Tag Archives: gelato

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, Angelo’s of Mulberry Street, 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

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The New Italy in New York: Unico Taste of Sicily

New York is continually hosting new immigrants. Due to high unemployment and negative economic forces in Italy, many Italians are seeking work and opportunity elsewhere, much like their cousins did 100 years ago. These new immigrants/expats are moving to other parts of Europe and the United States, particularly New York. Some are opening food-related businesses in areas that used to be predominantly Italian, like Little Italy, the West Village or Soho.

Unico looks to be one such business. A café in Soho across from the predominantly Italian Roman Catholic church of St. Anthony of Padua, Unico specializes in Sicilian cuisine. It is a small, hole-in-the-wall spot, but it serves contemporary Italian breakfast items like coffee and pastries, as well as snack foods like arancini (rice balls) and sandwiches to traditional Sicilian desserts like cassata and cannoli. Some of it could be classified as Sicilian street food like the panelle (chick pea fritter) sandwich and the arancini with various fillings like eggplant or mushroom and fontina.

On my visit, a hot day, I got some gelato, lemon and cassata. Both were yummy. I was able to try a sample of cannoli, unfortunately it had been sitting out in the sun, so it’s not the best example. The food looks very good here, and I’d like to go back and try something more substantial besides gelato.

In general, I wouldn’t say Unico (which means “unique” in Italian) is unique because Italian and Sicilian-style cafes have been in the city for over 100 years. But I would say the cornetti, pastries with sweet or savory fillings, are the unique item that you wouldn’t find elsewhere, especially the savory variety. “Cornetto” or plural “cornetti” is the Italian word for croissant. Usually, in the United States, these are served plain or as a sandwich, not with fillings. So that is something unique to try.

 

Annurca Apples of Campania

annurca

My dad inherited his way of cutting an apple from his father, who left his little mountain valley town of Italy for the United States almost a century ago. With a paring knife held a certain way, they both shave off little slices and bits. I’d never seen anyone else eat an apple like this–that is, until I visited my cousins in Italy for the first time. Sitting at the table after our pranzo, my dad’s first cousin took one of the glistening local annurca apples from the plate, picked up a knife, held the apple in that familiar position, and began to carve. In that moment, I realized time and distance could not erase the bond that is family.

Like my grandfather, the annurca apple is a native of this region of Campania between Naples and Benevento. A popular apple throughout Southern Italy, it has an IGP designation, meaning it must be grown in a specific geographical area in order to be called annurca. The apple is an old one, even Pliny the Elder wrote about it, and it appears in frescoes in the ancient city of Herculaneum, destroyed like Pompeii by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Sweet and juicy, the apple is not only delicious but, according to a 2010 article in the Journal of Nutrition, it can protect against cancer.

While we visited, my cousin made the annurca apples into a delightful apple cake.

And while we visited Sant’Agata de’ Goti, the town where Mayor de Blasio’s mother’s family is from, we saw a shop selling annurca gelato.

annurca

–Dina Di Maio

10 Foods to Try When Visiting Naples

If you are visiting Napoli, these are the 10 must-try foods that I recommend.  There are so many wonderful dishes, foods, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, seafood, etc that come from Naples or the Campania region.   It’s hard to narrow it down to ten.  But the average travelers don’t have an Italian nonna to cook local dishes for them nor do they have access to a refrigerator to buy groceries for themselves.  So I compiled this list with the vacationer in mind.  I think these foods are the best for visitors to try.

  1. Pizza–In the birthplace of pizza, there are many places to try the city’s favorite dish.  Neapolitan pizza is different from American-style and New York-style pizza.  If you prefer the crispy crust of a New York-style pizza, you may not like Neapolitan pizza.  However, the ingredients on Neapolitan pies are usually top notch.  A trendy place to try is Sorbillo.  My favorite was Vesi, although I liked Da Michele too.

    Da Michele

    Da Michele pizza

  2. Sfogliatelle–A Neapolitan pastry that can be eaten for breakfast or dessert.  It’s a popular one in Italian-American bakeries.  The sfogliatelle is a difficult pastry to tackle and master–not one for the home cook.  You must try one from Antico Forno delle Sfogliatelle Calde Fratelli Attanasio, a bakery not far from the main train station.  It is by far the best I’ve ever had.  It comes hot from the oven.  The thin layers are crisped to perfection for a wonderfully crunchy bite.  The custard and cherry ones are a special treat too.

    sfogliatelle

    sfogliatelle

  3. Pizza portafoglio–This pizza is the perfect fast food.  It is sold from carts outside pizzerias.  It’s a personal-sized pizza folded in quarters.  Unlike most Neapolitan pizza, this pizza is crispier and doesn’t have the “soggy” center.  It also doesn’t have much cheese. But the taste is divine.

    portafoglio

    portafoglio

  4. Taralli–A crunchy ring of dough, taralli is Neapolitan snack food.  It comes in sweet and savory varieties. IMG_2938
  5. Pizza fritta–Pizza fritta is a popular Italian-American snack too.  It’s a fried calzone with a cheesy filling in the center.  It is also sold from carts outside fry shops.

    pizza fritta

    pizza fritta

  6. Rum baba–This pastry can be seen all over Naples.  It is also a popular pastry found at Italian-American bakeries in the United States.  IMG_2870
  7. Neapolitan ragu–aka Sunday gravy in the United States.  Ragu is a slow-simmered tomato-based meat sauce for pasta. IMG_2660
  8. Frolla–The frolla is the easier version of the sfogliatelle that can be baked by home cooks.  Or just as easily bought at numerous cafes in the city.

    pasta frolla

    frolla

  9. Gelato–There are many gelateria in Napoli. One of my favorites with multiple locations is Fantasi Gelati.  There are many flavors to choose from.  I liked the cioccolato–so rich–and fior di panna. IMG_2755
  10. Mozzarella–Try some mozzarella di bufala made from buffalo milk.  Yes, this is available in the United States, but it loses something on its refrigerated trip here.  It is absolutely creamy and wonderful fresh. You can order it as antipasto or in a Caprese salad. IMG_2630–Dina Di Maio

Two for Tuesday: Lemon Ice or Gelato?

