Category Archives: Fried

Little Italy Isn’t Dead: Sal’s Little Italy

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.

Sal’s Little Italy

Sal’s Pizza opened in Little Italy in 1977. In 1982, Neapolitan immigrants Carmela and Antonio Triolo bought it and the family still owns it today. The star here is the fried calzone–how calzones should be made.

And this is one of the best pizzas in the city. Sal’s also has a full menu of appetizers, pastas, sandwiches and entrees, including specialties like Italian sausage and broccoli rabe.

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Di Matteo, Pizza in Naples

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The owner of Di Matteo, Salvatore Di Matteo, comes from a long line of pizza makers.  His pizzeria is a VPN member pizzeria and is touted by guidebooks and locals alike.  Besides its pizza, the restaurant’s claim to fame is a visit from President Clinton.  And in fact, a neighboring pizzeria owned by Di Matteo’s brother is named Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente in honor of Clinton.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try Salvatore Di Matteo’s pizza.  He is also known for his fried snacks like pizza fritta, what we would call a fried calzone, that you can buy from the cart in front of the shop.  According to Phaidon’s Where to Eat Pizza, Di Matteo assembles the pizza fritta himself.  I love fried dough and fried calzones are my favorite (they shouldn’t be baked!).  Of course, it was delicious.

pizza fritta

–Dina Di Maio

New and Old Favorites at the 2015 North Carolina State Fair

The 2015 NC state fair has a lot of new food this year.  I can’t get into some of the ridiculous fried stuff at state fairs like peanut butter pickles.  But I will taste some of the more tame fried food.  Here are some new things at the fair this year:

Fried pimento cheese wonton’s from Woody’s–These are a winner.  What’s not to like about pimento cheese?  (These are easy to find if you just look for the big balloon blimp in the sky.  Do not follow the festival food map because it lists Woody’s in a different location.)  WINNER

pimento cheese

Fried s’mores–Hmm, this was a little disappointing. I was expecting a square smore deep fried, but this was just marshmallow deep fried with chocolate syrup–no graham.  If that’s your thing, you’ll like it.

s'mores, smores

Nu Jersey Turnpike sausage baguette from Baguettaboutit–A mild Italian fennel sausage with a roasted red pepper sauce in a crusty baguette.  My friend always gets sausage and pepper sandwiches, and this was a really nice change–especially the good bread.  WINNER

baguettaboutit

And Baguettaboutit also has delicious vegetarian sandwiches like this one with Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Tofurky Italian Sausage + Cracked Pepper and Parmesan Sauce.  WINNER

baguettaboutit

Candied yams ice cream from Lumpy’s–I love Lumpy’s ice cream.  But this flavor fell a bit flat for me.  Yam/sweet potato ice cream can have a starchy mouthfeel.  This one had some marshmallows scattered throughout, but I think a sweet syrup would’ve masked some of the starchiness.

Lumpy's

Sour lemon ice cream from Country Folks Creamery—I always like to get the ice cream that’s churned with a John Deere tractor.  This year’s new flavor is sour lemon.  It is sour, which I like, and definitely real lemon.  It reminded me of lemon gelato.  It’s really good.  WINNER

sour lemon ice cream

White chocolate mini baguette from La Farm Bakery–I love white chocolate, so I had to try this baguette.  La Farm makes great bread, but this just didn’t do it for me.  It was a bit too sweet and I just didn’t taste the white chocolate like I wanted to.  I was hoping it would be melted in the middle but it was mostly bread.  We also got an asiago parmesan bread for the road that’s great!

white chocolate

In addition to the new food at the fair, we got some old staples that we know we like.

Fried cheddar nuggets from Wisconsin cheese

fried cheese

a cinnamon sugar elephant ear

elephant ear

I also got some barbecue and slaw at Big Al’s in Raleigh

barbecue

And my friend got mini donuts–these tasted like they were made with funnel cake mix–I’m not a fan of that flavor but if you are, you’ll like them.

mini donuts, mini doughnuts

Muscadine grapes are from North Carolina, and this muscadine grape slushie was a sweet, refreshing drink!

muscadine grape

I checked out my favorite things at the fair–like the cake decorating contest.  This cute cake was the winner.

NC state fair winning cake

I love the folk crafts at the Village of Yesteryear, the gardens and bonsai trees, and the North Carolina pottery tent.  I even took a stroll through the soybean farmers’ tent with a wall of the Bayer logo.  I tried not to think about all the soybean oil I ingested and had a good time!  (I did see a food booth somewhere at the fair advertising that all its food was cooked with olive oil.)  Anyway, a good time was had by all!

Two Stops on the North Carolina Barbecue Trail

With the North Carolina State Fair going on this week, I thought I’d write about North Carolina food.  I recently had barbecue at two really great restaurants on the North Carolina Barbecue Trail.  The North Carolina Barbecue Society is a group that claims that North Carolina originated barbecue.  It has published a map of restaurants that serve barbecue, the North Carolina Barbecue Trail.  I have eaten a lot of barbecue in North Carolina, but I had never been to any of the places on this list.  Until now.  In North Carolina, barbecue means pulled pork barbecue (although you see it served chopped or sliced too).  For those who don’t know, North Carolina has two types of barbecue based on the sauce, eastern and western.  Eastern is made with a vinegar-based sauce and western is made with a tomato-based sauce.  This is how it’s always been defined to me.  However, I’ve been reading about a third kind, Lexington-style, made with ketchup.  I prefer eastern-style barbecue.  I don’t think I’ve had it in the western part of the state.  I have eaten it in Lexington, NC, too.  (South Carolina has another option, mustard sauce, that is also delicious.)

