Tag Archives: ragu

Old Ragu Spaghetti Sauce Ad on Building in Tribeca

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.

 

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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

Tandem, a Ragu Restaurant in Napoli

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Tandem is a restaurant just steps off of the main drag, Via Tribunali, in Napoli’s Centro Storico district. The restaurant is dedicated to Napoli’s claim to fame, ragu, or gravy, a slow-cooked tomato-based sauce with various cuts of meat like beef or pork.   Tandem’s website says it is the first restaurant dedicated to only ragu, and that ragu is virtually unknown outside of Napoli.  This latter statement is a fallacy, as ragu is known in other parts of Southern Italy and in the United States where millions of Neapolitan and Southern Italian immigrants settled over 100 years ago.  Ragu is what is known in America as Sunday gravy.

At Tandem, the gravy is cooked for 6-8 hours similar to how it is cooked at home.  Opened just three years ago, the restaurant is trendy and not to be missed for the visitor to Naples.  It is a popular destination, so I would suggest a reservation.  However, I did not have a reservation and was able to be seated immediately outside.  (While I enjoyed dining outside because the restaurant is located on a side street with much local color, the general downside of dining outside in Napoli is the panhandler.  Panhandlers in Napoli are more aggressive than the ones I’m used to in NYC, and unlike the ones in NYC, they don’t just want money, they are happy with food or anything you are willing to give them.  I won’t get into a discussion on how one feels about panhandling, as people have different views, some see it as a nuisance and others want to take a more spiritual route and give.  I tend to fall in the former camp–I’m a New Yorker–and it’s always good to have a healthy suspicion so you do not fall prey to crime.  So yes, if you surmised that there was an aggressive panhandler there that night, you would be right. However, he eventually went away and he did not detract from the delightful experience.)

While ragu has meat in it, the great thing about Tandem is that there are plenty of vegetarian alternatives, including seitan.

I got the manfredi with ragu and ricotta.  It was delicious.
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My friend got the gnocchi with vegetarian ragu and provola.  It was also delicious.

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We shared grilled eggplant, and this was probably the best eggplant I’ve ever eaten.

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We also shared grilled provola cheese from Sorrento that was wonderful.

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If you are visiting Napoli, I highly recommend a visit to Tandem.