Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Little Italy

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As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide. No one has contributed more foods to the American dinner table than the Italian immigrants. Strong Italian-American enclaves in New York City, Boston’s North End, Providence’s Federal Hill and South Philly have helped shape a new American hybrid cuisine. Based on Old World traditions, Italian-American cuisine is marked by an appreciation for the New World’s abundance.

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Boston’s Pan Pizza

Boston’s Italian neighborhood is called the North End. It has a strong Italian flair and numerous Italian restaurants. The North End is also Boston’s oldest neighborhood and it still possesses an old-world charm kept alive by its mostly Italian-American population. The neighborhood also is a major attraction for tourists and Bostonians alike, who come seeking the best in Italian cuisine and to enjoy the Italian feel of the region. Hanover and Salem Streets, the two main streets of this bustling historic neighborhood, are lined with restaurants, cafes and shops, selling a variety of incredible foods. A trip to Boston would not be complete without including a meal at one of North End’s over one hundred fine Italian restaurants.

Ingredients

You’ll need a rimmed baking sheet, preferably non-stick, about 11 1/2-by-17 or a 16-inch pizza pan and a plastic dough scraper.

DOUGH

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water, or more if necessary
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Olive oil (for the pans)
  • Extra flour (for sprinkling)
  • Extra salt (for sprinkling)

Directions

In a bowl, sprinkle yeast into water; set aside for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Stir to blend.

With a wooden spoon, stir in the yeast mixture. Add enough additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to make a dough that holds together, but is sticky and too moist to knead.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap so the wrap does not touch the dough. Lay a dish towel on top. Set aside for 2 hours.

Rub a large rimmed baking sheet or pizza pan with olive oil. Rub the center of 1 long sheet of foil with oil and set it aside.

Sprinkle the dough with a little flour. Use a dough scraper to transfer the dough to the baking sheet or pizza pan. Pat the dough with a little flour to within 2 inches of the edge of the pans.

Cover with foil, oiled side down. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (or as long as overnight).

Remove pan from the refrigerator. Dip your hand in flour and pat the dough with your hand, adding as little flour as necessary, until it reaches the edges of the sheets.

Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

TOPPINGS

  • 12 slices provolone cheese or 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) shredded mozzarella
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced, or 4 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices good-quality ham, cut into matchsticks (optional)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Arrange racks on the lowest and center parts of the oven. Set the oven at 500 degrees.

If using provolone, arrange it on the dough, spacing out the slices. Add the cherry or plum tomatoes, spacing them out. Sprinkle with mozzarella.

Sprinkle with ham, if using, then Parmesan.

Bake the pizza on the lowest rack of the oven for about 10 minutes (check after 8 minutes to make sure edges are not burning).

Transfer the pizza to the center rack and continue baking for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, the dough is golden and crisp at the edges, and the bottom is firm.

With a wide metal spatula, lift the pizza from the pan and transfer to large wooden board. Cut into rectangles, wedges, or strips.

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Federal Hill’s Zuppa Di Polpette (Meatball Soup)

Federal Hill is the Italian neighborhood of Providence with many restaurants, bakeries, cafes, art galleries, cigar shops and markets. DePasquale Square is the center of the neighborhood. Historic Federal Hill is the “Heartbeat of Providence” and begins at Atwells Avenue, the street that flows under the arch. The gateway arch over Atwells with the La Pigna (pinecone) sculpture hanging from its center is a traditional Italian symbol of abundance and quality and the symbol of Federal Hill. It is a place dedicated to the Italian immigrants who gathered here as a community and is still a place of charm, warmth and hospitality to all. Numerous Italian restaurants and businesses line the main thoroughfare and its surrounding area. Garibaldi Square, with a bust of the “Hero of Two Worlds”, and DePasquale Plaza, with outdoor dining and two bocce courts, all contribute to the Italian atmosphere.

Ingredients

In a large 8 quart stock pot prepare the following:

  • 1 small chicken broken up in pieces
  • 1 large onion cut in quarters
  • 2 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 medium ripe tomato cut in half
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • Pinch of turmeric, for a little color

Directions

Add enough water to cover 4-5 inches above the ingredients and cook for about one and one half hours. Remove the chicken and vegetables separately and cool.

Puree the vegetables through a food mill or processor and add back to the stock.

Cool the chicken and use it for chicken salad. If you like you can add some of the chicken cut into pieces back into the soup.

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup Romano cheese
  • 1 large egg

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients. Scoop out by tablespoons and form into small meatballs. Add them to the soup and simmer them for about 30 minutes.

To serve:

  • 2 tablespoons uncooked soup (small) pasta, per person, optional
  • Lots of freshly grated Romano cheese

Cook the pasta and distribute it between the bowls. Ladle in the soup and meatballs and serve with the cheese.

Serves 6-8

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Capellini Alla Positano from Philadelphia’s Bellini Grill

Philadelphia’s Italian American community is the second-largest in the United States. Named after its view of the Center City skyline, Bella Vista, Italian for “Beautiful View,” is one of Philadelphia’s oldest and authentic Italian neighborhoods. Bella Vista is home to many Italian-American treasures, such as the city’s first Italian American bathhouse, the Fante-Leone Pool, built in 1905 and the Philadelphia Ninth Street Italian Market, claimed to be the oldest open-air market still in operation in the country. More than 100 years old, the Italian Market was originally a business association of local vendors who banded together to compete with larger stores that were moving into the area. Today, the market houses an assortment of shops, bakeries and restaurants.

Makes  4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 5 oz uncooked Angel Hair Pasta
  • 4 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Chopped Fresh Chili
  • 3 Garlic Cloves; minced
  • 2 tablespoons Shallots; chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Fish Broth
  • 2 ups Dry White Wine
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce (see recipe below)
  • 8 oz Lump Crab Meat
  • 1 bunch Fresh Basil; chopped
  • 2 cups Grape Tomatoes

Marinara Sauce

  • 24 oz Canned Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Garlic Clove; minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon Fresh Basil, chopped
  • Pinch Sea Salt
  • Pinch White Pepper

Directions

For the marinara sauce: sauté chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add tomato sauce and remaining ingredients. Simmer for 30 minutes; stirring occasionally.

For the pasta: Cook pasta according to directions on package.

Sauté shallots, chili and garlic in olive oil for 1 minute; season with salt and pepper. Add fish stock and white wine, cook until slightly reduced. Add marinara sauce, stirring until combined.

Gently fold in lump crab meat, fresh basil and tomatoes – cook for 5 minutes. Serve sauce over cooked pasta.

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Bakeries in New York’s Little Italy

Most of the Italian immigrants who made their home in America first landed in New York City. Many then traveled to other parts of the country; but by the early 1900’s, hundreds of thousands had settled in lower Manhattan, living in row houses and tenements in an area of about one square mile. For the unskilled, it was a hard life of cleaning city streets and ash barrels and, for the skilled, it was a hard life of working their trade in constructing buildings and roads. Others became fruit peddlers, bread bakers, shoemakers and tailors. Some opened grocery stores and restaurants or worked in factories. Most of the people who lived on Mulberry came from Naples; those from Elizabeth Street were from Sicily; Mott Street from Calabria; and most of the people north of Mott, came from Bari.

Sweets would have been a rare indulgence for most in the Old Country, however, in America they were a frequent treat. One of the earliest New York ice cream parlors to open, in the 1820s, was Palmo’s Garden, whose immigrant owner, Ferdinand Palmo, fitted it out with gilded columns, huge mirrors and an Italian band. In 1892, opera impresario Antonio Ferrara opened a confections parlor under his name on Grand Street, where he could entertain his musician friends. Veniero’s on East 11th Street began as a billiard parlor in 1894 that sold candy and coffee, eventually, evolving into an enormously successful pastry shop that created the cake for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inauguration.

Arguably the most famous bakery and cafe in Little Italy is Ferrara, the two-floor dessert mecca with flashing lights and an outdoor summer-season gelato stand. Constantly packed with tourists and locals (on a recent Friday at 11 a.m., the takeout line was out the door), Ferrara has some of the most delicious cannoli this side of the Atlantic. Open since 1892, the cafe serves the dessert with a side of dark chocolate pieces and mixes small chocolate chips into the sweet ricotta-based filling.

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Ferrara’s Bakery Tiramisu

Enrico Scoppa and Antonio Ferrara, opera impresario and showman, opened the cafe in New York City called Caffé A. Ferrara. Enrico Caruso, the great opera singer, thought the coffee marvelous but loved the cookies and cakes.

Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 1 box (7 oz.) Savoiardi or Lady Fingers
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup strong warm coffee
  • 1/4 cup coffee liqueur

Directions

Arrange Savoiardi in rectangular serving dish, (approximately 11″ x 13″).

Lightly soak Savoiardi with a mixture of coffee and coffee liqueur.

While gradually adding sugar, beat egg yolks (approximately 5-10 minutes) until very stiff and egg yolks appear pale in color.

Beat heavy cream until very stiff and fold into egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with a wire whisk or electric beater until very stiff and gently fold egg whites into the cream mixture. Add vanilla and fold gently.

Cover Savoiardi with this cream mixture. Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Sprinkle with cocoa or chocolate flakes before serving.

Tiramisu may be frozen and should be defrosted in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

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Di Palo’s Ricotta Cheesecake

Di Palo’s in New York’s Little Italy is the iconic Italian deli, the stuff of dreams for anybody who cooks Italian. Lou Di Palo, whose family has owned the store for 104 years, is still working behind the counter. He is the great-grandson of the founder, is the fourth generation, along with his brother, Sal and his sister, Marie. When you stop in, you’ll almost always find two or more of them there, offering tastes of cheeses, slicing speck or prosciutto or dishing out orders of Eggplant Parmigiana. They make their own ricotta and mozzarella and have for decades.

