Results tagged Italian from David Lebovitz

Bacon and Radicchio Risotto

Bacon and Radicchio Risotto

I don’t make risotto nearly as much as I should. I never order it in a restaurant unless I’m absolutely sure they’re going to do it right because there’s nothing worse than a not-very-good risotto. But there’s nothing better than a good one. Especially a good one with bacon in it.

Bacon and Radicchio Risotto

One night, back when I was working at Chez Panisse, Paul Bertolli, one of the world’s great cooks (Italian, and otherwise), was standing over the stove, tending to steamy pots of risotto for diners. So I go over to him and ask him for a lesson. And he was happy to teach me. As he presided over several pots of barely simmering rice, I got a few pointers from him.

Bacon and Radicchio Risotto

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RAP Épicerie

RAP Italian Epicerie

Due to our closeness to Italy, it’s fairly easy to find an Italian épicerie in almost any Parisian neighborhood. (Although locating an authentic Italian espresso is a little more elusive.) I’m fortunate because there are two excellent Italian épiceries (speciality food shops) close to where I live, but most of the places get their items from a distributor, which means the selection is somewhat narrow. Few places have farro, and I’ve never seen anyone selling farina polenta taragna, the mix of polenta and buckwheat that I first had in the mountains above Milan, and I’d never seen it anywhere outside of Italy. (So I’ve been making my own.)

RAP Italian Epicerie

That’s not a complaint – it’s great to be able to find Sicilian salumi and pasta from Tuscany. And Cooperative Latte Cisternino, an excellent Italian dairy cooperative, is a terrific place for Italian cheeses and other products. (Although they always seem to be closed when I go there.)

RAP Italian Epicerie

But artisanal products, items from small producers, are a little more challenging to find. So I was charmed when my friend Terresa and I took a field trip to discover RAP, which offers rarely seen Italian foods, imported directly by Alessandra Pierini, who curates the selection in her jammed-to-the-rafters shop in the 9th arrondissement.

RAP Italian Epicerie

I haven’t seen such a varied and curious selection of products all together outside of Italy since, well – ever. (Eataly, eat your heart out.) Granted RAP is tiny; imagine if someone pushed eight phone booths together, and you’ll get some idea of its size.

RAP Italian Epicerie

Yet I was incredibly excited to be surrounded by shelves and shelves holding many of the foods I love from Italy, including unusual chocolates, citron soda, and pure, unadulterated pistachio spreads, which were in danger of being eclipsed by things that I’d never seen or tasted.

RAP Italian Epicerie

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Meatball Sandwich

meatball sub

I often think how amusing (and sometimes frustrating) how many words there are in the French language that seemingly mean the same thing, but have various subtleties and nuances that make them worlds apart. And thinking about it, I realize that Americans have our own variety of words for seemingly (or exactly) the same thing, many based on where we live. Speaking of which, I had a hankering for a meatball sandwich for — oh, say… the last three years. And due to an abundance of bread crumbs, I thought I’d tackle them at home.

onions fryingmeatball mixture
meatball mixtureonions

Technically, these kinds of sandwiches are called “grinders”, and if you call them something else, then you weren’t raised in Connecticut. You’re probably from one of the 49 other states that doesn’t call them grinders, but refers to them as submarine sandwiches (or subs), torpedo sandwiches, hero sandwiches, poor boys, or hoagies. (Which I now realize, since the shoe is on the other food, are all just to confuse the foreigners.) So let’s just call them meatball sandwiches, because who wants to argue over names where there are hot meatballs bobbing in tomato sauce, ready to be sandwiched between two pieces of crusty bread, then topped with melted cheese to eat?

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…and she can cook, too!

Sophia Loren cookbook


(Seen in the window of Gastéréa bookstore in Lausanne, Switzerland.)

Porchetta

crisp porchetta

It felt a little funny heading over to Porchetta for lunch. I mean, I live right next to Italy and had amazing porchetta there just recently. So why am I taking a lengthy subway trip down to the East Village for lunch?

And I was tempted even further when I was on the way to meet my friend Shira (who I met on a boat trip on the Côte d’Azur last year) for lunch, and I passed a ‘San Francisco-style’ burrito place that tugged in the pit of my slightly bulging stomach at my sense of nostalgia for the famed tummy-torpedos I remembered so well.

potatoes and lemon seltzer porchetta

But like the people who told me that that Mexican food and BBQ in New York aren’t going to be as good as where they originated (which I find partially true, but I’ve had great French food in New York and wonderful Italian fare in San Francisco, so perhaps I’m becoming a little too globalized for my own good) I’m going to agree that it’s pretty hard to replicate a San Francisco burrito. So in my twisted logic that says you can’t get a good San Francisco-style burrito in New York City, but good Tuscan roast pork is a possibility, porchetta it was. And boy, am I glad when my convoluted reasoning works out.

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Zucchini Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze

zucchini cake with crunchy lemon glaze

A few years ago, I was extremely fortunate to meet Gina DePalma, the pastry chef at Babbo in New York City, thanks to the matchmaking efforts of Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.

Being bakers, we struck up a friendship and she gave me a copy of her gorgeous book, Dolce Italiano. And after we had dessert and coffee together, we ambled the streets of New York City a little and made plans to meet in Rome, where she was moving to work on her second book. Unfortunately we didn’t get to have our Roman holiday, but I often thumb through her book and dream about how much fun we would have had lapping our way through the gelaterias of Rome and eating all those pastries with little sips of Italian espresso in between bites.