What’s more refreshing on a hot summer day than lemon ice?  Nothing!  Except maybe lemon gelato.

I’ve been eating a lot of lemon ice lately, and if you’re in Little Italy, you may be tempted to get lemon ice at Ferrara, which is OK.  But if you walk up a few blocks on Mulberry Street to Caffé Roma, the lemon ice here is really good.  I had lemon ice at Coney’s Cones in Coney Island recently, and it wasn’t good–very icy and syrupy.  L&B Spumoni Gardens makes some delicious lemon ice.

Lemon ice L&B

But don’t discount lemon gelato as a refreshing summer treat, and the lemon at Mo in Little Italy is perfetto with the sour-fresh taste of lemon and just enough sugar to sweeten it.

Mo lemon gelato

Sweets Week: Day 7: L’Arte del Gelato

Nothing like a stroll on the High Line to end the holiday weekend.  And some delicious gelato!

July is National Ice Cream Month. In honor of my favorite creamy sweet treat, I’m doing a Sweets Week with a focus on frozen treats like ice cream and frozen yogurt.

L’Arte del Gelato is my favorite gelato in the city.  Now, the original shop is named Dolce Gelateria, and the locations in Chelsea Market, the High Line and Lincoln Center Plaza are still named L’Arte del Gelato.  I love many of the flavors here.  On a recent trip to the High Line, I got strawberry gelato and frutti di bosco sorbet.

L'Arte del Gelato

Verdict:  Still my favorite gelato in the city.  Both flavors are delish, but the sorbet was the standout.

Neighborhood Watch: Father Demo Square

Father Demo Square

Many a New Yorker has perched herself on a bench in Father Demo Square, watching pigeons circle in unison from building top to building top.  There’s always that one lone pigeon bopping its head back and forth as it walks, waiting for someone to drop part of a bagel.  On a sunny day, there is nothing better than visiting the neighboring restaurants, Bagels on the Square, Joe’s Pizza, Grom, eating a bagel slathered with cream cheese,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

a warm slice or a refreshing gelato.  This square has been one of my favorite parts of the city since I moved to Manhattan.  To me, it was the gateway between the middle Village or NYU territory and the West Village, the land of quiet, quaint streets.  I fell in love with the delicious bagels and creamy flavored cream cheeses of Bagels on the Square.  When I got a craving for pizza, I’d get a slice of Joe’s and stand at the window, looking out at the square.  A few doors down on Bleecker, I’d get pastries at Rocco’s, a wonderful Italian pastry shop with an incredible smell as you walk inside.  Let the big fat cookies in the window beckon you in.  Up the block from Rocco’s is Murray’s Cheese where I can get whatever cheese I desire.  (I remember when Murray’s was on the opposite side of Bleecker Street in a smaller shop.)  Next door to Murray’s is Faicco’s Italian Specialties where you can get Italian meats as well as other Italian grocery/deli items.  I love Bleecker Street and could keep on walking and telling you what I like, but I need to turn around and walk southeast because this is about Father Demo Square.

Who is Father Demo?  I used to ask myself that question.  Now I know the answer.  Father Antonio Demo was pastor of Our Lady of Pompeii church from 1899 to 1933.  Our Lady of Pompeii is the Italianiate church with the domed bell tower west of Father Demo Square on the corner of Carmine and Bleecker Streets.

bell tower

According to the church’s Web site, Father Demo comforted families of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire victims.  Originally from Vicenza, Italy, he immigrated to Boston in 1896 and later became assistant pastor of the church before becoming its pastor.  The church provided support to the immigrant Italian community that arrived during the turn of the last century.  Italian immigrants created businesses in the nearby area, and the area later developed into a mecca for artists and writers.  (Personally, this is the church where my grandfather was baptized, and this is the neighborhood where his family lived.  In fact, at one time, they lived on Carmine Street right opposite the church.)

interior of Our Lady of Pompeii

interior of Our Lady of Pompeii

Today, Our Lady of Pompeii represents diverse cultures and has Masses in English, Italian, Portuguese and Tagalog for the diverse community of Americans, Italians, Brazilians and Filipinos.  This beautiful church continues to aid immigrants, visitors and the neighborhood, and its beloved pastor is recognized and remembered in Father Demo Square.

What to Eat:  bagels from Bagels on the Square; pizza from Joe’s Pizza, gelato from Grom; pastries from Rocco’s (especially the cannoli which is filled to order–how it should be!); cheese from Murray’s; deli items from Faicco’s Italian Specialties.

Where to Shop:  Avignone Chemists, founded in 1832, the oldest apothecary in America; for a bit of history, check out the window display of old prescriptions, many written in Italian.

Information on the Mass schedule for Our Lady of Pompeii.  Information on making donations to support this historic church.