Category Archives: Italian Food

Upper West Side: Truffle Store Comes to the Neighborhood

Fresh Truffles. Photo: Urbani Truffles.

Truffles?  What ever happened to lox as the delicacy of choice on the Upper West Side?

The neighborhood is going ever more upscale with the opening of Urbani Truffles on West End Avenue at 60th Street. The shop is slated to open sometime in September, says  Vittorio Giordano, Urbani’s VP.

Truffles, of course, come from the Piedmont section of Italy. And the site of the new store couldn’t be more different than that lush area, which is marked by rolling vineyards and quaint hilltop towns. (I just spent a week there, dining on truffle accented dishes and drinking lots of Barolo.) In fact, the shop, a glittering glass boutique, is situated directly across from a grungy parking lot, the hulking Con-Ed plant, and Western Beef.

Why the less-than-scenic locale?  “Because it’s Manhattan and West End Avenue,” explains Giordano. The area is “improving,” predicts the truffle seller, with Trump and other towers springing up along the western side of the street.

Ubrbani mostly sells wholesale but you can buy their products online and eventually at the new store.

By the way, Urbani Truffles “are certified kosher,” says Giordano.

The day I was there, the place was still under construction. But already  cans of truffle pate, and packages of truffle oil and black and white truffles were on display like precious jewels.

Want a truffle fix? Of course, it’s not cheap

In Piedmont, I was able to buy various truffle pates for about 5 Euros or $8 at the exchange rate in early July. At Urbani, four ounces of fresh summer truffles are $59.90. More affordable is a jar of mushroom and truffle sauce for $8.26.

You can have fresh white and black truffles delivered right to your doorstep within 24 hours as well. And you can find Urbani truffle products at Citarella’s and at Agata and Valentina’sl.

Urbani Truffles
10 West End Avenue (60th Street)
212 2478800
www.urbanitrufflesonline.com.

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Italian Deli: Top Italian Deli Purveyors from DiPalo’s and Coluccio & Sons Swap Stories

Toni Lydecker

Guest columnist, Toni Lydecker, author of Seafood alla Siciliana: Recipes and Stories from a Living Tradition, reported on a recent event in which two of New York’s famed Italian deli owners mused about their businesses, the younger generation coming up, and how to be a smart Italian deli shopper.

Italian deli is one of New York’s great food treasures.  And DiPalo’s Fine Foods at 200 Grand Street, perched on a corner of the still remaining sliver of Little Italy, sports old time marble countertops. Staff still tally the tab on a paper bag.  In fact, while some things haven’t changed since the Little Italy store was founded a century ago, there are new offerings afoot.

And in Coluccio & Sons’ aisles, in the heart of Bensonhurst at 1214 60th Street, you hear as much Italian as English. In some ways, these venerable family-owned specialty shops are never going to change—and thank God.

Lou diPalo and Louis Coluccio NY Italian deli owners. Photo: Toni Lydecker.

Lou diPalo and Louis Coluccio NY Italian deli owners. Photo: Toni Lydecker.

That didn’t stop moderator Michelle Scicolone (whose newest cookbook is The Italian Slow Cooker) from asking, “What’s new? “when Lou DiPalo and Louis Coluccio shared a stage at NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò the other night.

One thing that’s new is that “ a new generation is coming into our businesses,” said DiPalo. His son Sam has been seeking out vintages from every Italian region for the family’s new wine shop.

And the vintage deli is going a bit 21st century.  At Di Palo’s, a new site, www.dipaloselects.com, reaches customers far beyond New York.

Coluccio, the young grandson of Coluccio & Sons’ founder, said the family is introducing a private-label artisanal pasta made in Gragnano. He’s working with Locanda Verde chef Andrew Carmellini and other chefs to educate consumers about authentic Italian products.

What do these deli chieftains like to eat when they’re not scooping freshly made ricotta for legions of faithful customers?

Lou: After closing up the store, we unwind with a great cheese (from a selection of more than 300; Testun from Piemonte is a current favorite), salumi, maybe some artichoke cream and olives, a good wine.

Louis: I take home pasta (he has a choice of 200 cuts) and San Marzano tomatoes and make a simple sauce.

Top tip for customers?

Louis: Don’t assume the costliest is the best. Sometimes the most expensive balsamic isn’t what you need.

Lou: Buy cheese cut to order if you can—the cut surfaces start to oxidize almost immediately, changing the flavor.  And always ask to taste it.

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Recently Shuttered Upper West Side Bruno Ravioli To Migrate to Upper East Side

When Bruno Ravioli closed its Upper West Side store on for good Sept. 25 it was a sad day for neighborhood pasta lovers. But the Upper West Side’s loss will soon be the Upper East Side’s gain. Bruno will be opening a new uptown shop at Madison and 98th Street, according to company owner Jim Puliatte.

Photo: Bruno Ravioli

Photo: Bruno Ravioli

Why did Bruno’s abandon its longstanding Upper West Side storefront, situated on Broadway between 78th and 79th streets?

