnish each serving with a few orange segments and sage leaves.

Second Course

Mahi-Mahi with Blood Orange, Avocado, and Red Onion Salsa

Yes, avocados are available in Italy.  They are grown in Sicily.

2 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 blood orange or navel orange
  • 1/2 cup 1/3-inch cubed avocado
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced red jalapeño or serrano pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 6-ounce mahi-mahi fillets, or other white fish fillets
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:

Using small sharp knife, cut peel and white pith from orange. Working over small bowl, cut between membranes to release segments. Add avocado, onion, jalapeño, and lime juice to oranges in bowl; stir gently to blend. Season salsa to taste with salt.

Heat oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with oregano, salt and pepper. Add fish to skillet and sauté until brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.

Place 1 fillet on each of 2 plates. Spoon salsa atop fish and serve.

Dessert

Italian Orange Cake

Cake Ingredients:

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1  2/3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup sugar or sugar alternative
  • 1  1/4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, not extra virgin
  • 1/4 cup sweet Marsala, Muscat or sherry dessert wine, or orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 3 eggs

Topping Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala, Muscat or sherry dessert wine, or orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel

Directions:

Heat oven to 325°F. Generously spray bottom only of 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray and dust with flour.

Note: If a springform pan is unavailable, bake cake in 13 x 9-inch pan at 350°F.  30 to 35 minutes.

Mix sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment until thoroughly mixed.

Add water, olive oil, 1/4 cup wine, 1 tablespoon orange peel and the eggs and beat on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. (Top of cake may appear dark golden brown and rippled.) Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Carefully run knife around side of pan to loosen; remove side of pan. Transfer cake to serving plate.

Directions:

Whipped Cream Topping

Chill the bowl and whisk attachment of a stand mixer for 20 min. in the refrigerator or 5 min. in the freezer. Pour the heavy cream into the bowl and whisk on medium-high speed until it just starts to thicken. Slow the speed down to medium and gradually pour in the sugar. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons orange peel and 1 tablespoon wine until well blended. Continue to whisk until soft peaks form.

Frost top and side of cake. Garnish with 1 tablespoon orange peel. Store loosely covered in refrigerator.


Chicago Italian Beef Sandwiches

Created on the South Side of Chicago in the Italian neighborhoods around the now defunct Stockyards, the classic Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich is a unique, drippy, messy variation on the French Dip Sandwich. It is available in hundreds of places around the city but rarely found outside of Chicago. The exact origin is unknown, but the sandwich was probably created by Italian immigrants in the early 1900s as they rose from poverty and were able to afford beef for roasting.

No one knows for sure who invented the sandwich, but the recipe was popularized by Pasquale Scala, a South Side butcher and sausage maker. During the Depression food was scarce and Scala’s thinly sliced roast beef on a bun with gravy and fried peppers took off. Today, beef sandwiches are a staple at Italian weddings, funerals, parties, political fundraisers, and luncheons and Scala’s Original still supplies hundreds of restaurants and Italian Beef Stands with the raw ingredients.

Italian Beef is made by slowly roasting lean beef in a pan filled with seasoned beef-based stock. Some folks call it gravy, but in most Chicago Italian households gravy is a term reserved for tomato sauces. Others call it au jus or “juice” for short. Then it is sliced paper-thin, soaked in the juice for a few minutes, and layered generously, dripping wet, onto sections of Italian bread loaves, sliced lengthwise. According to Allen Kelson, former restaurant critic for Chicago Magazine, and now a restaurant consultant, it is important that the bread has “wet strength”. The meat is topped with sautéed green bell pepper slices, Pepperoncini and Giardiniera, which is usually a spicy hot blend of chopped Serrano peppers, carrots, cauliflower florets, celery, olives, herbs, salt & pepper, packed in oil and vinegar. Finally juice is spooned over the toppings, making the bread wet and chewy.

12 servings

Ingredients:

Pot Roast:

  • 1 boneless beef chuck roast (about 3 1/2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • sprigs fresh thyme

Pepper Topping:

  • 1  medium sweet red pepper, julienned
  • 1  medium green pepper, julienned
  • 1  clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2  tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

16  ounces sliced or whole pepperoncinis                                                                                                                                                                                          

2  (1-pound) loaves hearty Italian bread, cut into halves lengthwise

Directions:

For the Pot Roast:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and position a rack in the middle position of the oven. Liberally sprinkle the entire roast with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Brown the roast on all sides until golden and caramelized; reduce the heat if the fat begins to smoke.