Lou Di Palo shared his grandmother’s recipe for a true Italian-style cheesecake.

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup crushed Zwieback cookies or graham crackers, plus extra for garnish
  • 3 pounds fresh ricotta
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons orange-blossom water
  • 3/4 cup cream

Directions

Butter a 9-inch springform pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the crushed cookies in a small bowl and evenly coat the bottom and sides of the buttered pan with the mixture.

In a large bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups sugar and the ricotta, eggs, vanilla, orange-blossom water and the cream. Pour into the cookie-coated pan.

Sprinkle the top with additional crushed cookies and place the springform pan on the center oven rack on a cookie sheet to catch any leaks.

Bake for 1 hour or until the center no longer jiggles; it may crack slightly. Let cool, remove from pan and serve at room temperature.

McClatchy-Tribune

Cassateddi Di Ricotta (Ricotta Turnovers)

This traditional Sicilian recipe for sweet ricotta turnovers is adapted from “The Little Italy Cookbook: Recipes from North America’s Italian Communities” (out of print) by Maria Pace and Louisa Scaini-Jojic. The authors suggest using a pasta machine to get the dough thin enough to make the pastries.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ricotta, drained, see note at the bottom
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 eggs plus 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup shortening, melted
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Oil for deep frying (about 2 cups)
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

For the filling, combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and egg white in a large bowl; set aside.

Combine the 4 eggs, melted shortening, remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and milk in a small bowl.

Mound 3 1/2 cups flour on a board; make a well. Pour the egg mixture into the well; sprinkle on the baking powder. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the flour to form a dough; add a little more milk, if needed. Knead briefly until the dough is smooth. (Add flour, if needed.)

Divide the dough into four pieces. Take one of the pieces and flatten; dust with flour and roll until it is 1/16th-inch thick and shaped into a 4-inch-wide rectangle.

Place 1 rounded teaspoon of filling along one side of the dough at 3 1/2-inch intervals. Fold the top half of the strip over the filling and press edges together to enclose completely.

Cut with a pastry cutter or knife into individual squares or half moons. Lay each piece on a lightly floured baking sheet; repeat with remaining pieces and filling.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Fry several turnovers at a time until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on a rack placed over paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Draining ricotta: Place ricotta in a wire sieve in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight to remove excess water. For faster results, cover the ricotta with a small plate that fits in the sieve and weight that with a heavy can. If you can, use fresh whole milk ricotta from a specialty market for the richest flavor.


Cleveland, Ohio

By the mid-1800s, a small group of Italian immigrants had arrived in Cleveland and were working in various occupations, as bookkeeper, boot maker, gardener, carpenter, steel worker and stone mason. Twenty years later, Italians were owners of restaurants, saloons, produce stands and grocery stores. In the late nineteenth century, Italian immigrants traveled to Cleveland and many opened businesses to service the growing Italian population. They made their homes in several areas around Cleveland: Big Italy, Collinwood, Murray Hill and Kinsman. In 1912, the Italian communities had more than 50 local societies to help them assimilate. No institution better reflects the uniqueness of Cleveland’s Italian community than the hometown society that enabled the immigrants to transplant the solidarity of their native villages to America. Meeting weekly, they reminisced in their village dialect, maintained family acquaintances, continued ties with their Italian village, buried their dead, cared for widows and children and found employment and housing. The area relied on the local parishes, such as Holy Rosary; charitable institutions, such as Alta House and the cohesiveness of the neighborhoods to sustain them.


The Little Italy Heritage Museum closed at the end of 2007. The museum’s collection of photographs and artifacts were donated to the Western Reserve Historical Society in University Circle.

Many of these Italians were Neapolitan and were engaged in skilled lacework, garment making and the embroidery trades. The largest group came from the towns of Ripamolisano, Madrice and San Giovanni in Galdo and Campobasso Province in the Abruzzi region.

By the late 1920s, six Italian neighborhoods had been established. The largest was “Big Italy”, located along Woodland and Orange Avenues from East 9th St. to East 40th St. “Little Italy”, centered at Mayfield and Murray Hill roads, proved to be the most enduring. Nearby, at East. 107th St. and Cedar Ave., a community grew around St. Marian’s Church. Also on the city’s east side was a substantial Italian settlement in Collinwood. Two settlements were on the west side, one near Clark and Fulton Avenues and one on Detroit near West 65th St.

In each community, the Italians transplanted their institutions, including nationality parishes, hometown societies, mutual-aid organizations and a multiplicity of family-owned businesses. What the Italians brought to Cleveland were the traditions, values, patron saints and dialects from the villages they represented. Their affinities and affiliations were largely with their paesani (fellow villagers).

The Italian Drug Store on Mayfield Road was just one of many thriving businesses in Little Italy in the mid-20th century.

Eventually, Murray Hill became Cleveland’s only “Little Italy” and today remains strongly Italian. Red, white and green is proudly displayed in all forms and numerous restaurants, cafes, bakeries, specialty shops and galleries offer a wide variety of Italian food and merchandise. Little Italy sits above University Circle, bounded by Euclid Avenue to the south, Cedar Road to the east, Mayfield Road to the north and the Lake View Cemetery to the west. The area became a thriving neighborhood in the late 19th century when dozens of skilled stone cutters and craftsmen arrived from Italy to design and create the magnificent monuments at Lake View that mark the graves of some of that era’s most influential citizens. Joseph Carabelli’s Lake View Granite and Monumental Works was the leading employer of these skilled artisans. 

Cleveland’s Italians were also active in manufacturing. The Ohio Macaroni Co., established in 1910 by Joseph Russo & Sons, became Ohio’s largest macaroni company by 1920. Roma Cigar Co., started in 1913 by Albert Pucciani, produced 20,000 cigars weekly by 1920. Grasselli Chemical Co. was also prominent.  Although only 4 of the city’s restaurants were owned by Italians in 1920, one of these, New Roma, was reputedly the largest and most attractive in Ohio. Italian chefs prepared meals at the Cleveland hotels and at the Shaker Heights Country Club.

Little Italy resident, Angelo Vitantonio invented the first home pasta machine in 1906. His hand-cranked device revolutionized cooking in many an Italian household. The company he founded, VillaWare (though no longer family owned), still produces high-quality home appliances and cookware.

Twenty Italian medical doctors and dentists served the community by 1920; one of the most prominent was Giovanni A. Barricelli. Italian-born attorneys did not follow immigrants to Cleveland, so the community had to wait for the children of immigrants to fill this void. Politically, as long as the Italian community, family and “old ways” were not threatened, Italians were not seriously active, with only 1,423 “naturalized Italians” voting out of a foreign-born population of 13,570 in 1915. Not until the late 1920’s, did Cleveland’s Italians take a more active interest in politics. The area also produced a number of interesting favorite sons, including Angelo Vitantonio, the inventor of the pasta machine, championship boxer Tony Brush and Anthony Celebrezze, Cleveland mayor, federal judge, and secretary of health, education and welfare under President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Italian-American press was one of the most effective means of ethnic expression. In 1903 the first Italian newspaper in Ohio, La Voce Del Popolo Italiano, was founded and by 1920, it claimed a circulation of 15,000 in Cleveland and another 30,000 throughout Ohio and other states. La Stampa also emerged during this period. These papers interpreted American law, made clear economic and social rights, emphasized the advantages of citizenship and became an incentive for literacy, offering news from the homeland. By 1915 La Voce became the first Italian newspaper in the U.S. to publish articles in both Italian and English. Later, other newspapers, such as L’Araldo, appeared but enjoyed limited success. As the Italian language reading skills of the second generation were lost, radio broadcasts with the “Italian Hour” became more popular. By the 1990’s a renewed interest in Italian heritage made possible the successful publication of a new Italian newspaper, La Gazzetta Italiana. Written largely in English, the paper garnered a large readership among 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Italian-Americans.

In 1994, the Little Italy Redevelopment Corporation was formed to manage improvements and direct growth. Festivals and events are held year-round, including opera in the Italian Cultural Garden, an Italian film festival, Art Walk, Italian classes, neighborhood walking tours and a Columbus Day Parade. In August, the Feast of the Assumption, the only fundraiser for the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, brings thousands to Little Italy for food, Italian merchandise, live music and a procession. Today, the neighborhood still retains its Italian flavor. There are small family-run bakeries, Italian restaurants – featuring everything from stylish Northern Italian cuisine to provincial pizza and pasta. Rosa and Charles Presti started their bakery business in Little Italy in 1920. Originally located on Coltman Road, the bakery moved to Mayfield Road in 1938. Presti’s continues to be a popular neighborhood meeting place.

White Pizza with garlic cream sauce, olives and artichoke slices


Il Bacio veal tortellini alla bolognese.

Little Italy has a long history of varied Italian restaurants. Chef Hector Boiardi (known to the world as Chef Boyardee) started his culinary career here and Guarino’s was Ohio’s first Italian restaurant. Today, the neighborhood is still the place to go in Cleveland for Italian food. Some of the most popular eateries are:

Trattoria On the Hill Roman Gardens, Guarino’s, Baricelli Inn, Valerio’s and Mama Santo’s Pizza.

Peppers stuffed with cheese at Trattoria on the Hill in Cleveland’s Little Italy.

Mayfield Road and Murray Hill Road are lined with small art galleries, featuring everything from pottery to photography to glass art to oil paintings. The most interesting of these galleries is Murray Hill School, a former elementary school, now home to dozens of artists’ studios and galleries.

Italian Band of Cleveland at the Feast of the Assumption, 1983
The Feast of the Assumption, held around the Catholic Day of Assumption (August 15) each year, is the most visited event in Little Italy. The three-day, part-religious, part-secular celebration draws more than 700,000 revelers each year.