“The lease was up,” explained Puliatte, the third generation of his family to run the beloved Italian food business. Bruno’s began over a 100 years ago when its eponymous founder opened his first emporium peddling homemade pastas, sauces, and Italian delicacies.

“It was a sad day for us,” Puliatte said of the day the Upper West Side store was shuttered. “We begged the landlord to work something out,” he said, adding that with the rent expected to shoot up “42 or 43 percent, you’re out of the box.”

According to Bruno’s web site, the company’s founder, Bruno Cavalli, was said to have compared his business ethic to that of the post office. He was quoted as saying “Neither snow nor sleet nor hail nor rain…. The RAVIOLI must go out!!!”

That’s no longer the case for Italian food-craving Upper West Siders.

Bruno Ravioli Locations

STUYVESANT TOWN
Main Catering Office

282 First Ave.
New York, New York 10009
Tel. 212 254 2156
Fax. 212 254 2380

GRAMERCY
387 Second Ave. (btw. 22 & 23 St.)
New York, New York 10010
Tel. 212 685 7666
Fax. 212 685 7204
Mon – Thurs: 8am-9pm
Fri – Sun: 8am-8pm

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New Cookbook Featuring 30 Minute Pastas Debuts

For home cooks of a certain age, there was Julia Child for traditional French cuisine. And for preparing classic Italian dishes, there was Marcella Hazan, author of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

thirty-minute-pasta-book-coverCarrying on the family business, Marcella’s son, Giuliano Hazan, a chef and teacher in his own right, has just issued his latest cookbook, Thirty Minute Pasta: 100 Quick and Easy Recipes.  I haven’t had a chance to cook from the collection of pasta recipes, but this volume is full of many easy-to-make dishes. They range from standards like Spaghetti Carbonara to more unusual creations, such as Spaghetti with Melon. For vegetarians, Thirty Minute Pasta is worth taking a look at. Sure, there are lots of meat and seafood pasta preparations. But a large percentage of Hazan’s recipes are made with vegetable-based sauces.

With just a few ingredients per dish and easy-to-follow-instructions, 30 Minute Pastas is appropriate for both novice and more experienced cooks.

Hazan will be signing books at Barnes & Noble E. 86th St at Lexington Avenue on Sept. 10 at 7:30 pm.

THIRTY MINUTE PASTA: 100 Quick and Easy Recipes (Stewart, Tabori & Chang; September 2009; 176 pages/Hardcover with jacket; $27.50; ISBN: 978-1-58479-807-1),

Tell me how Thirty Minute Pasta recipes work out for you.

Spaghetti with Melon

From Thirty Minute Pasta

Many years ago I remember eating with my parents at a restaurant in Venice that specialized in unusual dishes, none of which were seafood or risotto, the staples of Venetian cuisine. The restaurant is no longer there and I don’t remember the name, but I do remember a delicious dish of pasta with cantaloupe. My mother started making it a home and I often make it when we have friends over. Once it is cooked, the melon is mostly unrecognizable and it’s great fun seeing if people can guess what the sauce’s “secret” ingredient is.

Serves 4 people

3 pounds cantaloupe melon
3 tablespoons butter
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti (linguine is also good here)
2 teaspoons concentrated tomato paste
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Fill a pot for the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil.

Pare away the rind of the melon, down to the orange flesh. Discard the seeds and cut the melon into 1/2-inch dice. Put the butter in a 12-inch skillet and place over medium high heat. Once the butter has melted completely, add the melon and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the melon begins to break down and most of the liquid it releases has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Add about 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling pasta water, put in the spaghetti, and stir until all the strands are submerged. Cook until al dente.

Add the tomato paste and lemon juice to the melon and stir well. Add the cream and cook until it thickens and reduces by about a third, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

When the pasta is done, drain well, toss with the sauce and the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve at once.

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Brooklyn: French Cuisine, Oui! Brooklyn Cuisine, No!

The French are madly debating whether their iconic cuisine should be enshrined as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, according to a story in yesterday’s Times. It seems that there’s concern that traditional French foods and agricultural methods are disappearing. To my mind, any cuisine, even French food, needs to make it on it’s own without resorting to becoming a museum piece.

That brings me to so-called New Brooklyn Cuisine (NBC). It seems that everyone is trying to define this new beast, according to New York Magazine. It’s alarming that food produced by mom and pop shops, which cater “to a clientele of idealistic gastronomes,” is thriving while French gastronomy is on the ropes.

In case you’re interested, here’s New York Mag’s definition of NBC:

“New Brooklyn Cuisine,” or NBC:

[NBC] has as its common denominator a very New York culinary sophistication melded with a wistfully agrarian passion for the artisanal, the sustainably grown, and the homespun… Practitioners tend to be mom-and-pop shops, in fact or feeling, and they cater to a clientele of idealistic gastronomes who quote Michael Pollan and split shares in the local CSA. There is often a whiff of the barnyard about these places.

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