When Italians settled in the United States about 100 years ago, some also settled in South America, especially Argentina. However, a critical difference is that the majority of Italian immigrants to the United States were from Southern Italy and the majority to South America were from Northern Italy. So the Italian food in both areas reflects that. I write about Italian food in South America and around the globe in my new book, Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People, available at Amazon.com.
One of the things I write about in the book is catupiry cheese, a soft cheese that tastes like a cross between ricotta and velvety burrata. Catupiry cheese was created in 1911 by a Brazilian Italian named Mario Silvestrini. For the most part, it is used in the same way we use cream cheese. However, it is different from cream cheese. It is also used on pizza and you can try it in the Triangle at Piola in North Hills in Raleigh. Piola is an Italian pizza chain from Treviso (near Venice in Northeastern Italy) with locations in Italy, South America and Raleigh.
Pizza from Piola with catupiry cheese
Another interesting South American Italian tradition that I mention in my book is eating ñoqui/ñoquis, or gnocchi, on the 29th of the month. Piola highlights this tradition. While Southern Italians eat gnocchi as well, it is associated more with Northern Italian cuisine, and that is probably why it is more popular in South American countries with Italian populations, like Argentina and Uruguay.
Gnocchi Legnano from Piola
Posted in America, Cheese, History, Italian, Local, North Carolina, Pasta, Pizza, Restaurant
Tagged Argentina, Authentic Italian, Brazil, catupiry, cheese, gnocchi, noqui, noquis, North Hills, Piola, pizza, Raleigh, Triangle, Uruguay
Here is a list of some of my favorite local food products and food trucks in North Carolina and South Carolina owned by Italian Americans.
Nellino’s Sauce Co.–A pasta sauce company started in Raleigh, North Carolina, by Italian-American Neal McTighe based on his mother’s and great-grandmother’s recipes for classic sauces like marinara or tomato and basil made with good ingredients.
Melina’s Fresh Pasta–Italian-American owner Carmella makes classic fresh pastas like spaghetti and linguine as well as many creative ravioli like roasted red pepper & feta or goat cheese & honey. There’s even the pimento cheese ravioli. She also teaches pasta making classes in Durham, North Carolina.
Barone Meatball Company–Serving up classic Italian meatballs as well as fun creations like buffalo chicken meatballs and vegetarian ricotta balls. Owned by Italian-American Stephen Dewey, based in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina.
Oak City Amaretto–An Italian-American amaretto made by Italian-American Anthony Scalabrino from a recipe inspired by his grandmother’s homemade amaretto, made in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Benny T’s Vesta–The first dry hot sauce available in five grades of heat made from a variety of fresh chile peppers grown in North Carolina, created by Italian-American chile enthusiast Ben Tuorto.
Charleston Bloody Mary Mix–A bloody Mary mix made by Italian-American Ryan Eleuteri that has all good ingredients and no horseradish–its distinctive flavor comes from a habanero mash, made in Charleston, South Carolina, found throughout the East Coast and Midwest.
Mr. A’s Beignets–A food truck serving delicious beignets and coffee with chicory New Orleans style in Apex, North Carolina, owned by Italian-American Arlton Cangelosi.
All photos in this article were used with permission of their respective owners.
–Dina Di Maio
Posted in America, Italian, Local, North Carolina
Tagged amaretto, Anthony Scalabrino, Apex, Arlton Cangelosi, Barone Meatball Truck, Ben Tuorto, Benny T's Vesta, Bloody Mary, Charleston Bloody Mary Mix, Charleston Mix, Durham, food truck, hot dry sauce, Italian American, meatball, meatballs, Melina's Fresh Pasta, Mr. A's Beignets, Neal McTighe, Nellino's Sauce Co., North Carolina, Oak City Amaretto, pasta sauce, Raleigh, Raleigh/Durham, ravioli, Ryan Eleuteri, South Carolina, Stephen Dewey
I should preface this post by saying I love bread from the “old country,” that is, bread made from good ingredients in a traditional manner. It’s very hard to find bread like this, at least Italian bread, anymore, as the neighborhood bakeries closed. In New York City, the bakeries still exist in the Bronx on Arthur Avenue. Italian bread is traditionally crusty. Some places like Whole Foods replicate Italian breads, but they just don’t hit the mark. Luckily, I got to have bread from some great bread bakeries around the NYC area before they closed. So I’m always on the lookout for good bread, and I have great respect for the tradition of bread baking.
