Wednesday, June 25, 2008

GIOVANI TOGNOZZI, the man who mkaes it happen at Bar PITTI



In earlier times up until the beginning of the last century, The Butcher, The Baker, and The Candlestick Maker
were some of societies most respected and needed citizens. These artisans provided light, bread, poultry, meat, pastries, and cakes to the local citizenry. Even far into the twentieth century there were still many small villages in Italy and allover Europe where there were still families who did not have an oven To cook in so they would bring things such as casseroles, pans of lasagna, and stews to the baker for him to cook their food inside the bakeries ovens.
Since the advent of electricity the candlestick maker is no longer a necessity to everyday life. Because of convenience foods and supermarkets neither are the butcher and to some extent the baker. In this day and age the baker is still important for holidays and special occasions like birthdays and weddings. The butcher however is used by a very small percentage of the total population.
For those of us of Italian ancestry the butcher is of extreme importance, especially in the areas of fresh pork sausage, Braciole, and properly cut veal scaloppini.
There are usually two different types of butcher shops that we deal with. There is the very personalized tiny butcher shop that usually just sells fresh cut meat and poultry as well as fresh made sausages. Pino’s on Sullivan Street next to St. Anthony’s and Florence Prime Meat Market
also in Greenwich Village are two good examples of the small neighborhood butcher shops of which most spots in Brooklyn, The Bronx, and small towns and cities around the country still possess in the form of the local butcher. These shops are run by master meat cutters who will cut your steaks, chops, and cutlets to order, just the way you like it.
The other type of butcher shop of which are frequented by Italian-Americans is the Pork Store. Pork Stores have master butchers the same as the Butcher Shop, but in addition to purveying fresh meat, they sell many other food products such as items imported from Italy like; Imported Pasta, Prosciutto di Parma, olive oil, vinegars, porcini, Salami, Italian Cheese, Mortadella, cured olives, and numerous other precuts.
If you were ever pressed to pick one item sold at a
Italian Pork Store or butcher shop that is most important to Italian-Americans, it would have to be without question, fresh pork sausages. To most Italians it is like a religion and of great importance. There are not many self-respecting Italian-Americans who would ever even think of buying mass-produced sausage at a supermarket. Every true Italian has their own favorite Butcher Shop or Pork Store that makes the sausage just the way they like it. As for me, the “Best,” hands down, would have to be Florence Prime Meat Market on Jones Street in The Village. Their sweet sausage is perfectly seasoned with garlic, salt, and black pepper. I love it, as well as their tasty lamb sausage which not every butcher makes. Faiacco’s Pork Store around the block from Florence is also the other local favorite were I can get many of the items necessary to cooking a proper Italian meal.
If you want to make Braciola, whether it is of beef or pork, the butcher is of great importance. You need to have your meat cut and pounded in a specific way to make the braciola. Also, if you’re in a pinch for time to make the braciola yourself, most good Italian butchers make very nice braciola that are all tied-up and ready for cooking in your own sauce.
Also of great significance to Italians is good quality veal, especially when it comes to the subject of scaloppini’s and cutlets for making dishes like; Veal Picatta, Saltimbocca, veal and peppers, Veal Parmigiano, and Veal Milanese.
Now to the baker and I think we’ll forget the candlestick-maker, although if you want to get the most beautiful hand-dipped candles you’ll ever see, I can tell you where to get them. There is a wonderful little shop in the tiny village of Sugarloaf, New York, about a hours drive north of New York City where you can get the most beautiful Candles in the world.
Back to the baker. In many of our wonderful Bellino Family dinners over the years, my aunts would make delicious cakes and cookies sometimes but not always. It is more than enough just to prepare the antipasto, pasta, and main course if there’s one other than the pasta. You don’t always have all the time it takes to make desert as well. This is where the baker comes in.
At any of our family meals or ones with friends, desert and coffee is extremely important, for after we are finished eating the previous courses we usually sit around the table for another two to three hours drinking coffee and Anisette along with some sweets, Italian Pastries and cookies. We chat and tell stories, especially Uncle Frank. One or more guests would stop at the Italian Bakery and get all sorts of goodies to munch on with coffee. Things like; Cannoli, Sfogiatelle, Eclairs, and assorted Italian cookies, so the baker was and still is of extreme importance to us all year long, not just at the holidays and birthdays but practically every Sunday when we had the famed “Bellino Sunday Supper” at Aunt Fran and Uncle Tony’s house in Lodi.
I know that many people all over the country get together and have the same type of big wonderful family meals as our family does. Sadly I know that there are some people who never have. I hope this book will inspire people to get together with friends and family to share a beautiful meal and happy moments, whether you have never had the opportunity before or if you have not done so for a while, may you be sparked to organize a festive dinner for the first time or to renew a old tradition.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Daniel Bellino Zwicke & Joe Macari Jr., Venice

Daniel Bellino Zwicke and cousin Joe Macari Jr. (right) enjoying a glass of Prosecco in a Wine Bar (Bacaro) in VENICE.


