Category Archives: Pasta

Some South American Italian in the Triangle at Piola

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.

Authentic Italian

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

–Dina Di Maio

My Book, Authentic Italian, Is Now Available

Authentic Italian

Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People

by Dina M. Di Maio

Available from Amazon.com

Pizza. Spaghetti and meatballs. Are these beloved foods Italian or American?

Italy declares pizza from Naples the only true pizza, but what about New York, New Haven, and Chicago pizza? The media says spaghetti and meatballs isn’t found in Italy, but it exists around the globe. Worldwide, people regard pizza and spaghetti and meatballs as Italian. Why? Because the Italian immigrants to the United States brought their foodways with them 100 years ago and created successful food-related businesses. But a new message is emerging–that the only real Italian food comes from the contemporary Italian mainland. However, this ideology negatively affects Italian Americans, who still face discrimination that pervades the culture–from movies and TV to religion, academia, the workplace, and every aspect of their existence.

In Authentic Italian, Italian-American food writer Dina M. Di Maio explores the history and food contributions of Italian immigrants in the United States and beyond. With thorough research and evidence, Di Maio proves the classic dishes like pizza and spaghetti and meatballs so beloved by the world are, indeed, Italian. Much more than a food history, Authentic Italian packs a sociopolitical punch and shows that the Italian-American people made Italian food what it is today. They and their food are real, true, and authentic Italian.

Little Italy Isn’t Dead: Puglia

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.

Puglia

In 1919, Italian immigrant Gregorio Garofalo opened Puglia, named after the region in Italy where he was from. The restaurant used to serve Italian specialties like capozello (sheep’s head) and tripe, but now its menu includes more standard and popular Italian favorites. Puglia is known for its entertainment. It’s a good stop during the San Gennaro festival too.

Little Italy Isn’t Dead: Piemonte Ravioli

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.

Piemonte Ravioli

Piemonte Ravioli was opened in 1920 by a Genoese immigrant with the last name of Piemonte. In 1955, Mario Bertorelli from Parma bought it. Today, it is run by him and his son, Flavio. The store has a plethora of fresh and dried pasta. They tell photographers James and Karla Murray in Store Front that they use the original recipes from the Piemonte family. They use cheese from Alleva Dairy, and they make their own pasta sauces from their family recipes. Piemonte is also housed in a landmarked building.

Top 10 Foods to Get at NYC’s San Gennaro Festival

This list of top 10 foods to get at NYC’s San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy is the definitive guide to the traditional foods eaten by Italian Americans.

1. If you try nothing else at the San Gennaro festival, you have to try cannoli.

La Bella Ferrara cannoli

Where to get cannoli:  the legendary Ferrara on Grand Street and Mulberry, La Bella Ferrara on Mulberry, Caffe Palermo on Mulberry, Caffe Roma corner of Mulberry and Broome.

2. Sausage and peppers sandwiches–When Italians go to festivals, this is what they get.

Where to get sausage and peppers–at a stand.

3.  Zeppole are fried dough balls in powdered sugar–a staple of Italian festivals.

Where to get zeppole–at a stand.

4.  Clams

Where to get clams–at a stand, Umberto’s Clam House on Mulberry.

5.  Pizza/calzones

Where to get pizza/calzones–Sal’s on Broome Street (the fried calzone is to die for!), the first pizzeria in America–Lombardi’s on Spring Street.

6.  Torrone–Italian nutty nougat confection

Where to get torrone–at a stand or at Ferrara on Grand.

7.  Italian cookies

Where to get Italian cookies–the legendary Ferrara on Grand, La Bella Ferrara on Mulberry, at a stand.

8.  Gelato

Where to get gelato–Ferrara on Grand, Caffe Roma on Broome, Mo on Mulberry.

9.  Pasta

Where to get pasta–Puglia on Hester, Vincent’s on Hester/Mott, Benito One on Mulberry.

10. Italian pastries

Where to get Italian pastries–the legendary Ferrara on Grand Street and Mulberry, La Bella Ferrara on Mulberry, Caffe Palermo on Mulberry, Caffe Roma corner of Mulberry and Broome.