Hursey’s Barbecue in Burlington, NC

barbecue

OK, I have a new favorite barbecue and it is Hursey’s.  They cook it perfectly–just the way I like it.  Hursey’s has a barbecue sauce that you can add to the barbecue.  I didn’t because it was delicious just the way it was cooked.  But the sauce is also good, and I bought some to take home.  The menu at Hursey’s is definitely for a carnivore–they don’t have many sides typical of barbecue restaurants (so vegetarians beware).  However, if you eat meat, this is the place for you.  Of course, I got barbecue, but the broasted chicken sounded intriguing.  It is fried chicken that local barbecue guru Bob Garner says is cooked in a pressure cooker so it’s not too greasy.  The night I dined here they had a special, fried corn.  I tried it, not knowing what to expect.  It was on the cob and so crispy and delicious.  They need to add it to the menu.

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Carolina Bar-B-Q in Statesville, NC

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The barbecue at Carolina Bar-B-Q is made from pork shoulder, not pork butt.  It is served without seasoning/sauce and you add what you like–eastern or western style.  For vegetarians, they have a vegetable plate where you can choose sides from a long list.  To me, these sides really stand out at Carolina Bar-B-Q.  They are fried to order in clean oil, perfectly crispy, not greasy, and very tasty.  This is the first time I’ve seen fried yellow squash, and it was great.  Normally, I don’t eat fried food, but this could make me a convert.

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San Gennaro Festival 2012

The San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy kicked off this past week.

Mulberry Street

This is the 86th year of the feast that celebrates the patron saint of Naples.  September 19 is the feast day of San Gennaro, and there will be a Mass at Most Precious Blood church followed by a procession down Mulberry Street.

Most Precious Blood church

Foods that are traditional at Italian festivals include fried dough called zeppole, served with powdered sugar.  My grandma would make zeppole on St. Joseph’s Day.

Other Italian festival favorites include sausage and pepper sandwiches, clams, and fried calamari:

sausage and peppers

shucking clams

There are a lot of other Italian foods available at the festival, including Italian cookies and pastries, gelato, and pizza as well as fair foods like fried Oreos and funnel cakes.

Italian cookies

St. Joseph’s Day sfinge and sfogliatelle

fresh-cut torrone

struffoli (a Christmas treat)

Traditional Neapolitan Treats

When I was a little girl, I remember cutting strips of dough with a fluted pastry cutter and tying them in a bow the way my grandmother had taught me.  She’d fry them in oil and then sprinkle powdered sugar on them.  We called them bows and made them every Christmas.  We’d also make struffoli, a different fried dough cut into small pieces, fried, piled on a plate and drizzled with honey syrup.  (Here is a site for the pronunciation of struffoli, but in our Neapolitan-American dialect, it sounded more like struvuhluh.)  I know struffoli are a traditional Neapolitan-American Christmas treat.  (Other regions of Italy may make them too.)  I see them in Italian bakeries at Christmas time.  The ones in the bakery are usually light and airy.  Homemade ones are more dense.  I prefer the homemade version.    Here is a pic of the struffoli we made this year:

We sprinkle pine nuts and sprinkles on them, but it’s not a requirement.  My mother likes to eat these warm and fresh, but I prefer them after the honey has hardened.  I love to get to the bottom of a plate of struffoli when it is difficult to scrape the hard honey off.  These never last long!

I think many cultures and areas have a variety of “bows.”  We always called them bows, but I have seen Italian names for them, such as farfellette and crostoli.  Here is our process for making bows:

Make a well in the flour.

Cut in butter.

Add egg mixture.

Knead dough into a ball and let it sit.

Roll dough out.

Cut it into strips with a fluted pastry cutter.

Cut a little hole in the middle and pull dough through to make a bow.

Fry the dough.

Remove when golden.

Drain on paper towels.

Plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Some people drizzle honey over bows as well.

North Carolina State Fair

bacon

I didn’t try the chocolate bacon at the state fair, but it is appropriate that the state known for its pork would have something like this. 

biscuit

A made-from-scratch ham biscuit from the ladies at the Apex Lions Club.

mozz

I did have fried mozzarella sticks, which were delicious.

cheese curds

Continuing with the fried cheese, cheddar curds.  Good too.

ear

More fried–this time dough.  Wish the fair had some zeppoles, but an elephant ear was the closest I could find.  Yum!

oreo

Fried Oreos.  Nothing special even though they look great.

veggies

Fried veggies were yummy, especially with ranch dip.

pecan pie

Fried pecan pie, very good, something any pecan pie lover would love.

frying pie

This pic is of the pie being fried.

ice cream

A fair favorite of mine, R&R’s homemade vanilla ice cream.  Much better than NC State’s, which is fairly mediocre.

ice cream maker

Ice cream being churned using vintage John Deere engines.

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More of the pig theme–a Miss Debbie’s Specialty apple with chocolate and bacon. 

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Here’s another named after Homer Simpson with a little doughnut on top.

lime

A key lime pie one that I actually bought.

cake

A first-prize winning lovely cake shaped like a Valentine’s Day heart.