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.
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.