Results tagged mozzarella from David Lebovitz

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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Milan

Italian Breakfast

Even though it’s just next door, every time I go to Italy, I wonder why I don’t go more often. Before I moved to Europe, I used to wonder why Europeans didn’t travel to other countries more often. And now I’m one of them. I think it’s because just to go anywhere, whether it’s a 45 minutes flight or a 4.5 hour flight, you still need to schlep to the airport, arrive in a new city, find your bearings, and by the time you’ve finally figured out most of the good places to go, it’s time to head home.

babas

It also doesn’t help that when I returned from this trip, two airlines were striking at Charles de Gaulle airport, the RER train was closed for some unexpected (and unexplained) reason, prompting a few thousand of us to be bused to a deserted train station in the middle of nowhere, to wait in the cold pre-winter air until a train showed up nearly an hour-and-a-half later, well after midnight, making the trip from the Paris airport back to the city (which is a mere 23 km, or 14 miles), nearly four hours – or three times longer than the flight to Milan.

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Cotogna Restaurant

beef tenderloin at cotogna cotogna pizza maker

I’m going to get this out of the way right off the bat: I worked with Mike Tusk at Chez Panisse – he was a cook upstairs in the café and I was downstairs in the pastry department, and although I knew he was a good cook, I was blown away the first time I ate at his restaurant, Quince.

Quince restaurant in San Francisco warm ricotta with figs

I went there shortly after it opened, when it was in a residential neighborhood in San Francisco. The kitchen was nice and rather large if I recall, and he explained to me that he was figuring out how to do everything that he wanted to do in that space. I had dinner later that week in the dining room, which is run by his wife, Lindsay, and was really delighted at the wonderful meal I had, especially the pasta dishes.

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Tomato Basil Pizza

tomato basil pizza

The other day, I was looking at the overload of tomatoes that I bought as the season was winding down as the end of summer nears. But I realized that I was being gradually shoved out of my small kitchen by them, so I oven-roasted the louts with garlic and herbs to reclaim a few precious inches back of kitchen counter space. Yet when they were finished, I looked in my refrigerator, and there wasn’t any room in there either. So I was left holding a bowl of roasted tomatoes that needed to get used up.

tomatoes for tomato basil pizza

Coincidentally, I also had a round of yeasted dough in my refrigerator from a batch of recipe testing that hadn’t found its meaning as something else yet—as experimental leftovers are want to do. So I took it out, which made room for the tomatoes – but then I realized that was defeating the purpose, so I decide to use both of them. (Am still stunned to see some vacant space in my refrigerator. But I may keep it empty as a constant memento and testament to my frugality.)

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Les Fines Gueules

carafes of water

It’s funny because I used to pass the building that houses Les Fines Gueules and think “Gosh, I would love to live in that building.” It’s just off the stately Place des Victoires, on a corner lot, and really, how nice would it be to sit on that balcony and catch some sun while having my morning coffee? Then one day a few years ago I made a reservation to eat at Les Fines Gueules and I was surprised when I arrived and found out that it was the restaurant on the ground floor, which I’d always thought was just some random café.

Les Fines Gueules jambon

It’s a place that’s on my radar because they have reliably good food prepared with excellent ingredients. And the wine list is lengthy and not that I know that much about wine, but whatever I read it, I’m always interested because it has a lot of wines I’ve not seen before on it.

At a recent lunch, my friend and I started off sharing an astounding plate of burrata and mozzarella di buffalo. True, it’s kind of hard to screw those up. (But believe me, I’ve seen it.)

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Tasting Rome: Gelato, Pasta and the Market

porchetta

Whenever I go to a foreign city, within a few hours of getting oriented, I invariably find myself mentally preparing my move there. I walk around the streets, admiring all the shops and interesting people speaking beautiful languages, and looking up at the apartments with curving iron railings and linens hanging out to dry I imagine myself being a part of it all and making a new life for myself there.

rome

It happened when I moved to San Francisco, and I remember arriving and thinking that it wasn’t quite as pretty as people said it was. No one told me that South San Francisco, near the airport, wasn’t actually San Francisco. And twenty or so years later, when I moved to Paris, I was in for another shock.

I’m not a particularly good traveler; I like being home. (And I love my pillow.) So perhaps that’s the appeal of moving somewhere and staying put for a few decades. I can really get the feel of what living in whatever city I’d like, and come home and sleep in my own bed every evening.

Italy is a special place and many of us are quite fond of it. And why not? The people are friendly, the food is great, and Italians have an easy-going, sometimes boisterous nature, that I think appeals to Americans. Initially I’m usually reluctant to jump into a local restaurant, especially if I’m alone. But in Italy, if you show the slightest interest in the food, people are very excited to explain more about it. Whenever I’ve made the effort, it seems like they can’t wait to feed you.

burrata

You might be presented with a plate of mozzarella, a soft and supple cheese completely unlike the rubbery bricks most of us are used to, when cut with a fork, ooze out a sweet, warm puddle of milk.

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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.)