In my North Carolina travels, I found two bread ovens, one constructed a long time ago and one constructed recently, but that both make traditional breads.
Le Phare des Alpes is a men’s club in Valdese, North Carolina, that was started as a mutual aid society by the Italian Waldensians who founded the town in 1893. A few years ago, I wrote an article about a traditional Waldensian sausage called soutisso for Primo magazine (scroll down the link for the recipe). I met some of the men at the men’s club during one of the bocce tournaments they host there. I was privy to a special treat that happens only once or twice a year, the baking of bread in the old oven. I feel honored to have gotten to try this bread since it is a traditional food done on rare occasions. The oven was made by Waldensians out of the local field rock. It is a gorgeous sight to see.
The bread is hard and crusty and was used in the way Italians use bread–for dipping in coffee, wine and soup.
Now, being Italian, I am familiar with Italian breads. I am not, however, familiar with Middle Eastern breads, and was introduced to the diamond-shaped samoon by a trip to Baghdad Bakery in Cary, North Carolina. The shop sells other types of bread as well and is open all week except Monday.
When I walked in and saw the oven a few years ago, I knew I had found something special.
–Dina Di Maio
Posted in America, Bread, History, Italian, North Carolina
Tagged Baghdad Bakery, bread, Cary, Iraqi, Le Phare des Alpes, North Carolina, oven, samoon, Valdese
Valdese, North Carolina, is a town in the western part of North Carolina with green valley pastures and rolling hills. In 1893, 125 years ago, it was settled by a group of Italians from the Alps in the region of Italy known as the Piedmont.
They were called Waldensians because they practiced the Waldensian faith. Persecuted for their religion for centuries, in the late 19th century, they saw a population boom and branched out to live elsewhere. A group founded Valdese and created a lasting legacy. Valdese is a good day trip from most of North Carolina’s major cities. On August 10-11, 2018, the city celebrates its 125th anniversary with the Waldensian Festival. Here are some sights to see in Valdese:
- Village Park Mural–A beautifully painted mural in an outdoor park on Main Street detailing the history of the Waldensians from their start to their founding of Valdese.
- Waldensian Heritage Museum on Rodoret Street–The museum is a must-stop to learn more of the day-to-day life of the Waldensian people with examples of their traditional dress as well as a replica of a Waldensian home. The museum also has a really nice gift shop with books and gifts from and about Italy and the Waldensians.
- Waldensian Presbyterian Church–In 1895, the Waldensian Church became part of the Presbyterian Church. During the festival, the church sponsors a traditional Waldensian meal.
- Waldensian Trail of Faith–Here, you can tour the replica of a Waldensian village in the Alps.
- From This Day Forward–an outdoor drama from the Old Colony Players about the Waldensians of Valdese. It celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
- Waldensian Heritage Winery–The winery was founded in 1930 by Waldensians where they use traditional methods to make wine.
me at a wedding at the winery
- Bocce courts–Bocce is a favorite pastime of the locals, as is evidenced by the bocce courts off Main Street.
- Le Phare des Alpes–The Valdese Men’s Club started as a mutual aid society created by the Waldensians. Today, it hosts the North Carolina Bocce Tournament. During the festival, you can check out the bocce tournament and also sample some handmade soutisso, the local Waldensian sausage that I wrote about for Primo magazine. (Scroll down the page for the recipe.)
- 100 Main–A restaurant on Main Street that serves soutisso a few different ways, but also the traditional way with green beans and potatoes.
- Local street signs, architecture and cemetery–Waldensian culture is evident in the names of local streets, in architecture of older buildings and houses, and in the names of those buried in the local cemetery.