Make Some Recipes From Cleveland’s Little Italy At Home

Stuffed Banana Peppers

Appetizer Serving for 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound hot Italian Sausage, (casing removed) cooked and chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup Locatelli Romano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Olive oil to saute
  • 4 hot banana peppers
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Mix sausage, Romano cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and Italian seasoning together in mixing bowl. Cut the top of the banana pepper off and remove seeds. Gently stuff mixture into peppers. Place olive oil in hot saute pan. Gently place peppers in the pan and cook each side until browned.

Place them in a glass baking dish, pour marinara sauce over them, sprinkle with mozzarella on top and cover with foil. Put in a 375 F. degree oven for 20 minutes.

Braised Artichokes

From Chef Doug Katz

Ingredients:

  • 4 artichokes, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 quart olive oil, not extra virgin
  • 2 sprigs Thyme
  • 4 oz. fresh goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons bread crumbs

Directions:

Combine artichokes, oil and thyme in small stock pot. Cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes or until tender. Strain and cool. Save the oil; it can be used for cooking or salads.

While artichokes are cooking, combine goat cheese, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.

Top or stuff cooled artichokes with goat cheese mixture, bread crumbs and a drizzle of the cooled oil.

Bake at 350 degrees F. until hot and golden brown on top. Serve with red pepper coulis, if desired.

Red Pepper Coulis

  • 1 red pepper, blended with a little water until liquefied
  • 1 cup red pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 shallot, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • zest of 1/4 lemon
  • kosher salt to taste

Sweat garlic and shallots in oil. Add chopped pepper and continue to sweat for 5 minutes.

Add liquefied red pepper and cook for 30 minutes over low heat.

Puree in blender or food processor with lemon zest and salt.

Chicken Marsala

Recipe adapted from Fran Geraci, owner of Geraci’s in Cleveland, OH

Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 (6-8-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • 2 cups beef stock

Directions:

Put the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of waxed paper and flatten with a meat pounder until thin. Cut each chicken breast into 4 pieces. Add some flour to a shallow bowl. Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off the excess flour.

Add the butter and olive oil to a large saute pan over high heat and heat until it sizzles, do NOT let it brown. Add the chicken and saute until brown on both sides. Stir in the sliced mushrooms and saute briefly, then add the garlic. Add the Marsala and simmer for 3 minutes, then stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Pour in the beef stock and let simmer until the sauce thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve.

Pasta with Porcini, Sausage and Marsala

Chef: Randal Johnson, Molinari’s Restaurant

2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 ounces dried Porcini mushrooms
  • 2 cups sweet Marsala
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 ounces sliced red onion
  • 1 ounce fresh arugula
  • 12 ounces fresh short shaped pasta
  • 1 ounce grated Pecorino Romano

Directions:

Place porcini mushrooms, marsala and beef stock in a pot, bring to a boil, turn off heat and let steep for ten minutes. Strain and rough chop the porcinis. Save the strained soaking liquid.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour to make a roux. Cook two minutes on medium heat and then add the marsala/stock mixture. Bring to a simmer while whisking. When thickened, add chopped porcini mushrooms.

Remove sausage from casing and roll into 24 small meatballs, bake at 350 F. degrees for ten minutes. Place meatballs, sauce, red onion and arugula in a sauté pan and bring to a simmer. Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente (about three minutes) strain the pasta and add to the saute pan with the other ingredients; add the Romano cheese, toss and serve.

Stone Fruit Crostata

From Chef Jonathon Sawyer and Chef Matt Danko.

Tart Dough:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1 stick cold butter, diced
  • 1 egg

For the Filling:

  • 2 nectarines
  • 2 peaches
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Calvados
  • Zest from one orange

For the Assembly:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons Sugar in the Raw

Directions:

For the tart dough:

Combine the flour, sugar, salt and hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse to combine.

Next add the butter and blend in the food processor until the dough looks like loose sand, then incorporate the egg and process until the dough forms. Remove the dough from the food processor and divide into two equal balls wrap in plastic wrap and flatten slightly with your hands. Chill for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.

To make the filling:

Slice the fruit by first splitting in half, removing the pits, sliceinto 1/2 inch slices, place in a bowl and set aside.

Toss the fruit with the Calvados first, then add the sugar and lemon zest. Stir to combine. Let rest 20 minutes and strain off juices.

To assemble:

Remove the dough for the refrigerator and place on a well floured surface.

Roll one piece of dough out away from you, giving it a quarter turn between rolls. Turning the dough will keep it circular. Continue rolling and truning the dough out until it reaches a thickness of about 1/8 inch. and about 11 or 12 inches round.

Place the rolled out dough in the center of a well greased sheet tray, in the center of the dough place half of the filling and spread leaving a three inch border. Be sure that the filling doesn’t exceed two inches in height over the dough otherwise the crostata will not cook evenly.

Fold the excess dough towards the center of the crostata in a circular motion forming a crust. Beat the egg and with a pastry brush lightly coat the crust of the crostata and sprinkle sugar over top.

Repeat with the second piece of dough and remainder of the filling.

Bake the crostata in a 350 F. degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes, before slicing.



Tribute to Immigrants of Ybor City – Centennial Park

The Italians in Florida

“The people who had lived for centuries in Sicilian villages perched on hilltops for protection from marauding bands and spent endless hours each day walking to and from the fields, now faced a new and strange life on the flats of Ybor City.” – Tony Pizzo, The Italians in Tampa.

The Italians of Ybor arrived almost exclusively from Sicily. Life in that island off Italy’s southern coast was unimaginably hard in the mid- to late 1800s. Most of the immigrants whose eventual destination was Ybor City came from Sicily’s southwestern region, a hilly area containing the towns of Santo Stefano Quisquina, Alessandria della Rocca, Cianciana and Bivona. Dependent on agriculture (including the cultivation of almonds, pistachios, flax, olives, wheat and wool), mining and limited trade contacts, the residents of the area struggled with poor soil, malaria, bandits, low birth rates, high land rents and absentee landlords. The population responded, according to historian Giampiero Carocci, by exercising three options: “resignation, socialism, and emigration.”

The last option–emigration–was usually of the “chain” variety. Both through word of mouth and the activities of labor brokers (padrones), Sicilians learned of job opportunities in America. Padrones were labor brokers, usually immigrants themselves, who acted as middlemen between immigrant workers and employers. Early sugar-producing communities in New Orleans, Louisiana and St. Cloud, Florida attracted many Sicilians, but the work and conditions were so grueling that many immigrants looked elsewhere. The completion of the Plant System Railway to Tampa (1884) and Vicente Martinez Ybor’s development of Ybor City (1886) made the Tampa area an attractive destination for these immigrants. Thousands–including the many Sicilians who either came directly to Tampa or moved there from their initial U.S. “landing spots”–found work in the cigar trade, as well as in the myriad of other enterprises that supported Italians in the community.  Source: Cigar City Magazine

Italians mostly brought their entire families with them, unlike many of the other immigrants. The foreign-born Italian population of Tampa grew from 56 in 1890 to 2,684 in 1940. Once arriving in Ybor City (pronounced ee-bor), Italians settled mainly in the eastern and southern fringes of the city. The area was referred to as La Pachata, after a Cuban rent collector in that area. It also became known as “Little Italy”.

At first, Italians found it difficult to find employment in the cigar industry, which had moved to Tampa from Cuba and Key West, FL and was dominated by Hispanic workers. The Italians arrived in the cigar town without cigar-making skills. When the early Italians entered the factories, it was at the bottom of the ladder, positions which did not involve handling tobacco. Working beside unskilled Cubans, they swept, hauled, and were porters and doorkeepers. In time, many did become cigar workers, including Italian women. The majority of the Italian women worked as cigar strippers, an undesirable position, mainly held by women who could find nothing else. Eventually, many women became skilled cigar makers, earning more than the male Italian cigar makers.

Inside an Ybor City cigar factory, ca. 1920

Seventh Avenue (ca. 1908)

Many Italians founded businesses to serve cigar workers, mostly small grocery stores in the neighborhood’s commercial district that were supplied by Italian-owned vegetable and dairy farms located east of Tampa’s city limits.The immigrant cultures in town became better integrated as time went by; eventually, approximately 20% of the workers in the cigar industry were Italian Americans. The tradition of local Italian-owned groceries continued and a handful of such businesses founded in the late 1800’s were still operating into the 21st century. Many descendants of Sicilian immigrants eventually became prominent local citizens, such as mayors Nick Nuccio and Dick Greco.

Current View: Gateway to Ybor City on 7th Ave near the Nick Nuccio Parkway.

Devil crab is one of Tampa’s original culinary creations. The snack first appeared around 1920 as street food in Tampa, concocted when blue crab was plentiful. Heat from red pepper flakes gave the rolls their fiery name. Some debate the origins of the rolls, tracing them to Spain, Cuba or Italy, but they are likely a little of all three, one of Tampa’s fusion foods.

Victor Licata watched over his own devil crabs after opening the Seabreeze Restaurant on the 22nd Street Causeway around 1925. His daughters rolled the crabs at home and then they were served in the restaurant; diners could not get enough of the spicy, plump croquettes. Seabreeze devil crabs were so popular, the restaurant sold about 750,000 rolls annually in the 1990’s. In 1992, the Licata family sold the Seabreeze Restaurant to Robert and Helen Richards, who had run a neighboring seafood shop since the 1960’s. 

Seabreeze’s Devil Crab

From: Seabreeze By The Bay Cookbook.                                    

This recipe has been cut in half. See the original in the newspaper copy above

You can also bake the cakes in a very hot oven turning them over several times, so that they can brown evenly.

