Periodically, there’s an article about how Little Italy is dead or dying. Yes, it’s more of a tourist destination and less of a neighborhood where Italian people live. There are still some Italians there, and there are Italian-American-owned businesses there. A recent article in the New York Times made me want to write a series on Little Italy Isn’t Dead and feature some of the businesses there.
In 1892, Francesco and Pina Alleva from Benevento, Italy, (not far from Naples) opened the first cheese shop in the United States. Alleva Dairy is known for its fabulous mozzarella and ricotta and its sandwiches. The Alleva family sold the business in 2014 to the late John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia and his wife, Karen King. Actor Tony Danza is also a co-owner of the store.
Posted in Cheese, History, Italian, Local, New York
Tagged Alleva Dairy, Grand Street, Little Italy, mozzarella, Mulberry Street, New York, New York City, NYC, ricotta, Tony Danza
Owner Joe Clemente hails from Brooklyn where his family had successful grocery businesses. In 2008, he opened Dolce & Clemente in Robbinsville, New Jersey. If you visit, it is in the same shopping center as De Lorenzo’s Tomato Pies, so you can shop before or after your pizza. They have a deli counter, bakery and prepared meal sections.
So much Italian bread
Plenty of taralli and even gluten-free pasta
Posted in Bakery, Bread, Cannoli, Cheese, Gourmet, Italian, Pizza, Store
Tagged cannoli, Dolce & Clemente, Dolce & Clemente's, Italian bread, Italian market, New Jersey, NJ, Robbinsville
This year for Easter, I made an Italian Easter rice pie. I’ve written before about the Italian Easter pies, the pizza chiena, or pizza rustica, and the pastiera, or pizza grano. This is a variation of the pizza grano. The pizza grano is a Neapolitan wheat pie served at Easter. My family traditionally made this pie at Easter time. Part of my dad’s family is from the area near Benevento, Italy, and there they make a variation with rice instead of wheat. So he grew up with both the wheat and rice pies at Easter.
I wanted to be ambitious this Easter/Lent and make a lot more, but I haven’t had the time. I had wanted to make hot cross buns, but instead just got some yummy ones from a bakery. I’m also going to make a pizza chiena. My grandma has a variation of the pizza chiena that is vegetarian, using mashed potatoes. I don’t think I will be making that one this year though, as I don’t have time. Now, I do have a homemade crust recipe, but I can’t publish it or else I may get the malocchio from my aunt.
Italian Easter Rice Pie
1 1/2 cups whole milk or 1 cup skim/1/2% milk and 1/2 cup light cream/half and half
1/2 cup rice
1 cup sugar
1 pound ricotta (I use Calabro brand.)
1 tablespoon orange blossom water (You can find this at any Italian specialty shop like Di Palo’s or order it online.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. candied citron (You can find this at any Italian specialty shop like Di Palo’s or order it online.)
1 deep dish frozen pie crust
1 regular frozen pie crust
Cook rice according to package directions (with water). Add milk and cook on low until milk is absorbed. Cool. Beat eggs and beat in sugar. Add ricotta, orange blossom water, vanilla and citron and stir. Put into deep dish pie crust and top with top crust. (I used a regular pie crust for the top and cut strips with a pastry cutter.) Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Cool and serve.
Posted in Cheese, Dessert, History, Holiday, Italian, New York, Pie
Tagged Benevento, citron, Easter, Italian, Italian Easter pie, Neapolitan, orange blossom water, pastiera, pizza chiena, pizza grano, pizza rustica, rice pie, ricotta, ricotta pie, wheat pie
Even though St. Patty’s Day was yesterday, I’m still celebrating all things Irish. How about Irish cheddar? So I’m doing a side-by-side of Kerrygold Dubliner vs. Murray’s Irish cheddar. (No, I’m not being cute. I couldn’t get this photo to straighten in WordPress. Something must not be working.)
Both cheeses are from Ireland. Dubliner (l) is more complex and nutty. Murray’s (r) was softer, not quite as strong a flavor.
I finally made it out to Brooklyn to try Totonno’s in Coney Island and L&B Spumoni Gardens’ pizza in Bensonhurst. Pizza is a controversial topic, I realize. My grandmother talked about wood-fired pizza from Naples. My mother grew up on coal-fired pizza. As my family worked in the pizza business and owned a pizzeria, I’m pretty critical of pizza. Among aficionados, Totonno’s has a history and is known as some of the best pizza.
On our visit, we didn’t have to wait on line. There was one table available. There are no frills here. You sit; they bring you paper plates and plastic cups. You have your choice of canned or bottled soda and water. Service is rushed and not friendly. Because of the demand and lack of space, you may have to share a table with other patrons, as we did. We ordered the large plain cheese pie, which is a steep price at $19.50.
The three elements of pizza are crust, sauce and cheese. With a coal-fired oven, one would expect the blackened bottom and a certain flavor. Sally’s Apizza in New Haven has the perfect coal-fired crust. Totonno’s crust didn’t have that blackened bottom, and the dough was lackluster. The tomato sauce was bland–just a tomato taste. The cheese was also pretty flavorless. I had really wanted to love this place because of its history, but I felt it was lacking in taste. I really don’t think it’s worth a trip out to Coney Island just for this pizza.
L&B Spumoni Gardens is a subway stop and short walk away from Totonno’s. Here, the specialty of the house are Sicilian-style pies. For those who don’t know, Sicilian style pies are square pies that are more doughy. My mom says that when she was young, Sicilian pies came with tomato and onion, but that is not how they are served today. The pie at L&B is good, but where’s the cheese? I understand the sauce is on top of the cheese, but I don’t think there’s enough cheese. It’s unfortunate because the sauce is very good, slightly sweet and with oregano. With more cheese, this would be one hell of a Sicilian pie.
Posted in America, Brooklyn, Cheese, History, Italian, Local, New York, Pie, Pizza, Restaurant
Tagged Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, cheese, coal, coal-fired, Coney Island, crust, L&B Spumoni Gardens, New Haven, New York, pie, pizza, Sally's Apizza, sauce, Sicilian, Totonno's, wood
Cheesecake is a classic New York dessert, and it’s also ubiquitous. Every restaurant has its version, and some are better than others. While I’m not a big fan of cheesecake, I have enjoyed a piece of Junior’s. Then, I found something on Junior’s menu that caught my eye: strawberry shortcake cheesecake. Yes, the best of both worlds. Strawberry cheesecake sandwiched between strawberry shortcake. It is as good as it sounds. And the best part: delivered to your door.
Another interesting cheesecake I found was at Spot Dessert Bar on 32nd Street in Koreatown. On the third floor of the Food Gallery, there’s a Spot Dessert Bar location with ice cream, cupcakes, macaroons and fancy dessert plates. I ordered the smoked coconut cheesecake, coconut cheesecake smoked with Thai aromatic candle and coconut ice cream with basil seeds. It comes with peaches, blueberries and jellies. I’m not sure what is meant by Thai aromatic candle, but this was one of the best desserts I’ve had in a long time. The foam on top had a citrus flavor. The clear jellies had a hard texture, but I wasn’t able to discern the flavor. All the accompaniments went well with the cheesecake, but the cheesecake can stand alone.
Posted in Asian, Bakery, Brooklyn, Cake, Cheese, Dessert, New York
Tagged coconut cheesecake, Junior's, Junior's cheesecake, Korea Town, Koreatown, Spot Dessert Bar, strawberry shortcake cheesecake