–Dina Di Maio
Posted in America, History, Italian, North Carolina
Tagged 100 Main, 125, bocce, From This Day Forward, Le Phare des Alpes, North Carolina, soutisso, Trail of Faith, Valdese, Waldensian, Waldensian Festival, Waldensian Heritage Museum, Waldensian Heritage Winery, Waldensian Presbyterian Church, Waldensians
11 Stops on a Tour of Italian and Italian-American Landmarks in Raleigh, North Carolina
by Dina Di Maio
Historically, there was no great migration of Italians to North Carolina like there were to some other states in the South like Louisiana or Alabama. So you don’t find much Italian history in the state. However, there are some stops in Raleigh if you want to find a little bit of Italy and Italian Americana.
- Carousel at Pullen Park—The carousel at Pullen Park is a Dentzel, the premier carousel maker of the early 20th century. Salvatore “Cherni” Cernigliaro, who immigrated to the United States in 1902 from Palermo, Sicily, at 23 years old, was a carpenter who made and finished furniture in Italy. When he came to Philadelphia, his first job was carving carousel animals. He started working for Dentzel when his prior company folded and stayed with Dentzel until the company closed. He then trained others how to hand-carve carousel animals. Cernigliaro, the chief carver of the carousel animals, strayed from tradition and created his own flair, adding unique carving embellishments to the animals and carving other nontraditional animals like rabbits, cats, and ostriches. The carousel animals at Pullen Park were carved by Cernigliaro. With 52 animals, this menagerie carousel is a historical gem right here in the capital city. Purchased by the city in 1915, it was restored in the 1970s and is still in working order today. For more information: https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/raleigh/pul.htm.
- Immigrant Gate II, 1997 sculpture by Greensboro-based sculptor Jim Gallucci—Located in Millbrook Exchange Park in North Raleigh, this sculpture honors the artist’s parents who were Italian immigrants who came to the United States in the 1930s. For more information: https://www.raleighnc.gov/parks/content/Arts/Articles/MunicipalCollection.html. Gallucci also did the Light Towers sculpture in City Plaza, a 55-foot steel sculpture with LED lights.
- Sir Walter Raleigh statue at the Raleigh Convention Center on Salisbury Street—The city of Raleigh commissioned this 12-foot bronze statue in 1975. The sculptor was Bruno Lucchesi, of Pietrasanta, Italy, one of the world’s most famous sculptors. Apparently, there was a bit of controversy as Lucchesi took creative license with Raleigh’s collar and instead of depicting him in the 17th-century ruff collar, he chose a more open style. However, the city conceded and the statue was dedicated in 1976. For more information: http://nancymcfarlane.com/sir-walter-raleigh-statue/.
- George Washington statue at the State Capitol downtown–The original sculpture, made of Carrara marble from Italy and sculpted by Antonio Canova (recommended by Thomas Jefferson) and Giuseppe Cerrachi, was dedicated in 1821. It was damaged in a fire, and the one at the capital today is a duplicate, also made of Carrara marble, sculpted in 1970 by Venetian sculptor, Romano Vio. The model for the sculpture is currently on display, for the first time outside of Italy, at the Frick Collection in New York City. For more information: http://docsouth.unc.edu/commland/monument/407/.
- Fragment of the George Washington statue at the City of Raleigh Museum downtown on Fayetteville Street. For more information: https://cityofraleighmuseum.org.
- Fragments and plaster replica of the George Washington statue at the North Carolina Museum of History in downtown Raleigh. For more information: https://www.ncmuseumofhistory.org/
- Collections of Roman art and Italian Renaissance art in the permanent collection at the North Carolina Museum of Art on Blue Ridge Road. The collection includes Giotto’s Peruzzi Altarpiece. For more information: http://ncartmuseum.org/.
- 235 Fayetteville Street, the site of Antonio Leo Dughi’s grocery store–Dughi was an Italian immigrant who came to the United States in 1875 and settled in Raleigh, opening a grocery store that sold wine, oysters and ice cream. The cornerstone of his shop and his family grave is at historic Oakwood Cemetery. For more information: http://www.waltermagazine.com/art_and_culture/shop-local/.
- Altar and cornerstone at the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral on Western Boulevard–The altar is made of Carrara marble from Italy. The cornerstone, made from Tuscan stone, was blessed by Pope Francis. For more information: http://www.sacredheartcathedral.org/masstimeshnj.
- Jim Valvano statue at Reynolds Coliseum—In 2016, NC State honored four coaches, including Jim Valvano, with bronze likenesses. Valvano’s statue stands outside Reynolds Coliseum. For more information: http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/college/acc/nc-state/article102285262.html.