Ingredients:

Sauce

  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced green or red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 7 oz. tomato puree
  • 7 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 pounds of blue crab claw meat, fresh or frozen

Stuffing

  • 1 Italian baguette
  • 1 loaf of Cuban bread
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs, plus additional for dredging
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
  • Water
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

Finely dice the onion, pepper, garlic and celery in a blender or food processor.

Add the vegetables to a large saute pan with the oil and the water and cook over very low heat for 1 hour until soft.

Add in the tomato puree, tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook on low heat for an additional hour, stirring often. Add the oregano and cook for 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

Flake the crabmeat into a large bowl and make sure to pick it over for any small pieces of shell. Add sauce gradually until the mixture is moist and holds together. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to cook.

Tear the bread up and put it all into a big bowl. Add enough water to moisten the bread and then mash it all together until it has a loose, doughy consistency.

Add in the red pepper and then add enough bread crumbs to form a dough with a biscuit consistency.

In a Dutch Oven heat 2 inches of oil to 330 degrees F.

In 3 separate bowls: place stuffing in the first bowl, crab mixture in the second and additional bread crumbs in the third.

Scoop up a handful of dough and drop it into the bread crumbs and roll lightly and form it into a 4 inch circle.

Place a heaping tablespoon of crab filling right in the center and then bring the edges up and around it. Close up the seams. (See photos below.)

Roll the deviled crab in bread crumbs again and place on a plate.

Fry the cakes in batches for 7 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with hot sauce.

Healthier Recipes To Make At Home

Cucuzza Soup

Cucuzza has its origins in the Mediterranean, especially Italy. Its season in Florida is from June until first frost and can grow from 15 to 36 inches long and approximately 3 inches in diameter. It’s also known as bottle gourd, super long squash and snake squash.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cucuzza (3–4 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1–15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cut the cucuzza in cubes and set them aside while the onions and garlic simmer in olive oil. Next add the cucuzza, water and tomatoes. Add the salt, pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. Simmer until the cucuzza is tender and almost transparent.

Spicy Deviled Crab

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb crabmeat
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 finely chopped serrano chile
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 4-6 cleaned crab shells or ramekins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix all the ingredients together and let rest for 10 minutes.

Stuff the mixture loosely — do not pack it — into the crab shells, or if you don’t have them, single-serving ramekins. You could also simply use a casserole dish, too.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Linguine with Clams, Mussels, Shrimp and Calamari in Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 Serving

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2-ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2-ounce garlic, chopped
  • 1/2-ounce shallots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 4 small clams
  • 5 black mussels
  • 2 ounces shrimp
  • 1/2-ounce white wine
  • 3 ounces spicy marinara sauce
  • 1-ounce calamari
  • 3 ounces linguine
  • 1-ounce fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon bread crumbs

Directions:

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add garlic, bell pepper and shallots, and saute until brown. Add the clams, mussels and shrimp. When shells start to open, add the white wine. Reduce to half its volume, then add the marinara and calamari.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Drain and add to the seafood. Allow pasta to cook in the sauce for a minute, then toss in the basil and bread crumbs. Serve in a deep pasta bowl.

 

Easy Italian Rum Cake

A popular restaurant dessert.

Yield: 1 – 10 inch Bundt Pan or Tube Pan

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 1 package of vanilla instant pudding mix (4 oz serving size)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup of pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dark rum

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup of dark rum

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Spray the bundt or tube pan with cooking spray.

Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the bottom of the pan.

Mix all the cake ingredients together in an electric mixer and blend well.

Pour batter over nuts.

Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack.

While the cake is baking prepare the glaze.

Glaze Directions:

Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the water and sugar. Boil the glaze mixture for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in the rum.

When the cake has cooled remove from the cake pan and invert onto a serving plate.

Prick the top with a fork. Drizzle and smooth glaze evenly over the sides and top.You may need to do this several times until all the glaze is absorbed. Let the cake sit covered for 12 hours to absorb the rum sauce. (Place several toothpicks in the cake and cover tightly with plastic wrap for 12 hours.)


During the peak years of immigration to the United States from southern Italy, many of the Italian immigrants came to Delaware seeking a better life. They came to work as laborers on the railroad and in construction. In 1890, there were 459 Italian-born residents in Delaware and their numbers grew greatly by the close of the century. Besides those two industries, there were other industries in Delaware that attracted Italian immigrants and these included the leather, iron and steel industries. Many of the early immigrants were men who left their families behind temporarily until they could establish themselves and bring their families to Delaware. They often stayed in boarding houses with other workers. Eventually, their families joined them and they bought homes in Wilmington.

Over the years, these immigrants settled in the neighborhood around Union and Lincoln Streets between Pennsylvania and Lancaster Avenues. They brought with them a strong, determined and independent culture, which they preserved through strong family structures and ties. The neighborhood was known as The Hill and, eventually, Little Italy.

After a few years, many Italian immigrants opened their own businesses, such as mom and pop shops. They opened fruit and vegetable stores and offered their services as shoemakers, tailors, barbers, bakers, butchers, cheese and macaroni makers. Later they became restaurateurs, grocery and other retail store operators. Over the years, a ten by four block area of West Wilmington became an enclave for Italians who lived and worked there and its Italian identity grew strong.

St. Anthony’s

In recent years, the area has been revitalized with ongoing beautification projects through the Little Italy Merchant Association. The neighborhood is a cultural mix with a prominent Italian atmosphere and each June a weeklong celebration — St. Anthony’s Italian Festival — brings over 100,000 visitors to the area. It’s one of the largest Italian festivals in the country with attractions that include a bocce tournament, live music from several stages, strolling musicians from Italy, a midway, Italian food and merchandise, a Bellini Bar, a Panini Cafe, tours of St. Anthony’s Church and a procession of the Saints.

The large green arch featuring Italian crests, hangs over 4th Street and Lincoln Street, welcoming visitors and residents to Little Italy. Many Italian specialty stores are located here. The Fierro family has been making cheese in Wilmington at M. Fierro and Sons LLC (1025 N. Union St.) since 1928 and are well-know for their ricotta cheese.

Cheese making became a part of Wilmington’s Little Italy in the early 1900’s. Fierro & Sons has been part of Wilmington’s small business district since 1928. Michael Fierro, a Naples, Italy native, began his cheese-making livelihood in the cellar of Matassino’s grocery store at Seventh and Scott Streets. Mr. Fierro learned to make ricotta in an oval tub using just two gas burners. In 1936, Michael Fierro Senior decided to buy the Italian Republican Club on Sixth Street between Lincoln and Union. He made the upstairs rooms apartments and made cheese in the cellar two nights a week. Many people today still talk about their experience as kids, when they went down into the cellar to buy cheese for their mothers and grandmothers.

The Fierro second generation, Vincent and his brother Albert united after World War II, wanted to move their cheese business to another level. They went from selling to local Wilmington residents and businesses to areas in New Jersey, Baltimore and Washington. Due to the increase in the cheese business outside of the Delaware borders, the Fierro brothers decided to expand M. Fierro & Sons LLC and moved the business to their present address at 1025 North Union Street. Since 1947, the Fierro family has owned and operated the business. People know Fierro ricotta around the Tri-State area. Ricotta comes in all sizes from 15 oz to 30-pound containers. Along with ricotta, they also manufacturer fresh mozzarella, pizza cheese and cheese curd. In 2007, another local family run business, Hy-Point Dairy, purchased the Fierro business to ensure the Fierro family tradition continues.

A few blocks down the street, Papa’s Pastry Shop (600 N. Union St.) puts a decidedly modern twist on Italian sweets by offering gluten-free versions. Restaurants are not in short supply, but the two oldest also have the distinction of being opened by women over half a century ago. Generations of Robinos have been running Mrs. Robino’s Restaurant (520 N. Union St.) since 1940, with house specials like Greens with Garlic and Lottie’s Special: seafood tossed in a creamy blush sauce over penne. Madelines (531 N. Dupont St.), is another of Wilmington’s older restaurants, with over 50 years in the same location run by the same family. They’re known for the house Spezzato entrée, featuring diced veal and mushrooms in a red gravy.

Photo: Mrs. Robino’s Italian Restaurant

In 1940 most women were content keeping house and taking care of husbands and children. It was then that Mrs. Tresilla Robino not only looked after her husband and family, but also cooked for many husbands and fathers who were on their own in America waiting for the rest of their families to immigrate. Tresilla always had company at her house at dinner time. Someone suggested she open a restaurant and it was then that Mrs. Robino’s was established. At 1903 Howland Street with only a few tables set up in her basement, lines of people started to form out her front door.

When her home on Howland Street became too small to meet the demands of the business, she and her husband bought 520 North Union Street, where the restaurant is located today. Her family moved upstairs and the business was set up downstairs. There were tables on each side of the building leading back to the kitchen. Many nights people would eat standing along the walls right next to tables filled with patrons. The building she purchased now serves as the entrance and kitchen of the current restaurant and a dining room was added in the back.  Looking around the room you will see many of the original features from 1940, when the restaurant began.

When Mrs. Robino passed away in 1967 the restaurant was taken over by her daughter, Josephine (Pina) Robino Minuti, and her grandson, Joseph F. Minuti. Josephine and Joseph worked hard to expand the business over the past 30 years.

Italian Recipes Inspired by Wilmington’s Little Italy                      

Italian Sub

Ingredients:

  • Capicola
  • Black Forest Ham or Genoa Salami
  • Prosciutto 
  • Provolone cheese sliced thin
  • Romaine lettuce 
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Sliced onions 
  • Condiments include; sweet peppers, hot peppers and sliced pickles.
  • Olive oil.
  • Salt, pepper and oregano.