Macari Vineyards recent release Sauvignon Blanc "Katherines Feild" seems to be one of the Hottest Wines of the Summer of 2008. The vintage 2007 has been seen being sipped by the Fashionable, Beautiful, "In-the-Know-Set" at the Ultra Hot Celebrity Spot "BAR PITTI" in Greenwich Village. An even Hotter Celebrity destination in The Village is "The Waverly Inn," owned by Vanity Fair Magazine Editor Graydon Carter and Hotel and Nightclub "Super Empressario" Eric Goode. Celebs have been seen sipping Macari's "Early Wine," Cabernet Franc, and the Lush Desert Wine, Macari's "Block E"

Macari's Sauvignon Blanc 2007 is Textbook Perfect Sauvignon. It's Clean and Crispy with Classic Grassiness, Gooseberry, and Sage Flavors. The perfect choice to go with all Shellfish, especially OYSTERS and any Fish at all.

George Carlin dies at the age of 71

Famed comedian George Carlin passed away at the age of 71. Did you know he was from New York? I didn't either and niether did a couple of my friends who were talking about just that today. And we're native New Yorkers. Most people assumed he was a Californian. He fit the bill, Old California Hippy. Great Comedian. Adored by many. He will be missed.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

SUNDAY SAUCE excerpted from DANIEL BELLINO ZWICKE'S upcoming new book "LA TAVOLA"


One of the great traditions of the Italian American enclave in the U.S. is the ritual of Sunday afternoon when the entire family gets together for Mama’s or Nona’s famed “Sunday Sauce.” What is it? Well there are a number of variations on the theme. Most Sunday Sauce’s are made with Italian Sausage, braciole, and meatballs. Some people make theirs with pork ribs, beef neck, and possibly with chicken. These meats are slowly simmered for several hours with tomato, and minced onions, garlic, celery, and carrots. I generally like to make my Sunday Sauce with sausage, meatballs, and pork ribs. Other times I’ll make it with sausage, ribs, and braciole. An old tradition in some families is that mother or grandma would start the sauce early on a Sunday morning, get it simmering away for a couple hours on top of the stove, then put it in the oven for a couple hours while everyone goes to church, the sauce slowly simmers on the back of the stove. When you get back home, the sauce would be ready.
The Sunday Sauce that my mother would make was with sausage, meatballs and beef braciole. My memories are vivid watching my mother stuffing the braciole with garlic,
parsley, Pecorino, and pignoli nuts, then sewing up the bundles with a needle and thread so they would hold together while simmering in the gravy (many families all over the New York and around the country simply call Sunday Sauce “Gravy”). Another fond memory was helping my mother roll and shape the meatballs.
As for me, my Sunday Sauce will vary depending on my mood. One thing I love to do when making the sauce is the addition of pork spare ribs, which not everyone uses. Whenever people eat my sauce, they go nuts for the ribs and some are surprised cause they might never have had them in a sauce before. They didn’t know that you could use pork spareribs. The ribs are traditional with some but not everybody. It is quite a shame for those who don’t add the ribs because they give the sauce some wonderful flavor and they are incrediably delicious to eat after braising in the sauce for a couple of hours. Whenever I make the sauce and I’m dishing it out to friends and family, I always make sure that I have my fare share of the ribs. Pork ribs cooked in this manner, simmering in the sauce are oh so succulent and tasty. They are far beyond compare. “They are Out-of-this-World!!!” The friends, one-by-one, go nuts for them. “Yes they are most than tasty!”
And what to serve with the Sunday Sauce you ask? It should be a short macaroni; rigatoni, ziti, or gnocchi are best.
The rituals of cooking, serving, and eating Sunday Sauce is a time honored one. It is a beautiful thing. If you mention the term Sunday Sauce to any number of millions of Italian-Americans, the wheels start tuning in their heads. Thoughts of how tasty it is, all the different componets; the meatballs, sausages, braciole, (maybe ribs or tne neck), the pasta, and the gravy itself. The think about sitting at the table with friends and or family, people they love. They think about the antipasti that will start the meal and about some good Italian wine, maybe a nice Chianti. They think about the warmth in the air, loved ones, Dino, Sinatra, the Sunday Sauce. “It’s a beautiful thing!!!” If you’ve never done it, “Try it!” If you haven’t cooked one for some time, plan a get-together soon. “Sunday Sauce, it brings people together,” in a most delightful way.

SUNDAY SAUCE is excerpted from Daniel Bellino Zwicke's upcoming new book "LA TAVOLA"
Italian-American New York's Adventures of the Table; Sunday Sauce, Meatballs, Sausage & Peppers, Cannoli, Espresso, Pork Stores and ....

They Eat, they COOK, they laugh, they cry, but most of all their lives are filled with wonderful times around the table as only Italians can do. They do it well.