I don’t think it’s widely known that Ragu pasta sauce company was started by Italian immigrants. Assunta and Giovanni Cantisano immigrated from Potenza, Italy, to Rochester, NY, and began canning tomatoes for sauce. They started their company in 1937. At one time, the Cantisanos’s factory employed over 300 people. In the 1950s, Ralph Cantisano, the Cantisanos’s son, added the gondola to Ragu’s label. In 1969, they sold the name Ragu to Chesebrough-Pond’s. (Unilever owned Ragu for a long time, but Mizkan Group, a Japanese food manufacturer, bought Ragu and Bertolli in 2014 for $2.5 billion.) After the sale, the Cantisanos made pasta sauce under other names, including Francesco Rinaldi, which they purchased in 1981. An employee’s family bought their company in 2002, renaming it LiDestri Foods, and is a successful sauce maker today.
I read on Forgotten New York that there was an old Ragu spaghetti sauce sign painted on a building in Tribeca on 6th Avenue between White and Walker Streets. So I had to stop by and photograph it myself.
Posted in America, Art, History, Italian, New York
Tagged Cantisano, Cantisano Foods, Forgotten New York, LiDestri Foods, New York, pasta sauce, ragu, spaghetti sauce, Tribeca
New Yorkers are a resilient bunch with much pride in their city. The bombing in Chelsea on September 17 would not deter them from carrying on. The bombing occurred only two days into the ten-day San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy, but it didn’t keep the crowds from coming. That’s good because it’s an important year for the festival–its 90th anniversary.
September 19 is the feast day of San Gennaro and that is the day organizers celebrated with a mass and procession from the doors of the Most Precious Blood Church on Baxter Street around Canal Street and up through Mulberry Street.
Most Precious Blood Church
This year’s grand marshal was Joe Causi. A Bronx Tale‘s Chazz Palminteri also made an appearance at the festival. (Tony Danza was the grand marshal of the parade last year, but this year, I had my second run-in with the actor. I was shopping in Alleva Dairy, the country’s oldest Italian cheese store, when a man said, “Excuse me, ma’am,” and brushed past me. It was Tony. Years ago, I ran into him on Bleecker Street and I asked for a photo to which he rudely said no.)
Before Mass, I pinned a dollar on the statue of San Gennaro and got a pamphlet about him as well as a pin and prayer card. Inside the church, there is a large presepio (Nativity scene) from Naples on display.
Street vendors sell everything from American food to fair festival food like roasted corn,
to pizza and cannoli
to Italian tchotchkes
to traditional Italian foods like these Italian cookies, taralli, mostaccioli and biscotti.
I ate at Sal’s Pizza on Broome near Mulberry for pizza, sausage and broccoli rape. At Sal’s, you get a side order of pasta with your entree, the traditional way.
For dessert, some cassata and coffee at Caffe Palermo.
Posted in America, Cannoli, Fair, Festival, Italian, New York, News, Pasta, Pizza, Restaurant
Tagged biscotti, Caffe Palermo, cannoli, festival, Little Italy, Most Precious Blood Church, Mulberry Street, New York, New York City, pizza, presepio, procession, Sal's Pizza, San Gennaro, San Gennaro Festival, taralli
Formerly Pizza Mezzaluna, Song e Napule is a little hole-in-the-wall eatery on the North side of Houston Street in Noho serving up cuisine from the city of Napoli, Italy, and the Italian region of Campania. Classic Neapolitan items on the menu include burrata, calamari, insalata caprese, eggplant parmigiana, meatballs in tomato sauce, and of course, pizza.
During our recent visit, we got grilled calamari to start. I love squid, and grilled squid is one of my favorites.
They even serve a Neapolitan dish, paccheri genovese, which is with a veal and onion ragu. This is a dish my family has made for generations (with a different pasta), and it was interesting to see it on a menu. However, it was somewhat different from the way we make it and a bit more peppery. Ours is more oniony. My dish came with parmesan already sprinkled on it. I don’t usually like that when I go to a restaurant because I’m not sure what quality of cheese they are using. However, it was probably OK here.
My friend got the linguine with tomato sauce, arugula, shaved parmesan and pepper flakes. It was good, but there was a bit too much arugula on top.
It was a nice gesture to give us a small panna cotta to share. I think that’s because it took a long time for our entrees to arrive.
The trend in New York these days is regional Italian food–not the “Northern Italian” cuisine found at so many of the city’s Italian restaurants but the food from Italy’s 20 regions. I Trulli is the cuisine of Apulia or Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot. It is named after the trulli, or circular, white, stone hobbit-like houses found in Alberobello and other cities in Puglia. While I Trulli has been open in New York for a number of years, this was my first visit.