Directions:

Slice the roll down the middle. Remove some of the bread in the center. This allows the meat to lay in the base of the roll.

Lightly sprinkle olive oil and add a layer of ham or salami to both sides of the bread, followed by a layer of Capicola. Next, layer three to four slices of Provolone cheese.

Add lettuce and tomatoes followed by the condiments of choice. 

Sprinkle olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano to taste.

Lastly, place three slices of Prosciutto on top and with both hands, thumbs pressed against the roll turn the bottom up into place. Cut in half to serve.

Ciao Trolley Pizza & Grill

Bianco Broccoli

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 16 ounces cooked or frozen and defrosted broccoli florets, chopped
  • 2 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
  • 3/4 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 lb. pizza dough at room temperature

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic 30 seconds, until starting to color. Add broccoli and cook 2 minutes, until heated through. Remove from heat; stir in ricotta cheese.

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Shape pizza dough into a 14 inch round and transfer to a pizza pan. Spread broccoli mixture over dough leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with mozzarella, tomato and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with oregano and remaining tablespoon of oil.

Bake pizza 20-22 minutes or until puffed and nicely browned.

Luigi Vitrone’s Pastabilities

Well Known Entrees: Veal scallopini saltimbocca, linguini with lobster sauce, red wine fettuccine, cheese ravioli

Red Wine Fettuccine

Adapted recipe.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds mixed seafood of choice: crab, shrimp and mussels, cleaned
  • 1 pound dry pasta fettuccine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ounce pancetta, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crushed canned tomatoes
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in halves or quarters
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

Heat the oil over medium flame in a large, deep skillet, add the garlic and onion and saute until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the pancetta, stir for 30 seconds or so, then mix in the canned tomatoes, red wine and red pepper. Raise the heat and bring things to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook the sauce on low for 30 minutes. In the meantime, boil the pasta in salted water until it’s still al dente – not quite cooked. Drain it, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water.

After 30 minutes, the sauce should be nicely thickened. Add the fresh tomatoes, seafood and the pasta water and cook for 5 minutes until the shellfish is almost cooked. Add the cooked pasta  and cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes or so until the pasta is heated and has absorbed some sauce. Salt to taste and serve hot,

 

Sauteed Veal Saltimbocca

You can also make this dish with chicken cutlets.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound (12 small, thin slices) tender milk-fed veal cutlets
  • 12 large fresh sage leaves
  • 12 thin slices prosciutto
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white or black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons white wine

Directions:

1. Place a piece of waxed paper on a cutting board and place a slice of veal on it. Cover the meat with another piece of waxed paper. Using the blunt side of a meat mallet, pound lightly on both sides to flatten and tenderize, being sure not to break the meat. To pound the reverse side, just flip the meat over, sandwiched between the sheets of waxed paper. Pound all the veal slices very thinly in this fashion, replacing the waxed paper when necessary.

2. Cut each slice into a piece no bigger than roughly 3 by 4 inches and discard the trimmed bits. You should have 12 thin scallops

3. Place a leaf of sage on each slice, then add a slice of prosciutto the same size as the veal. Secure with a toothpick in the same fashion as you would place a straight pin in fabric to mark it.

4. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with half the olive oil over medium heat. Add half the veal, increase heat to high, and saute until lightly golden on the bottom, 2 or 3 minutes. Season the meat with salt and pepper as it sautes. Turn the slices quickly to brown the other side for 2 minutes. Transfer the veal to a warmed serving dish. Add 2 more tablespoons of the butter and the remaining olive oil to the skillet and repeat to cook the remaining veal. Transfer to platter. Add the wine to the pan and stir. Pour sauce over the veal in the serving dish. Serve hot.

Piccolina Toscana

Nestled in Trolley Square—Wilmington, Delaware’s northwesterly shopping, nightlife and dining district—is an L-shaped plaza that houses fine wine, gourmet coffee and boutique fashion shops. For 20 years, it has also been home to a local favorite Italian eatery. Having successfully converted Griglia Toscana (established in 1991) to Tavola Toscana and again into Toscana Kitchen+Bar, Owner and Chef Dan Butler has reinvented his Italian kitchen, yet again, this time as the small plate and dessert focused, Piccolina Toscana. Says Butler, “Times change and sometimes you change with them and sometimes you help them change.” The new open-display dessert kitchen is indicative of how big a part dessert plays in the Piccolina Toscana experience. Diners can watch seasonal desserts being made or select from a daily-changing selection of a half-dozen gelati. In fact, dessert-only diners often drop in for late night pumpkin beignets with caramel dipping sauce.

Zuppa Inglese

Chef Butler’s recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1  pound cake cut into long strips. (store bought is fine)
  • 16 oz pastry cream or sweetened mascarpone
  • 2 oz candied fruit (orange, lemon, raisin)
  • 2 oz semisweet chocolate in small chunks
  • 20-25 lady finger cookies
  • 12 oz sweet marsala
  • Rum simple syrup ( 8 oz sugar, 16 oz water, 2 fresh oranges, 2 limes, 3 lemons boiled and chilled—add rum to taste

For Meringue:

  • 5 egg whites
  • 12 oz sugar (you might need to use more, depending on the humidity and size of the eggs)

Directions:

Lay the stips of poundcake end to end to cover the bottom of a bowl ( a 9′ round x 4″ deep is a good size for 10-12 people). Use a pastry brush to apply the rum simple syrup evenly and generously to the bottom layer. Add about 1/4 of the pastry cream and sprinkle candied fruit and chocolate pieces on top of the pastry cream. If you have pound cake left, use it to cover the pastry cream, otherwise use ladyfingers that have been dunked in sweet marsala for a couple seconds until soft (but still firm enough to be handled). Continue to alternate pastry cream and fruit and chocolate with lady fingers until the mold is filled to the top.

Refrigerate for a couple hours.

Invert onto a serving platter and apply meringue. Burn the meringue in a very hot oven or with a small (creme brulee style) blow torch.

Meringue Tips:

Whip until stiff shiny peaks are formed (if the result looks at all foamy, add more sugar until the result is shiny).

Make sure the the egg whites are completely yolk free and the bowl and whip are very clean, as any fat at all will keep the whites from aerating.

Don’t be afraid to over whip this but once you’ve stopped whipping, don’t leave the meringue in the bowl for any extended length of time (a few minutes is ok but too long and the meringue will fall).

 


 

Ellis Island in New York harbor is well-known as the main entry point for European immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. What many do not know is that Baltimore was the second-leading port of entry at that time. The establishment of the nation’s first commercial steam railway, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, in 1828 opened the way to the West. As the westernmost major port on the East Coast, Baltimore was a popular destination.

Irish and German settlers were the first to use Baltimore as a point of entry. Immigration increased after the Irish potato famine of the mid-1840’s and the German political uprisings of 1848. The number became so great that after 1850, immigrants were no longer brought directly to Fell’s Point, Baltimore’s first port. Instead, they were unloaded at Locust Point, next to Fort McHenry. Between 1790 and 1860, Baltimore’s population rose from 13,503 to 212,418. Word spread and, for those who worked hard, there were jobs to be had with the railroad and businesses in the city. By 1913, when Baltimore immigration was averaging forty thousand per year, the federal government built an immigration center at Locust Point. But just as the center was being completed, World War I closed off the flow of immigrants, so the building became a military hospital. After the war there were not enough new arrivals to justify reopening the center. In the 1920’s, the building was transferred to the Treasury Department and used by Prohibition agents as a depot for confiscated liquor bound for Baltimore.

The B&O had constructed two large buildings at Locust Point that served as terminals for both the steamship lines and the railroad.

Italians began to settle in Baltimore during the late 1800s. Some Italian immigrants came to the Port of Baltimore by boat. The earliest Italian settlers in Baltimore were sailors from Genoa, the capital city of the Italian region of Liguria. Later immigrants came from Naples, Abruzzo, Cefalù, and Palermo. These immigrants created the monument to Christopher Columbus in Druid Hill Park. Many other Italians came by train after entering the country through New York City’s Ellis Island. The Italian immigrants who arrived by train would enter the city through the President Street Station. Because of this, the Italians largely settled in a nearby neighborhood that is now known as Little Italy. Little Italy comprises 6 blocks bounded by Pratt Street to the North, the Inner Harbor to the South, Eden Street to the East, and President Street to the West. Other neighborhoods where large numbers of Italians settled include Lexington, Belair-Edison and Cross Street. Many also settled along Lombard Street, which was named after the Italian town of Guardia Lombardi. 

Italian immigrants who made their living as sailors settled in Baltimore. Some heading west to seek their fortunes during the tail end of the California Gold Rush — stopped in Baltimore to prepare for the long journey across the country. Baltimore was a growing city and many immigrants made the decision to stay and work there instead of continuing their journey west. Some worked in construction, helping to build the city; some become fruit vendors and importers of Italian food and others were tailors, shoemakers and barbers.

st leo the great catholic church catholic in Baltimore

St Leo’s in Little Italy.

Baltimore’s Little Italy got its first church when the Roman Catholic complex of St. Leo’s Church was built in 1880. Today the church is listed as a national historic shrine. In 1904 the Great Baltimore Fire wind-whipped into an uncontrollable conflagration that engulfed a large portion of the city. The story goes that the population of Little Italy prayed to St. Anthony to spare the district and the fire stayed on the west side of the Jones Falls River. Little Italy was not damaged. Today St. Anthony is honored with annual dinners around the neighborhood as people give thanks to him for answering the prayers of their predecessors in 1904 to keep the fire at bay. This celebration has become known as the Festival of St. Anthony, which takes place around the historic church of St. Leo. Dancing, processions and, of course, lots of eating takes place over the two-day event in June. 

