There’s Italian food, and there’s “Italian food.” One comes from no-name pizzerias tucked down cobbled Sicilian alleys, or on gleaming silver trays in a bustling Napoli trattoria. The other, from dollar-slice joints packed with late night munchers, or in heaping family-style bowls weighted with chunky sauce and quivers of breadsticks. In other words, there’s Italy, and there’s Little Italy. One look at this season’s crate, and you can tell from which it comes. This ain’t Roma; we’re in the land of muzzadell and gravy and garlic knots and table wine. Gondolas? Think taxi cabs. If Italy’s boot is fancy European leather, Little Italy’s has some American grit caked into the treads. So tuck a checkered paper napkin in your shirt, put on some Ol’ Blue Eyes, and crack a Peroni. Mangia, capeesh?
(Pictured Above) “Breakfast Bruschetta” with Espresso Nib Butter, Bacon & Shaved Chocolate Recipe Here
Espresso Nib Peanut Butter // Eliot’s Adult Nut Butters // Portland
The great thing about Little Italy is how it shoves its elbows up against the rest of the city, and into American culture. Garlic steam invades the burger stand, roasting coffee perfumes the taqueria. Of course the exchange goes both ways, so it’s no surprise this peanut butter took a detour from the classic suburban spread through the fragrant streets of downtown. It’s studded with crunchy cocoa nibs from Theo Chocolate and laced with Happy Cup espresso beans, meaning it’s good for desert, but better for breakfast. Spread liberally on toast, top with crispy bacon — er, “proshoot” — and start the day Italian-American style.
Sweet Heat Double Chocolate Chip Cookies // Marlo’s Bakeshop // San Francisco, CA
Nothing’s more Italian than a grandma’s secret recipe, and nothing’s more American than a chocolate chip cookie. Lucky for you, Marlo’s bakeshop started its business with both. This biscott’ is all natural and organic, updating nonna’s lard with coconut oil, and her plastic-bagged Tollhouse with gourmet semi-sweet chips. Then it pops into the corner bodega for a little extra zing: cayenne and cinnamon. Times change, and even secret recipes must modernize. We’re sure this one will last a few more generations — the cookies, in the other hand, aren’t likely to make it through a midnight snack.
Sea Salt Chocolate Bar // Brasstown Chocolate // Winston-Salem, NC
Italy is a land of contrasts: the sweet crema on a bitter shot of espresso, a ribbon of fatty pork around a ball of bright melon. Sweet and salty, bitter and smooth, fruit and smoke — that’s the magic that makes this chocolate bar. Start with Latin American grown Trinitario and Criollo beans (gourmet varieties known for their bright, fruity character) from organic small farms. Then, since these are no ordinary beans, use extraordinary salt: sea harvested crystals, delicately smoked in Chardonnay oak barrels. A chocolate bar like no other.
Sopressata, Ricotta & Nduja Bruschetta Recipe Here
Soppressata // Parma Sausage // Pittsburgh, PA
Superstore salami comes shrinkwrapped and cold. True deli meats have been hanging from the rafters for ages, soaking in smoke, salt, and, of course, stories. This cured in one of the best we’ve heard: A Corsican cobbler, who once beat the island’s mayor in an antipasto contest, took his recipe states-ward fleeing World War Two, where his son, and his son’s son, continue the legacy today. The legend landed in Pittsburgh, where that shoemaker’s kin now make authentic soppresata with fresh spices and quality pork, dry aged in the true Parma tradition. To recreate the mythic meal that bested the Corsican magistrate, top toast with a slice, a dab of ricotta, and a bit of oil.
Cavatelli with Tomato ‘Nduja & Pecorino Recipe Here
Tomato ‘Nduja // City Saucery // Brooklyn, NY
The best food is fleeting. A good tomato — we mean a *really* good tomato — is at its best for a sun-warmed second, before it fades. And that’s, of course, as it should be. That’s as nature intended. But grandma had other plans. Hence the deep tradition of home-canned sauces to keep Calabrian pastas and casseroles bathed in the summer’s harvest all year long. The most famous of them all is a spicy spread called ‘nduja. The old way is heavy on the pork, but this one is deliciously vegan — all the savory roasted pepper and tomatoes, none of the pig parts. Toast a few tablespoons in a bit of olive oil, then add in your pasta’s cooking water and simmer. Top your favorite noodles and warm up winter with a burst of summer sun.
Cavatelli // Sfoglini Pasta Shop // Brooklyn, NY
The secret to perfect pasta is easy. The water — salty as the sea! The sauce — fresh as summer morning! The pasta — well, for most, that’s where the secret ends. Raid even the best home cook’s pantry, and you’ll find store-bought boxes and plastic bags of brittle shells and snapped spaghetti. Not so in the kitchens of spots like Hearth, Roberta’s, or Frankie’s Sputino, where chewy semolina flour is hand-rolled into perfect shapes. And that is where these hail from: traditional priest’s ears, perfect for cupping the rich sauces of southern Italy. No need for a confession that you didn’t make them yourself.