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Al Taglio

Al Taglio

For quite some time, whenever I’d go out to eat in Paris with a visiting friend, their gaze would invariably land on something Italian on the menu. And they’d want to order something like risotto or salad Caprese, which I’d warn them away from. Or pizza, which might come to the table with some unexpected topping, like canned corn or pineapple. When I moved to Paris, I thought it odd that Italian food wasn’t as well- represented here as I assumed it would be. After all, France shares a border with Italy. But on the other hand, look at how Canadian food is represented in the United States. So I guess that explains that.

When I asked a friend who came last year what she wanted for dinner, she said, “I don’t care. As long as the food is good”, which sounded fine to me. The only problem was, that I’d had a long day and wanted to eat somewhere in my neighborhood and I couldn’t think of anywhere decent—except for the pizza place run by the Sardinians. When I suggested it, she said, “I didn’t come to Paris to eat pizza.”

But it made me realize that in the past five years, Italian food has really come into its own in Paris, and last week, a place that makes their own pasta was turning people (including us) away in droves when we tried to get a couple of seats. When I decided to hit Grom on Sunday, the line trailed out the door and onto the street.

There are some really great pizza places now across Paris serving the real-deal, including Al Taglio, which unlike the other places, serves pizza like they do in Rome, meaning they bake off large rectangles of pizza then cut off squares as you order them. The pizza pieces are weighed, priced, and then warmed up and brought to your table, living up to the name al taglio, or “by the slice.”

Al Taglio

I immediately knew I would like Al Taglio as soon as I walked in because I like sitting at high counters. Although there are tables overlooking the small square outdoors, there’s something about sitting on a high stool at a communal table that’s always been my very favorite way to eat. It’s just so convivial. When friends came in to eat in restaurants where I worked, I just pulled up a stool next to where I was working so I could talk to them when they had dinner and I love cooking while talking to people, as long as they’re seated and at a distance. And pouring me wine.

The pizzas range from a simple Melanzane (eggplant and garlic) to more ambitious Zucca e pancette (bacon and pumpkin cream). I tried three: Patate tartufo (potato and truffle cream), Salami piccante (artichokes and spicy salami) and Amadriciana. (Even though I said the French are embracing authentic Italian cuisine, I guess these things are considered exotic by some, though, because the Le Fooding guide called their toppings ‘chic‘. Black truffles aside, I’m not sure what’s so chic about eggplant, bacon, salami, and potatoes.)

All the pizzas are sold by the kilo, and prices vary depending on the topping. All three I tried were great, with nice, crunchy crust, and flavorful topping. It made a perfect early afternoon lunch along with a very full glass of Anghelia (€3.8), which brought the total of my meal to just over €13. It also made me a wee-bit tipsy.

cucina 100% Italiana

One thing that’s a bit curious is the counter service, which some might consider authentically Italian: one woman was busy taking the orders, cutting the pizza, and weighing the squares, while the fellow next to her watched, then brought out the pizza to the customers. The kitchen was a bit more active: just a few feet away, two guys were working on the next batch of pizzas, scattering them with cubes of mozzarella and bits of speck and other toppings, before sliding them into the oven.

But I’ve learned not to be in a hurry when it comes to food, both in France and Italy, and to relax. And I’ve let go of all that racing to get through a meal or expecting service with a snap. When you do, you have a much better time. Indeed, everyone here was smiling and friendly, including her.

And after working in restaurants for three decades, I always advise people to never mess with people who are making their food or serving it to them. (And that applies to nurses and flight attendants, too.)

I’d imagine Al Taglio gets packed at prime time. But since they’re open continuously throughout the afternoon, my advice is to go for a late lunch. So along with places to get good gelato in Paris, I can confidently add Italian pizza to that list.



Al Taglio
2, bis rue Neuve Popincourt, 11th (off rue Oberkampf)
Tél: 01 43 38 12 00
(Map)

Open daily, Noon-11pm, no reservations.

and

27, rue Saintonge (Upper Marais)
Tél: 09 50 48 84 06




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(Note: The blackboard sign in the post isn’t related Al Taglio, which does not offer a tavola calda.)

Involtini: Feta & Prosciutto Rolls

ham & feta rolls blog

I was having drinks at a friend’s house last night, who is a cuistot, the French slang for a cook. I don’t think you’d say cuistat for a woman, but whatever you want to call us, the conversation pretty much stayed on one topic: Food. We talked literally for hours while we drank brisk sauvignon blanc and picked apart an amazing wedge of 30 month-old Comté cheese from a giant wedge on a cutting block positioned strategically between us.

ham and sage

For some reason, the conversation turned to food intolerances and allergies, which aren’t all that well-known in France. I’ve never been invited to a dinner party at a French person’s house and quizzed about what I don’t eat in advance. (Although since being served squid once, I’ve learned to be pro-active so it doesn’t happen again.) Yes, there is a growing consciousness about various food intolerances, although there isn’t a large-scale comprehension about many of the various diets and regimes out there.

Some friends from California were surprised when they went to a vegetarian restaurant in Paris recently and there weren’t any vegetables on the menu. And I’ve heard from numerous people who’ve told waiters that they didn’t eat meat, and were offered foie gras instead, since that wasn’t considered “meat.”

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