1904 Great Fire of Baltimore

The Italian community is still vibrant today with a large Italian American population and a very active Order of Sons of Italy in America. Numerous feasts, an open air film festivals and bocce tournaments are some of the annual events. Parish dinners, an Italian Golf Open, a Columbus Day parade, a tree lighting ceremony with a choir, an Italian-speaking Santa Claus and close to 25 Italian restaurants attract over seven million visitors to Baltimore’s Little Italy each year.

In 1994 the first of Little Italy’s open-air film festivals took place. Every year since then, it has grown in size and today it takes place each Friday night throughout July and August. The event is free, with movie-goers bringing their own chairs, blankets and snacks, as they sit back to watch a featured Italian-related movie. Free popcorn is provided along with live music and the festivals are open to the public.

This community is best appreciated for its fantastic foods and charming restaurants. Beyond the delicious, authentically prepared foods representing each distinct region of Italy, this neighborhood has much more to offer.

Pasta is a staple of Italian cuisine. Germano’s (300 South High Street) offers a unique opportunity for kids and adults to try their hand at making pasta. The chefs at Germano’s present a pasta-making demonstration and explain the history and culture associated with Italian cuisine. The presentation is followed by lunch where you enjoy the pasta that you helped to create!

Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop

Gioacchino Vaccaro established Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop in 1956. He was born and raised in Palermo, Italy. Mr. Jimmy, as he was so aptly known, brought with him the recipes and the knowledge of how to make the finest Siciliano pastries Baltimore had ever seen. Soon after opening, it was evident that the cannoli and rum cake had created a sensation among Baltimoreans. Today, Nick Vaccaro continues the family tradition begun by his father with the same old world recipes brought over from Italy.

Chiapparelli’s Restaurant

In 1925, at the age of 26, Pasquale Chiaparelli arrived in the United States aboard the Conte Rosso from Naples, Italy. A tailor by trade, he came to Baltimore to join other family members who had immigrated here before him. In the early 1940′s he opened a pizza place with his brother that would later become Chiaparelli’s restaurant. He married Anna Mary Pizza (yes, Pizza was her last name !) better known as, Miss Nellie. She made fresh ravioli for the restaurant daily until well into her 80’s. Miss Nellie died in 2004, just a few months shy of her 101 st. birthday. Pasquale preceded her in 2002. Today, the restaurant remains in the family.

Chiapparelli's House Salad

Chiapparelli’s House Salad

  • 2 heads Iceberg lettuce
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 can black olives, sliced
  • Pepperoncinis, sliced
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Chop the lettuce, red onion, hard-boiled eggs, black olives and pepperoncinis in a large bowl.

Combine the white vinegar, olive oil, garlic, oregano and sugar into a dressing. Pour over the salad, add the grated cheese and toss.

lasagnabaltimore

Butternut Squash Lasagna

For the lasagna:

  • 3-4 butternut squash, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch sheets
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 6-8 links Italian sausage, casing removed and browned
  • 3 cans artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
  • 1 container baby spinach
  • 2 cups sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups dry champagne
  • 2 cups half & half (fat-free works also)
  • 1 bunch rosemary, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

 Directions:

Season squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast on a parchment-lined pan at 350 degrees F. until softened. Butter the bottom of a casserole dish and pour in a thin layer of heavy cream. Put a layer of squash sheets in the bottom of the dish, then add a layer of artichokes, then sausage and then spinach. Repeat until ingredients have been used up, ending with a layer of squash. Top with sun-dried tomatoes and cover with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-30 minutes. Garnish with a ladle of the champagne-cream sauce when serving.

For the sauce: Saute the garlic and shallots in butter until soft. Add the champagne and reduce until almost dry. Add the half & half  and reduce for 5 more minutes. Add the rosemary at the end and season with salt and pepper.

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Double-Decker Soft-Shell Crab Club

 Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. avocado
  • 1 oz. Remoulade sauce
  • 2 slices beefsteak tomato
  • 2 slices yellow pear tomato
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 2 slices Bibb lettuce
  • 3 slices sourdough bread
  • 1 small prepared crab cake
  • 1 soft-shell crab

Toast sourdough bread and set aside. Stuff the crab cake inside the soft-shell crab and fry until golden. Drain. Cut crab-cake-stuffed crab in half. Spread half the remoulade sauce on one slice of bread and top with half the lettuce, tomatoes and bacon. Add one half of the crab and top with the second slice of bread.

Spread second slice of bread with avocado and top with remaining lettuce, tomatoes, and bacon. Add second half of crab. Spread remaining remoulade sauce on the third piece of bread and place it face down on the sandwich. Serve.

truffles-540x399.jpg baltimore

Rosemary Olive Oil Truffles

  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 branch rosemary
  • 1 lb. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary flavored olive oil
  • Cocoa powder, for dusting

Gently boil heavy cream and rosemary branch in a saucepan. Remove pan from heat and cool 3-5 minutes. Strain out the rosemary and return cream to the pot; discard rosemary. Bring cream back to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate.

When the chocolate mixture cools, add the rosemary oil. Pour the mixture into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap (press the wrap against the surface of the chocolate to keep air out).

Refrigerate for 4 hours. After that, use a tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop up balls of chocolate. Dust your hands with cocoa powder and roll the chocolate into truffles. Transfer truffles to an airtight container, stacking truffles in a single layer and refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Bring truffles to room temperature just before serving.


 

The Port of Erie, PA

Many of the Italians who came to Erie worked for the railroad. Little Italy’s boundaries at that time were along the New York Central and the Nickel Plate tracks. Others worked in the factories that grew up near the railroads and they built their homes in the same area. They worked many hours and labored hard. Some of the factories they worked in were Erie Forge and Steel, Griffin Manufacturing Company, Superior Bronze and Continental Rubber.

By 1911 there were about 3,000 Italians living in Erie. Little Italy had grown to include nine city blocks, from Huron Street south to West 17th Street and from Chestnut to Poplar. In 1920 the population was estimated at about 8,000 Italians and, from 1920 to 1940, the population expanded and spread southward. Prominent among the family names of the old Italian settlers in Erie were Fatica, Yacobozzi, Palmisano, Scolio and Minadeo.

Much of the social life of Italian-Americans in Erie centered around St. Paul’s Church. It served the immigrants and their children from baptism to death, while meeting their religious needs. The church also functioned as the social center of the Italian community, a function it still maintains. Because of the cultural and language barriers, the immigrants established their own social organizations within their neighborhoods. In 1907 the first social organization was La Nuova Aurora Club. Here the Italians met with their friends, played bocce and morra (a hand game) and drank a few beers. Eventually, these activities expanded into social and civic clubs for Italian-Americans.

After World War II, the first and second generation Italian-Americans returned home after serving their country and gave thought to their future. They went to the nearby colleges and universities to become eligible for professional positions. Others went on to trade schools with the same ambitions for better job opportunities. By 1960 a large Italian settlement was established outside of the city in Millcreek, however, by 1970 many of the second and third generation Italians were gone from Erie’s Little Italy.

This past January the doors were locked and the shelves were bare at Arnone’s Bakery and Italian Deli, an institution in the Little Italy section of Erie since the mid-50’s. 

Pittsburgh

Almost every large city in North America has one. In western Pennsylvania there are enclaves of Italians in every community from New Castle in Lawrence County; Monaca, Aliquippa and Ambridge in Beaver County; Coraopolis, McKees Rocks, Oakland and Morningside in Allegheny County; New Kensington and Vandergrift in Westmorland County; and Canonsburg and Cecil in Washington County. In the Pittsburgh district, the official “Little Italy” is located in Bloomfield !

Bloomfield is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh that is located three miles from the Golden Triangle, which is the city’s center. Pittsburgh architectural historian, Franklin Toker, has said that Bloomfield “is a feast, as rich to the eyes as the homemade tortellini and cannoli in its shop windows are to the stomach”. In the early 1900s, Italian immigrants settled in Bloomfield, drawn to the area by jobs in the steel mills and on the railroads. As the Italian population increased, businesses providing Italian products and services began to line the streets. A church, along with restaurants, bakeries, markets and other shops added to the culture of the neighborhood creating its Italian atmosphere. While the area is more culturally diversified today, it still has a large Italian American population.

Various Italian and Italian American associations help keep the culture alive and the Heinz History Center includes an extensive collection of Italian American artifacts representing Western Pennsylvania’s Italian Americans. Little Italy Days, held each September, adds to the neighborhood’s character, drawing crowds of more than 20,000 with Italian food, merchandise, music, entertainment, games and a Madonna della Civita procession. In October, the Columbus Day Parade is one of the country’s largest.

Red, white and green parking meters attest to the fact that Bloomfield is “Pittsburgh’s Little Italy.” In fact the neighborhood’s Italian roots reach back more than five generations. Its colorful mix of shops and restaurants attracts thousands of visitors from throughout the Pittsburgh region. The business district along Liberty Avenue puts most of life’s necessities and several luxuries within an easy walk for Bloomfield residents.

Strolling down Liberty Avenue and meandering off on side streets, there is a distinctly European ambiance coupled with small-town America friendliness. Groceria Italiana (237 Cedarville St.) opened almost 50 years ago and continues to draw crowds with its 14 varieties of handmade ravioli and rich ricotta-stuffed pastries.

Fresh Tuscan bread at Groceria Italiana.

Donatelli’s Italian Food Center (4711 Liberty Ave.) is another neighborhood favorite founded by Frank Donatelli in 1932 and now run by his son who continues the tradition of passionately providing the freshest Italian prepared foods and imports in town, including bottles of Grandma Donatelli’s sauce.