Transfer the roast to a plate and reduce the heat to medium. Add in onions and saute, stirring occasionally until just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper and saute until fragrant. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Deglaze with the red wine and cook until the alcohol smell is diminished. Add in the stock and thyme and bring to a simmer. Place the roast back into the pot with any accumulated juices, cover and place in the oven.

Cook the roast, turning every 30 minutes, until very tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and tent with foil. Strain the juices in the pan through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Once cooled a bit, pull the meat into smaller chunks, add to bowl with pan juices and reserve for the sandwiches.

For the Peppers:
Increase the oven heat to 350 degrees F. Toss the pepper strips with the oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Bake, stirring halfway through, until lighter in color and soft, about 20 minutes.

To assemble the sandwich:  Spoon some juice directly onto the bread. Get it very wet. Then layer the beef generously and spoon on more juice. Top it with bell pepper,  Giardiniera and Pepperoncini.

Italian Subs – New York Restaurant Style

“This is a classic Italian sub sandwich with three kinds of meat and provolone cheese. The kind you get in a mom and pop pizza restaurant.

8 Servings

Ingredients:

1 head leaf lettuce, rinsed and torn
2 medium fresh tomatoes, sliced very thin
1 medium red onion, sliced very thin
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pinch dried oregano
1/2 pound sliced hot Capacola
1/2 pound thinly sliced Genoa Salami
1/4 pound thinly sliced Prosciutto
1/2 pound sliced Provolone Cheese
4 submarine rolls, split
1 cup Pepperoncini, sliced to fit sandwich


Directions:

1. In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, tomatoes and onion. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, wine vinegar, parsley, garlic, basil, red pepper flakes and oregano. Pour over the salad, and toss to coat evenly. Refrigerate for about 1 hour.
2. Spread the submarine rolls open, and layer the Capacola, Salami, Prosciutto, and Provolone Cheese evenly on each roll. Top with some of the salad, and as many Pepperoncini pepper slices as desired. Close the rolls and serve.

Pepper and Egg Sandwich


Since the 1950′s, and possibly earlier, the “pepper ‘n egg” sandwich has been a popular lunch for Italian American families. When I was a child, my mother would pack a pepper and egg sandwich for my school lunch box. I can remember some of my school mates, saying, “EWW – what is that….” I just shrugged because it tasted yummy. As an adult, I make pepper and egg sandwiches regularly. I introduced them to my Irish husband long ago and it is still one of his favorite sandwiches.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 loaf Italian bread or rolls

Directions:

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat then add olive oil. Add the garlic and the crushed red pepper and sauté for a minute or two. Add the onion and peppers, regulating the heat so the onions don’t burn. Sauté until the peppers have softened.
Raise the heat to medium-high and add the beaten eggs. Stir to combine with the onions and peppers and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggs are set.
Slice the bread lengthwise without cutting all the way through. When the eggs are done, gently slide them onto the bread to make a sandwich and cut the loaf into four portions.

Open-Face Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • Four large 1/2-inch-thick slices of Italian peasant bread
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • One 1 1/4-pound eggplant, sliced crosswise into 8 slices 1 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 plum tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 8 large basil leaves, torn
  • Coarse sea salt

Directions:

  1. Light a grill. Brush the bread on both sides with olive oil and grill over high heat until crisp on the outside but still soft inside, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer to a platter.
  2. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat until browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Turn and grill until tender, about 3 minutes longer.
  3. Top the eggplant with the tomato, mozzarella and basil. Cover the grill and cook until the cheese just begins to melt, 1-2 minutes. Transfer 2 eggplant slices onto each slice of bread, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