- Sports memorabilia of Italian Americans in sports at the North Carolina Museum of History in downtown Raleigh, such as Jim Valvano, Sam Esposito, basketball all-American Sam Ranzino, basketball all-American and 1959 ACC Player of the Year Lou Pucillo and Francis Rogallo, father of the sport of hang gliding.
Posted in America, History, Italian, Local, North Carolina
Tagged Bruno Lucchesi, Canova, carousel, Carrara marble, City of Raleigh Museum, Dentzel, Dughi, Frank Rogallo, George Washington, Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Immigrant Gate, Jim Gallucci, Jim Valvano, Lou Pucillo, North Carolina, North Carolina Museum of Art, North Carolina Museum of History, Oakwood Cemetery, Pullen Park, Raleigh, Raleigh Convention Center, Reynolds Coliseum, Romano Vio, Salvatore Cernigliaro, Sam Esposito, Sam Ranzino, Sir Walter Raleigh, statue, Walter Raleigh
As 2017 ends, it’s a time to reflect on all the delicious meals and treats I had this year. I had some firsts this year that have become favorites: pupusas,
pasteis de nata (Portuguese egg custard tarts),
adjaruli khachapuri (a Georgian boat-shaped bread filled with sulguni cheese and topped with an egg and butter)
and hot pot.
hot pot at Good Harvest
It was a year of great food with the exception of two disappointing meals, one at one of those cheesy (pun intended) fondue restaurants that served mediocre cheese and another at the much-acclaimed Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, North Carolina. I had high hopes for Chef & the Farmer, especially since I lived in southeastern North Carolina for a number of years and know its farming history, but it turned out to be up there with my Dovetail experience a few years back as one of the worst restaurant meals I’ve ever had. Regardless, I ate well this year, especially on my New Jersey pizza tour.
I declared Star Tavern in Orange, NJ, and Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza in Hackensack, NJ, as the best overall pizza in New Jersey with Papa’s Tomato Pies in Robbinsville, NJ, having the most traditional and flavorful crust.
I did a best ice cream in New Jersey tour too. My favorite ice cream was from
- Denville Dairy in Denville, NJ–the creamiest soft-serve ice cream.
- Magnifico’s in East Brunswick, NJ–best cherry-dipped cone.
- Cookman Creamery in Asbury Park, NJ–delicious vegan options.
I discovered Calandra’s Bakery and returned to my childhood with delicious pepperoni bread as well as many other great pastries.
There was a lot more, but these stand out as the most memorable of the year.
Posted in America, Asian, Bakery, Blog, Bread, Cheese, Chef, Ice Cream, Italian, Local, New York, North Carolina, Pie, Pizza, Restaurant, Vegetarian
I have been wanting to try Poole’s Diner for a long time. I’d been to Beasley’s, one of Ashley Christensen’s other Raleigh restaurants, and I thought the food there was very good. I got fried chicken and waffles. It was delicious–and I don’t even like fried chicken. However, I was not crazy about the uncomfortable seats and the chalkboard menus. Poole’s has the same chalkboard menus but normal seating. We got here early, one of the first customers, and we waited until the restaurant officially opened. We were seated quickly then and the dining room took no time to fill up. I did notice that, despite the fact that we were one of the first people there, food kept coming out of the kitchen and going to other tables while we waited for our order.
We started with the pimento cheese appetizer. Both of us thought it was a little hotter than we like pimento cheese.
Of course, we got the famous mac and cheese. I really liked it. I love a creamy mac and cheese. My friend was hoping for a more traditional mac and cheese. But I think the blend of Jarlsberg, Grana Padano and white cheddar is fab.
We also got the root vegetable au gratin, and maybe it was because of the mac and cheese, but I wasn’t tasting the au gratin part very much.
I got the special of the night, a pork chop with escarole and bread pudding. The pork chop was a tad dry, which is better than undercooked pork which I sometimes get when I order pork chops. I liked the escarole. The bread pudding tasted a bit like Thanksgiving stuffing.
For dessert, we shared a chocolate church cake with hazelnuts. This cake was great. If you like rich chocolate ganache, you’d love it.