Meats, cheeses, bread and olives are on display at Donatelli’s Italian Foods in Bloomfield.

Down the road, a second generation of brothers, Alex and John, run their father’s (and uncle’s) Sanchioli Brother’s Bakery (4731 Juniper St.), which provides many of the restaurants in the area with their famous onion bread. Sanchioli’s has been in this location since 1922. “I started bagging bread here when I was little,” says Alex Sanchioli, part owner of the shop for a quarter century, who has seen changes over the years. “ Yet some things remain the same,” he says. “We’ve always gotten the old Italians from the neighborhood. Now, their kids come in.” Sanchioli’s makes bread, buns and pizza shells for most of the eateries in the area. Many of them have been around almost as long as the bakery.

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Del’s Liberty Ave Bloomfield-1970

Del’s Bar and Ristorante Del Pizzo (4428 Liberty Ave.) was founded by Grandpa and Grandma Del Pizzo, who came to Bloomfield in 1908 and opened a small grocery store and, a few years later, they changed the business into a small restaurant they called the Meadow Grill. For more than two decades, it was a Pittsburgh landmark. Customers came from all over for the delicious housemade food, including sandwiches, pasta dishes, and Pittsburgh’s first wood-fired oven pizza. When they sold the Meadow Grill in 1949, Dino and Bob, their sons, carried the family tradition and opened Del’s,on Liberty Ave, in the heart of Bloomfield. They continue to supply Bloomfield with Italian American classics, like veal scaloppini and they have also begun a historical renovation. So far, the exterior has been rebuilt to reflect Bloomfield’s architectural history, and they have expanded and remodeled the bar in a style that recaptures the feel of the original Meadow Grill. The restoration project will continue for the next several years.

Newcomers

Since its opening in November, Stagioni has been the talk of the town or in this case, critics and foodies alike. The menu is described as “elegantly conceived” with dishes like beef short ribs braised in Chianti and balsamic vinegar and a vegetarian dish of acorn squash risotto with walnuts, sage and chestnut honey, that was described by the reviewers as “a masterful combination of flavors and textures — sweet, earthy and herbal”.

Domenico Aliberto’s, Café Roma, could easily be the first place you think of for a plate of linguine with New Zealand mussels sauteed in tomatoes, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh herbs. Specials often include: gnocchi with fresh tomato and basil; chicken with spicy lemon sauce; rigatoni with artichokes in a light-red sauce and eggplant parmesan. “I cook when you order,” stresses chef/owner Domenico Aliberto. “It’s like buying the groceries and eating in your own house, only I make the pasta fresh,” he says. Even the soups – including Tuscan-style white bean and cream of butternut squash – are made in small quantities intended for one night’s consumption only. The chef’s special, Sicilian lasagna, is made with soft noodles from semolina instead of flour “already al dente because I make them myself,” Aliberto notes.

Lidia’s Pittsburgh opened in March of 2001, only two years after Lidia Bastianich and her son Joseph Bastianich opened the popular Lidia’s Kansas City, their first venture outside of Manhattan. Well known architect, David Rockwell, designed the interior to reflect an open-warehouse atmosphere and the restaurant is located in the heart of the Bloomfield strip district. The menu features a daily pasta tasting with homemade pastas that incorporate seasonal ingredients in addition to hearty Italian favorites, such as a braised Heritage Pork Shank with barley risotto.

Bloomfield’s Little Italy Inspired Cuisine

The Primanti Brothers opened their restaurant in Pittsburgh in the 1920s. Their idea was to create an eating place that offered simple but tasty food. The Primanti Sandwich was the result — it’s a whole meal in each bite. Ham, french fries, tomato, provolone cheese and coleslaw are stuffed between two slices of Italian bread and served on wax paper. 

FYI: The Washington Post did a nuitritional analysis of the sandwich and here it is: 775 calories, 33g fat, 10g saturated fat, 48mg cholesterol, 1729mg sodium, 87g carbohydrates, 6g dietary fiber, 17g sugar, 34g protein.

Primanti Brothers Sandwiches

 8 servings

Ingredients:

For the slaw

  • 1 pound (about half of a medium-size head) green cabbage, shredded or finely chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the twice-fried potatoes

  • 6 to 8 large (4 to 5 pounds) russet potatoes, washed well
  • 8 cups vegetable oil, for frying
  • Kosher salt

For the meat and cheese

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds spicy, thinly sliced capicola ham
  • 8 thin slices provolone cheese (about 5 ounces)

For assembly

  • 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 16 thin slices
  • 16 large slices of soft Italian bread (18 ounces total)

Directions:

For the slaw: Combine the cabbage, sugar, salt and celery seed in a colander set over a medium bowl. Let stand at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours; the cabbage will be wilted (about 4 cups total).

Discard the draining liquid in the bowl; rinse and dry the bowl, then transfer the wilted cabbage to the bowl. Add the oil and vinegar; toss to coat. Season with pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the twice-fried potatoes: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a few large baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Fill a large bowl with cold water.

Cut the (unpeeled) potatoes lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick sticks. Submerge in the cold water. Rinse in subsequent changes of cold water to remove all visible starch, then drain in a colander and spread the potatoes on the paper towels, patting the potatoes dry.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, until the oil temperature reaches 320 degrees F.

Fry the potatoes in 4 batches; each batch will take 2 to 4 minutes. Stir occasionally as they cook, until the fries are soft and cooked through but still pale. Allow enough time for the oil to return to 320 degrees F. between batches; use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the oil. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the potatoes to the lined baking sheets.

Increase the heat to high (or as needed) so that the temperature of the oil reaches 375 degrees. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Refresh the paper towels on the baking sheets as needed.

Cook the fries a second time, working in 4 batches; each batch will take 2 to 3 miinutes, until the fries are crisp and golden brown. Transfer to the lined baking sheets. Immediately season lightly with salt, then place in the oven to keep the fries warm.

For the meat and cheese: Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Have ready a large baking sheet.

Separate the ham slices and add to the skillet, turning them as needed until the slices are warmed through. Transfer the slices to the baking sheet, creating 8 equal portions. Top each with a slice of provolone cheese. Place in the oven (along with the fries) just until the cheese has melted.

For assembly: Place the portions of cheese-topped ham on 8 bread slices. Top with a large handful of the warm fries, then pile about 1/2 cup of the slaw on each portion. Garnish with 2 tomato slices for each portion; use the remaining 8 pieces of bread to finish each sandwich. Serve warm.

Fettuccine with Mafalda Sauce

Serves: 6

This dish is served at Del’s Bar & Ristorante DelPizzo, on Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh. This tomato and cream sauce is served on a variety of pasta shapes.

 Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 3 cups Marinara sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound fettuccine
  • 10 large fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • ½ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano

 Directions:

To make the marinara sauce, see post https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. Bring the marinara to a simmer in a large skillet. Stir in the heavy cream, bring back to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Add the fettuccine to the boiling water. When the pasta is al dente and the sauce is ready, drain the pasta and place it directly into the sauce. Add the shredded basil, then toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Remove from heat, stir in the grated cheese and serve immediately.

Braised Short Ribs

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs short ribs of beef, trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups finely chopped red onions
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup Chianti red wine
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups chopped plum tomatoes 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Over medium-high temperature, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven.

Season the ribs with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Brown half the ribs in the heated pan, about 8 minutes, until browned; remove from pan.

Repeat with the remaining oil and ribs.

Add the finely chopped onion to the pan and saute until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.

Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute.

Add the browned ribs back into the pan, then add the broth, wine, vinegar, brown sugar and tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Cover pan, transfer to the oven and bake at 300°F for 90 minutes or until tender.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then transfer pan to refrigerator and let chill for 8 hours or overnight.

After chilling, skim the solidified fat from the surface of the broth mixture and discard fat.

Over medium heat on the stove, cook the ribs in the Dutch oven for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper and serve with potato gnocchi.

Seafood Risotto

For the seafood

  • 2 lbs calamari cut into 1/4 inch strips
  • 12 large sea scallop, cut in half
  • 12 shrimp, cut in half
  • 3 chopped plum tomatoes

For the risotto

  • 1 small sweet onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 oz carnaroli rice
  • 1/4 cup half & half
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • chopped parsley
  • 1/2 gallon of vegetable stock or chicken stock or clam juice

Directions:

Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan and add the onions.

Cook, stirring continuously, on medium until they become translucent.

Add the rice and keep stirring on low until the rice is toasted and also becomes translucent.

Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep it simmering while you prepare the risotto.

Add stock to the rice, 8 liquid ounces at a time (depending on the rice, the process should be repeated as the rice absorbs the liquid, 4 to 5 times). total time about 18 minutes.

When the rice reaches the al dente stage, add 4 oz of stock, the seafood, chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 4 minutes  more or until seafood is cooked.

Remove from heat, add butter, half & half, cheese and parsley.

Place in serving dishes and drizzle with a good extra virgin olive oil

Number of servings: 6

Italian Cream Puffs

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour

Filling

  • 1 pound whole milk ricotta (drained)
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • Chopped candied orange peel
  • Chopped chocolate pieces or mini chips

Pastry:

Bring water to a boil. Add the oil and salt. Add the flour all at once and stir until it forms a ball. Remove from the heat.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each egg is incorporated before adding the next.

Drop dough by teaspoon or tablespoon (depending on desired size) onto a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 450 degrees F. for 15 minutes.

Lower heat to 350 degrees F. and cook until golden-brown. Remove from the oven and cut a slit into the side of each puff to release steam.

Filling:

Drain the ricotta in a fine strainer overnight in the refrigerator. Beat the ricotta with the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and rum until creamy. Refrigerate for 1 hour or more. Add the chopped candied orange peel and chocolate pieces just beforw assembly.