The menu at I Trulli has some interesting Puglian classics, but the majority of it is characteristic of Southern Italy or Italy in general. For example, the malloreddus from Sardinia, cavatelli with broccoli rabe (they add almonds); spaghetti with meatballs and tomato; penne with ricotta, tomato and basil; eggplant parmigiana; veal Milanese; chicken parmigiana; broccoli rabe with pepperoncino and more.
It’s hard to see our bread for the evening, but it came with ricotta cheese, the current condiment of choice at Italian restaurants in the city instead of the typical olive oil.
The focaccia was very good–fresh and with pronounced tomato flavor.
We got the fritto misto for antipasto. This pic is not the best–it kind of looks like a huge fried grasshopper–sorry about that. But it was fried calamari and whitebait, a general term for small fish–which may have been sardines.
We also got the panzerotti, which are the smaller, Puglian version of calzones. I got the classic tomato and cheese, and they were very good.
I thought it would be fun to try a salumi and cheese plate as well although none of these were from Puglia. I got the mortadella; talleggio, a cow’s milk cheese from Lombardy; and crotonese, a sheep’s milk cheese from Calabria. All were very good.
For my entree, I wanted to get the orecchiette because those are characteristic of Puglia, but I didn’t want to eat rabbit ragu. So I got the cavatelli with broccoli rabe and toasted almonds. It was good.
My friend got the malloreddus with saffron, sausage and tomato. It was good as well.
Posted in Italian, New York, Restaurant
Tagged Apulia, cavatelli, crotonese, focaccia, fritto misto, I Trulli, Italy, malloreddus, mortadella, New York, orecchiette, panzerotti, Puglia, talleggio, trulli
Happy St. Joseph’s Day! Many cultures celebrate March 19 in honor of St. Joseph (San Giuseppe), the husband of the Blessed Mother and the patron saint of workers and pastry chefs. In New Orleans, Italian Americans have parades and a St. Joseph’s Day table. There are two pastries that are popular on this day. One is zeppole–not the fried dough balls from street fairs. Known as zeppole di San Giuseppe, this Neapolitan pastry is a choux that sandwiches a custard cream, often with a cherry on top. The other pastry, known as sfinge from Sicily, are also made from a choux pastry of a more rounded shape and filled with a ricotta filling.
This year, I got sfinge, my favorite, from two NYC-area bakeries, La Guli in Astoria, Queens,
and Rose & Joe’s Italian Bakery, also in Astoria, Queens.
The bakeries are around the corner from each other, so you can easily sample both.
Posted in Holiday, Italian, New York
Tagged Astoria, La Guli, March 19, New York, Queens, Rose & Joe's, sfinge, St. Joseph's Day, zeppole
Someone loves me very much and bought me Stick With Me chocolate bon bons for Valentine’s Day! Stick With Me is a Nolita chocolate shop owned by Susanna Yoon, whose resume includes head chocolatier at Per Se as well as pastry cook at Cafe Boulud. Her specialty is hand-shelled chocolate. After sampling this box of beauties, I can say that I have a new favorite chocolate in New York!
It is so hard to find that perfect balance in chocolate–taste and beauty. Some very delicious chocolates are often nothing more than boring brown. On the other hand, some fancy chocolates with colorful designs and intricate shapes can be quite average in taste.
Stick With Me creates that perfect balance of aesthetics and flavor. It was truly a delight to savor each shiny orb. My favorite was the wild strawberry, a sublime blend of creme fraiche, wild strawberry and white chocolate ganache. A close second was yuzu, with such a lovely burst of fresh citrus. Lest you think I only like white chocolate, the dark chocolate raspberry rose came in third. I liked the pronounced rose flavor with a hint of raspberry. There is no doubt that these wonderful flavors are the work of an expert hand. Sea salt caramels run the risk of being too salty or not salty enough. Yoon’s have just the right amount of salt, and the liquid salted caramel is a refreshing and fun variation of salted caramel. The speculoos s’more has a homemade marshmallow atop crushed speculoos cookies. The kalamansi meringue pie is an adorable chocolate. As you can see from the cross section, it has graham cracker pie crust on the bottom topped with a layer of custard pie filling and a dollop of meringue. If that is not the cutest chocolate ever….
If you cannot tell from my enthusiasm, my box of 24 bon bons was gone gone quite quickly.
Posted in Candy, Chef, Chocolate, Dessert, Holiday, Local, New York
Tagged bon bons, Cafe Boulud, caramel, chocolate, chocolates, chocolatier, kalamansi, New York, Nolita, Per Se, sea salt, speculoos, Stick With Me, strawberry, Susanna Yoon, Valentine's Day, white chocolate, yuzu
As a recent birthday gift, I ordered a crumb cake from Hahn’s Old Fashioned Cake Company in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York. I was very excited that it took only two days to get to its destination. It arrived fresh and loaded with big, fat crumbs!
I just love this pick of the crumbs.