New Orleans Muffuletta Sandwich

The muffufletta sandwich’s nickname is simply “muff.” These sandwiches can be found all over New Orleans from delis to pool halls and the corner grocery stores. It is considered as much a signature sandwich of New Orleans as the Po’ Boy Sandwich. It is an Italian sandwich that consists of a round loaf of bread (about 10 inches across) filled with Italian salami, olive salad, cheese and Italian ham. They key ingredient is the olive salad which gives the sandwich its special flavor and makes it appealing to the eye. A true Muffuletta Sandwich must always be served at room temperature. Imagine a sandwich that is almost as round as a Frisbee and so wide that it is hard to bite into.
Ingredients:
  • 1 round loaf Italian bread, 10-inches in diameter
  • Olive Salad (see recipe below)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces salami, thinly sliced 
  • 2 ounces Italian ham (Proscuitto), thinly sliced 
  • 2 ounces Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
Directions:
Make Olive Salad.
Cut bread in half crosswise and scoop out about half of the soft dough from top and bottom pieces (this is to provide more room for the sandwich ingredients). Brush the inside bottom of loaf with olive oil or juice from the Olive Salad marinade.
Layer salami, Italian ham and Provolone cheese on the bottom piece.
Top with as much Olive Salad as will fit without spilling out. Add top of loaf and press down slightly. Slice in quarters or sixths and serve at room temperature.
Makes 4-6 servings, depending on the appetite.

Olive Salad

Ingredients:
  • 2/3 cup pitted and coarsely chopped green olives 
  • 2/3 cup pitted and coarsely chopped Kalamata olives 
  • 1/2 cup chopped pimiento 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 anchovy fillet, mashed 
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed 
  • 1/2 cup finely-chopped fresh parsley leaves 
  • 1 teaspoon finely-chopped fresh oregano leaves 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper 
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and then allow the flavors to mingle for at least 1 hour prior to serving.
Store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Italian Meatball Sub

Dominic Conti (1874-1954) claims he was the first to use the name, submarine sandwich. Angela Zuccaro, granddaughter of Dominic, related the following information:
“My grandfather came to this country in 1895 from Montella, Italy. Around 1910, he started his grocery store, called Dominic Conti’s Grocery Store, on Mill Street in Paterson, New Jersey where he was selling the traditional Italian sandwiches. His sandwiches were made from a recipe he brought with him from Italy which consisted of a long crusty roll, filled with cold cuts, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, oil, vinegar, Italian spices, salt, and pepper. The sandwich started with a  layer of cheese and ended with a layer was cheese (this was so the bread wouldn’t get soggy).”
Angela continued,”My mother often told me about how my grandfather came to name his sandwich the Submarine. She remembered the incident very well, as she was 16 years old at the time. She related that when grandfather went to see the Holland I* in 1927, the raised submarine hull that was put on display in Westside Park, he said, “It looks like the sandwich I sell at my store.” From that day on, he called his sandwich the “submarine.” People came from miles around to buy one of my Grandfather’s subs.”

Ooey-Gooey Meatball Submarine Sandwich. Photo by Sarah_Jayne

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly toast rolls.
  2. Sprinkle both cheeses in the bottom of the rolls, holding back about 2 tablespoons for the top of the rolls.
  3. Place the meatballs down the centre of the roll and ladle hot Marinara sauce on top.
  4. Sprinkle a tablespoonful of reserved shredded cheese and the Parmesan cheese over top. Sprinkle some dried oregano and basil the over top.
  5. Put meatball sub in an oven-safe dish and return to oven for a couple of minutes to heat through and melt the cheeses. Cool for a minute before digging in and you may need a large napkin. 

If you would like a healthier alternative for Italian Cold Cuts, then you may want to check out Applegate Farm products.
According to Applegate Farm’s policies:

When you pick up an Applegate Farms product, you can be assured that…

  • Our animals are never given antibiotics. Healthy animals don’t need medicine. Instead, we give them space, fresh air, and a healthy diet, which we’re certain beats the alternative.
  • Our livestock eat a completely vegetarian diet with no animal by-products. Cattle in our organic program are grass-fed. Hogs and poultry in our organic program are fed a grain diet that includes corn, soy, barley, and flax that are free from GMOs.
  • Our animals are never given hormones or artificial growth promotants. They grow at their natural rate.
  • All of our products are made with natural and organic ingredients. If you aren’t familiar with a particular ingredient, email us and we’ll tell you what it is.
  • Our products are all minimally processed, allowing for a wholesome texture and taste.
  • Our products never contain artificial nitrates or nitrites. Instead, we use celery juice and sea salt to preserve our products the natural and old fashioned way.
  • Our deli meat, hot dogs, burgers, and bacon are gluten and casein free.
  • Our products are made from natural and organic whole muscle meat. Yes, even our hot dogs! No mystery here.

Genoa Salami

Soppressata

Capacola

Pancetta

Proscuitto

Pepperoni



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