–Dina Di Maio, author of Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People, available at Amazon.com

***All writings and photographs are the intellectual property of me, unless I’ve noted otherwise, and can only be used with permission. If you are inspired by this blog, please use professional courtesy to note it.***

Two for Tuesday: Gnocchi

Gnocchi are fast and easy to cook for dinner.  Recently, I saw a gnocchi recipe in the December 2013 Food Network magazine and made it along with one of my long-time favorite gnocchi recipes.  The Food Network recipe isn’t posted on its site yet, but all it is is baking a package of gnocchi with olive oil, kale and parmesan cheese (I used pecorino romano).  It’s really good.

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My favorite gnocchi recipe is gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce.

Gnocchi With Gorgonzola Sauce

1 package gnocchi

1 tablespoon butter

2 cups half and half or whipping cream with 1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons gorgonzola

Melt the butter in a pot.  Add the half and half.  Let it come to a boil.  Lower.  Add gorgonzola.  Mix and heat through until it becomes a creamy sauce.  Add to cooked gnocchi.  (Gnocchi cook fast, so you can start boiling the water for them while you make the sauce.)

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Shirataki: The Zero-Calorie Noodle?

I’ve seen shirataki noodles in women’s magazines touted as the zero-calorie noodle for pasta lovers.  I figured I had to try it.  I found it at the Japanese grocery Sunrise Mart.  It is made from yam flour.  (There are versions made from tofu, but shirataki is made from yam flour.)  One of these brands says it is 0 calories, 0 fat and 0 carbs.  However, other brands say there are 10 calories per serving and 3 grams of carbs per serving (2 of those fiber).  In one bag, there are two servings, so that would be about 20 calories and 6 grams of carbs (4 of fiber).  If you look at the nutritional value of various spaghetti brands, you will see that 2 ounces of dry spaghetti is 210 calories and 42 grams of carbs (only 2 of those fiber).

Shirataki
These noodles do have a fishy-type smell, but that goes away once they are rinsed in water. Boil them for about 3 minutes in boiling water. I served them like spaghetti with tomato sauce and pecorino Romano cheese.  I thought they tasted good–almost like I was eating a plate of spaghetti.  The only difference was the texture of the noodle.  It’s a hard-squish al dente, not sure how else to describe it.  It reminded me of making spaghetti squash spaghetti, but it’s definitely a noodle not thin strands like the spaghetti squash.

shirataki spaghetti
I do think it’s filling, and I also think it’s a great substitute for pasta/noodles if you are counting carbs, cutting back or trying to avoid gluten or wheat.

Neighborhood Watch: Arthur Avenue in the Bronx

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Arthur Avenue, the Little Italy of the Bronx, is the only real Italian neighborhood left in NYC.  If you’re looking for an authentic Italian American experience, this is the place to be.  However, it’s not so easy to get to.  It’s a long, hilly walk from the subway.  Or if you take a cab, the cab driver will not know where it is.  I know cab drivers are supposed to know where to go in the boroughs, but they don’t, especially in the Bronx and Queens and sometimes, Brooklyn.  I suggest you have directions or your phone GPS on hand to assist the driver.

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The main strip is Arthur Avenue from East 184th Street to East 187th Street.  On East 187th Street, there’s Artuso’s Pastry, the home of the famous Pope cookies.  In case you are looking for them, the Pope cookies were made for Pope Benedict’s visit to New York and his recent resignation, but they do not have Pope cookies now.

Visit Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

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Walk west to Egidio Pastry and admire the case full of beautiful pastries.

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The history of the building is evident with its tin ceiling.

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Here, we tried a mini cannoli and a mini sfogliatelle. They were both very good, but the sfogliatelle was particularly well crafted with flaky layers.

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DeLillo Pastry has outdoor seating and a mighty fine cannoli with creamy ricotta filling.

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There are a lot of bakeries on this small strip, so if you are doing a tasting, be prepared to eat a lot or to take some home. I brought my rolling backpack so that I could easily bring things home with me.

