Tag Archives: pizza

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

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Villa Tronco: Historic Italian (and Oldest) Restaurant in South Carolina

My new book, Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People, debunks myths about Italian food in the United States. One of those myths is that returning GIs from World War II brought pizza back from Italy to America and that’s how pizza became popular in America. DEBUNKED. Pizza was already here–brought by the Italian immigrants of 100 years ago who opened Italian restaurants around the country wherever they settled. Villa Tronco is one such restaurant, opened in 1940, which predates WWII, and it claims to have introduced pizza to South Carolina. (It is also the oldest operating restaurant in South Carolina.)

The family originates from Naples and Sicily, according to owner Joe Roche. The Carnaggio family first moved to Columbia in 1910 and opened a fruit store. From Philadelphia, James Tronco was stationed nearby during World War I. He met the daughter, Sadie, and they married, eventually opening what would later become Villa Tronco.

Current owner and granddaughter of the original owner, Carmella Roche, details the racial discrimination her grandparents endured in an article in the Cola Daily, such as having to sit at the back of the bus and having to use non-white bathrooms. (In my book, I also discuss racial discrimination that Italians endured in the United States.)

Recently, I had the pleasure of dining there and meeting one of the owners. Villa Tronco is located in a historic firehouse in downtown Columbia, South Carolina.

And you can still see the exposed brick in one of the dining rooms.

The menu details the history of the restaurant.

Of course, while visiting I ordered the pizza. The pizza here is a square pie cut into square slices. It is a thin crust pie with a crunch. The tomato sauce is fresh and tomatoey–not herby. There’s a good amount of cheese.

For dinner, I ordered one of the specials, a pork with creamy polenta dish. I really enjoyed this dish. The pork was cooked perfectly, through but not dry, and the creamy polenta was a delicious accompaniment.

My friend got the eggplant parmigiana and enjoyed it.

For dessert, we got Carmella’s famous cheesecake. It is excellent.

And a generous serving of some tricolored spumoni ice cream. Yum!

–Dina Di Maio

Little Italy Isn’t Dead: Sal’s Little Italy

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.

Sal’s Little Italy

Sal’s Pizza opened in Little Italy in 1977. In 1982, Neapolitan immigrants Carmela and Antonio Triolo bought it and the family still owns it today. The star here is the fried calzone–how calzones should be made.

And this is one of the best pizzas in the city. Sal’s also has a full menu of appetizers, pastas, sandwiches and entrees, including specialties like Italian sausage and broccoli rabe.

Little Italy Isn’t Dead: Lombardi’s

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.

Lombardi’s

Lombardi’s on Spring Street is the oldest pizzeria in the United States, founded in 1905 by immigrant Gennaro Lombardi from Naples, Italy. The pizza is baked in a coal-fired oven just as it was back in the day. And it is one of the best pies in New York City and the country. It’s the must-stop for any pizza aficionado.

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

The Best Pizza in New Jersey: New Jersey Pizza Tour Results

pizza

What is the best pizza in New Jersey?  This post ends my New Jersey pizza tour, where I tried eight popular New Jersey pizzerias.  I tried Trenton-style tomato pies, bar-style pizza, coal-fired pizza and classic-style pizza.  My friend thinks that Star Tavern in Orange was the best, delicious and unique.  I agree, but I also think it’s a tie with Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza in Hackensack.  But you can’t go wrong at any of these pizzerias.  Most are family-owned businesses, many started by Italian immigrants.  Kudos to them for keeping these businesses open in the ever-increasing corporate culture we have going on in America now.  There are pizzerias in Italy that date back a couple of hundred years, so should there be here in America.  Long live apizz’, long live the Jersey bar pizza, long live the Trenton tomato pie, long live coal-fired pizza, and long live the classic American slice.

Tie:  Star Tavern in Orange, NJ, and Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza in Hackensack, NJ.

I just want to add one thing since I posted this.  There was only one pizzeria that I visited that had an excellent-tasting, traditional, old-world dough.  That is Papa’s Tomato Pies in Robbinsville, NJ.  They know how to make pizza dough.  For my taste, it was thinner than I like it, but it was a great example of how pizza dough should taste.  In my book, dough is the hardest component of pizza to master.  Papa’s masters it.

 

Stay tuned:  The next two weeks, I look for the best ice cream in New Jersey.

New Jersey Pizza Tour, Eighth Stop: Sam’s Pizza Palace, Wildwood

Sam‘s Pizza Palace in Wildwood, New Jersey, was the only place on the boardwalk where I saw a line.  The left line is for dining in, but if you just want a slice, the line on the right side is much shorter.  While it looks chaotic in the photo, it’s actually not that bad.  I opted for a slice, which I don’t normally like to do if I’m testing pizza because slices often sit around.  Sam’s is so busy that I don’t think any pies sit for very long.  This time, I got lucky, as they just took a fresh pie out of the oven and gave me the very first slice.

Sicilian native Salvatore “Sam” Spera moved to Trenton, New Jersey, in 1951.  He started out with a shop called Sam’s Steak House selling steak sandwiches but later transitioned to pizza.  Now, his children and grandchildren run the pizzeria.

The menu at Sam’s is simply pizza and sandwiches (including steak) and the toppings are your basics like mushrooms, peppers, pepperoni and sausage.

I got a slice, fresh out of the oven.

pizza

I think Sam’s typifies the classic slice of pizza, as you can see from this photo.