Assembly:

When the puffs are completely cool, fill with cream and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

 


Mulberry Street, along which New York City’s Little Italy is centered. Lower East Side, circa 1900.

In 1892 Ellis Island, located at the mouth of the Hudson River in New York Harbor, was established as the chief immigration center. Between 1892 and its closing in 1956, over 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island.

For centuries since the collapse of the Roman Empire, Italy had not existed as a single unified entity. Instead, it was a series of principalities each ruled by a different prince, duke or ruling family. The Italian Unification of 1861 changed all that, but it was not a smooth transition. The new government favored the areas in the north part of Italy, leaving the south with heavy taxes. This largely rural area had many tenant farmers who were no longer able to make a living, especially as the area was heavily populated.

Instead, millions of Italians decided to head to America. Most intended to make a new home for themselves there, while others intended to stay long enough to make their fortune and then return to Italy. Either way, life was not easy once they arrived in the “Land of Opportunity”. Not only did they not know the language, but they were usually without any education or training.

By 1910, there were 340,765 Italians living in New York.

Ellis Island and Harbor, New York. Statue of Liberty at far left.

To cope with this transition to a strange land with a different language, Italian immigrants, like many other immigrant groups, tended to live very close together in the cities to which they came. These pockets of Italian population were called “Little Italies.” Within these communities they helped each other, fed each other, practiced their religion and kept up many of the familiar customs of their homeland.

These “Little Italies” became important cultural areas of the cities. Often the Italians would establish restaurants, thus introducing Italian cuisine to America. Pope Leo XIII even sent missionaries to the “Little Italies” in the U.S. to serve the people there. As immigrants were able to establish themselves, the next generation was able to stay in school and learn trades. Thus, they were able to raise themselves to the level of skilled workman and eventually to professional jobs. In fact, an Italian entrepreneur, Amadeo Giannini, established a bank in San Francisco for the Italian population there, which eventually became Bank of America, one of the largest banks in the country today.

Most of the Italian immigrants who made their home in America first landed in New York City. Many then traveled to other parts of the country; but by the early 1900’s, hundreds of thousands had settled in lower Manhattan, living in row houses and tenements in an area of about one square mile. For the unskilled, it was a hard life of cleaning city streets and ash barrels and, for the skilled, it was a hard life of working their trade in constructing buildings and roads. Others became fruit peddlers, bread bakers, shoemakers and tailors. Some opened grocery stores and restaurants or worked in factories; all giving their children the option to stay with the family trade or enter a professional field.

Even within Little Italy, still more insular enclaves formed. Most of the people who lived on Mulberry came from Naples; those from Elizabeth Street were from Sicily; Mott Street, from Calabria; and most of the people north of Mott, came from Bari. Back then if a boy from Mulberry Street married a girl from Elizabeth Street it was considered a mixed marriage.

Mulberry Street today, St. Gennaro Festival

Today, just several thousand Italian Americans live in New York City’s Little Italy in an area six by three blocks: Mulberry Street and Mott Streets between Canal and Spring Streets, then spreading to the northwest along Bleecker Street from 6th to 7th Avenues. Still, it’s the location of the largest Italian festival in the United States — The Feast of San Gennaro — an 11-day event that attracts over one million people. Held since 1927, the Festival has live music, games and rides, more than 300 vendors selling food and merchandise, indoor and outdoor restaurant and café dining, live radio broadcasts and a street procession of the San Gennaro statue.

Other events include Summer in Little Italy and Christmas in Little Italy, both held over several consecutive weekends. A recent addition located in the heart of Little Italy, The Italian American Museum, opened in the renovated Banca Stabile building.

To Experience Manhattan’s Little Italy

Start off the day at the Italian American Museum (155 Mulberry St.) located at the site of the former Banca Stabile, a bank established in 1885, to serve as a link back to Italy for the new Italian immigrants.

Follow Mulberry north to the oldest espresso bar in the country, Ferrara (195 Grand St. between Mott and Mulberry) established in 1892, for a coffee and dessert.

Continue on through the remaining area of Little Italy, mostly crowded restaurants and souvenir shops, and turn right onto Spring St. to try a slice of pie from Lombardi’s (32 Spring St.), the first pizzeria in America, dating back to 1905 when Sicilian, Gennaro Lombardi, peddled his first slice. Then head northwest to Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market (285 Bleecker St.), one of the oldest butchers in New York City.

For a sweet finish, head next door to Pasticceria Rocco (243 Bleecker St.) for cannoli. It’s an old neighborhood favorite: the former Joe Zema’s Pastry, turned over to Rocco ( Joe’s southern Italian apprentice) in 1974.

Manhattan Italian American Cuisine

Neapolitan baker, Lombardi, opened the nation’s first pizzeria in New York City in 1905 and, to this day, Lombardi’s pies stand up as stellar examples of Italian-America’s take on the Neapolitan original: Larger in size, they’re topped with fresh tomato sauce, milky mozzarella, grated Romano cheese, olive oil and basil leaves and cooked in a coal oven. 

Soon enough, red sauce became the standard for Italian food in the United States and was embraced by Americans from every ethnic group. The epitome of this style of dining was Mamma Leone’s on 48th. Street in Manhattan, where blocks of mozzarella and provolone cheese were on every table. The restaurant opened in 1906 and was operated by the same family until it was sold to a restaurant group in 1959, eventually closing in 1994. 

It wasn’t until the arrival of first-rate Italian ingredients—many of which had been kept out of the U.S. by trade laws—in the 1970’s and ’80’s that Italian-American cooks were able to reproduce the regional flavors that travelers to Italy complained they could never find in the States. Such foods included: prosciutto di Parma, extra-virgin olive oil, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, arborio rice, porcini, balsamic vinegar and outstanding Italian wines from producers, like Angelo Gaja and Giovanni di Piero Antinori.

By that time, many Italian-American restaurants had become tired of traditional entrees and turned to northern Italy for inspiration. In New York there were Romeo Salta (opened in 1953), Nanni (1968), and Il Nido (1979). They downplayed the red sauce and substituted butter and cream sauces in pasta, risotto and polenta dishes. Instead of lasagna with meatballs and meat sauce, lasagne alla Bolognese with besciamella and spinach pasta became the favorite. Italian-American cheesecake and cannoli were replaced by tiramisù and panna cotta. The old Chianti bottles in straw  baskets were abandoned in favor of expensive barolos, barbarescos and “super-Tuscans.”  Now, the new restaurants in the U.S., proclaimed they were Tuscan-style trattorias or grills. Among the first to promote their Tuscan origins were Da Silvano, opened in 1975, and Il Cantinori (1983). Before long, their menus were copied across the country and extra-virgin olive oil became the new red sauce.

Manhattan”s Little Italy Inspired Recipes:

Mozzarella in Carrozza

Ingredients:

  • 12 slices firm white sandwich bread
  • 1/4 cup drained bottled capers, chopped
  • 6 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

Divide capers among 12 bread slices and spread evenly. Divide mozzarella among 6 slices and sprinkle with pepper to taste. Make into 6 sandwiches, then cut off and discard crusts to form 3-inch squares.

Coat sandwiches with flour, knocking off excess. Beat together eggs, milk and a pinch each of salt and pepper in another small shallow bowl.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Meanwhile, coat 3 sandwiches, 1 at a time, with egg mixture. Cook, turning over once, until golden brown, about 5 minutes, then drain on paper towels. Coat and cook remaining 3 sandwiches in same manner.

Cut sandwiches into halves.

Classic Shrimp Scampi

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound large shrimp (about 20), shelled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the wine. In a small bowl, mash the butter with the garlic, cheese, parsley, lemon juice and crushed red pepper. Season the butter with the salt and pepper.

Arrange the shrimp side by side in a single layer in a ceramic baking dish and drizzle any accumulated juices on top. Spread a scant teaspoon of the seasoned butter over each shrimp.

Bake the shrimp for about 7 minutes, until almost cooked through.

Remove the shrimp from the oven and turn on the broiler. Broil the shrimp about 6 inches from the heat for 2 minutes, or until browned and bubbling.

Serve immediately with the baguette slices and lemon wedges.

MAKE AHEAD The shrimp can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated overnight. Add another minute or so to the cooking time.

Baked Penne with Sausage and Ricotta

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 pound hot or sweet Italian fennel sausage, casings removed
  • One 28-ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound penne
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato puree, water, sugar, bay leaf and fennel. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove the garlic, mash it to a paste and stir it back into the sauce; discard the bay leaf.

Meanwhile, cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Using a slotted spoon, add the cooked sausage to the pasta, then add 1 cup of the tomato sauce and toss to coat the penne.

Spoon the pasta into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta and dollop large spoonfuls of the ricotta on top. Gently fold some of the ricotta into the pasta; don’t overmix—you should have pockets of ricotta. Scatter the mozzarella on top and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake the pasta for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

MAKE AHEAD The baked penne can be refrigerated, covered, overnight.

Reheat before serving.

 

Zabaglione with Strawberries

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pint strawberries, sliced

Directions:

Put the egg yolks, the marsala and the sugar into a large stainless steel bowl. Set the bowl over a large saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water. Using a whisk or hand-held electric mixer on low speed beat the egg-yolk mixture until it is hot and the mixture forms a ribbon when the beaters are lifted, 5 to 8 minutes. Don’t cook the zabaglione for too long or it will curdle.

Beat the heavy cream just until it holds firm peaks.

When the zabaglione is done, remove the bowl from the heat and continue beating until it cools down. Fold the cooled zabaglione into the whipped cream. Put the strawberries in serving bowls, top with the zabaglione, and refrigerate.

Substitute blueberries, raspberries or sliced peaches for the strawberries.

 



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