In addition to bakeries, there are ravioli/pasta shops, seafood markets, meat markets, cheese shops, pizzerias, Italian restaurants and kitchen stores. At Marie’s, you can get dinnerware and housewares, as well as coffee, from Italy.
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OK, vegetarians in the crowd will not want to look at the next photo–the body of a sheep hanging in the window of a meat market.

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Teitel Brothers is an Italian grocery store owned by a Jewish family that has been in the neighborhood since 1915.

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Now this is something you don’t see anymore–a bread bakery.  Zito’s and Vesuvio’s in the city closed awhile ago.  Thank goodness Addeo’s is still here in the Bronx.

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Look at that bread.

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At Biancardi’s meat market, you can still get capuzelle, or sheep’s head.

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Madonia Bakery has beautiful bread and also fills cannoli to order.

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I got some yummy cookies for the road.

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In the middle of the block, there’s an indoor market, the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, with a butcher, fish and produce market as well as products from Italy and Arthur Avenue T-shirts and souvenirs.

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The butcher here had beef feet.  I’ve never seen these before and am not sure how Italians use them.

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If you’re into offal, this is the place to be.  Here’s cotenne, the pig skin I’ve written about, in the rear of this photo.

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Brains, anyone?

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OK, I definitely share the sentiment with these T-shirts.

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Check out Cerini Coffee, a fun store with housewares from Italy.

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At Morrone Pastry Shop & Café, I got a rainbow cookie cake slice and a tortoni.  Both were delicious.  (I also bought a rainbow cookie cake for my aunt’s birthday.  I froze it the day I bought it and thawed it a week later.  It was fresh, moist and delicious.)

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In case you thought I just had sweets, I did stop for a slice of pizza at Catania’s.

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What to Eat:  pastries and bread from Artuso’s, Egidio’s, DeLillo’s, Madonia’s, Addeo’s or Morrone’s; pizza from Catania’s.

Where to Shop:  Marie’s and Cerini’s for kitchen wares; the Arthur Avenue Retail Market for souvenirs, produce and Italian goods; Borgatti’s for ravioli; Randazzo’s for seafood.

What to See:  Columbus statue at East 183rd Street and Arthur Avenue, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on East 187th Street.

Two for Tuesday: Piemonte Ravioli

This week’s Two for Tuesday are two of my favorite pastas–ravioli and fusilli.  The Piemonte Ravioli store on Grand Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy has been making fresh pasta since 1920.  Whenever I’m in the neighborhood, I stop in and get some kind of pasta.  I love the variety here.  My favorite pasta growing up was fusilli.  In stores these days, it seems that the only fusilli you can find is short, but at Piemonte, you can find the long fusilli.

fusilli1

We always served this with a generous dollop of ricotta cheese.

fusilli

I also tried the store’s namesake, ravioli.

ravioli

I bought regular and sweet potato.

ravioli1

I ate the regular ones the way I’m used to with tomato sauce and Locatelli cheese.

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I ate the sweet potato ones with butter.  They were delicious that way.

A Tale of Two Gnocchis

When one thinks of gnocchi, she thinks of the potato gnocchi, a dense and filling dish often served in a tomato or cream (gorgonzola) sauce.  Here is an example I had at a recent Union Square Cafe lunch, Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Fonduta, Radicchio, and Vin Cotto:

Another variation is the ricotta gnocchi, in which ricotta is used instead of potato.   I had not had these prior to dining at Union Square Cafe.  I was eager to try their Ricotta Gnocchi, Tomato-Basil Passatina, Pecorino Romano:

Both variations were perfectly prepared and flavorful.  Of course, the biggest difference is the lightness of the ricotta gnocchi as opposed to the denseness of the potato.  Normally, I can’t finish a serving of potato gnocchi because it is so heavy, so ricotta gnocchi is a light alternative.  However, especially with the tomato sauce, it had a very ricotta flavor.  My family sometimes serves a dollop of ricotta on top of certain pastas with tomato sauce, and it reminded me very much of that flavor.  I’d like to maybe try ricotta gnocchi with a different type of sauce though I’m not sure what–just something besides tomato that is also light.  In all, both dishes were delicious and I probably prefer the taste and texture of potato gnocchi better, but I found the ricotta gnocchi to be a refreshing take.