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.
Posted in Bakery, Cake, Cannoli, Dessert, Gelato, Italian, New York
Tagged cannoli, cassata, chick pea fritters, cornetti, cornetto, gelato, panelle, Sicilian, Sicilian street food, Sicily, Soho, St. Anthony of Padua, street food, Unico
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.
–Dina Di Maio
Posted in History, Italian, Local, Organic
Tagged annurca, apple, Benevento, cake, Campania, gelato, Herculaneum, mela, 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.
- 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 pizza
- 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.
- 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.
- Taralli–A crunchy ring of dough, taralli is Neapolitan snack food. It comes in sweet and savory varieties.
- 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.
- 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.
- Neapolitan ragu–aka Sunday gravy in the United States. Ragu is a slow-simmered tomato-based meat sauce for pasta.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. –Dina Di Maio
Posted in Bakery, Dessert, Gelato, Italian, Mediterranean, Pasta, Pizza, Restaurant, Vegetarian
Tagged baba, calzone, foods, gelato, Naples, Napoli, pasta frolla, pizza, pizza fritta, portafoglio, ragu, sfogliatelle, taralli, travel
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.
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.
Posted in Brooklyn, Gelato, Italian, Local, New York
Tagged Brooklyn, Caffe Roma, Coney Island, Coney's Cones, Ferrara, gelato, L&B Spumoni Gardens, lemon ice, Little Italy, Mo
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.
Verdict: Still my favorite gelato in the city. Both flavors are delish, but the sorbet was the standout.