Italian recipes

Cookbook Review: Rao’s Classics

Rao’s is the legendary, tiny corner restaurant in East Harlem where it’s impossible to book a table: each of the red-checked, cloth-covered four-, six-, and two-tops is reserved for a titan of New York industry, a celebrity, or a major politician. Permanently. Now Frank Pellegrino, the third generation of his family to operate the impossible-to-get-into Rao’s restaurant in East Harlem and founder of Rao’s food products line, goes deep into the history of his family, the restaurant, and America’s love affair with Southern Italian cooking to create Rao’s Classics cookbook.
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Cookbook Review: Sicily: Recipes from an Italian Island

Italy’s most seductive island, Sicily, is located in the heart of the Mediterranean. Thanks to its rich history, Sicilian food has Italian as well as Greek, Spanish, French, and Arab influences. Now Italian aficionados, Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi, head to the island to immerse themselves in its diverse food scene. (more…)

Cookbook Review: Small Victories

Becoming a confident cook means mastering one delicious thing at a time, taking pleasure in each small victory. That’s the gift Julia Turshen shares here, and it’s one she has learned from her rich life in food. After preparing thousands of meals for bestselling cookbooks and as a private chef all over the world, she knows that celebrating the small achievements is the sure way to become a comfortable, intuitive, and inventive cook. Small Victories puts all of those years of learning into your hands, no matter how new to cooking or how practiced you are.

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Book Review: Pasta by Hand

It never occurred to me that I could make pasta the old-fashioned way—by hand. I mean, who does that? I always thought that task was relegated to old-world Nonna’s. And let’s be honest, Italian cooking is intimidating. For me, it’s fraught with peril. My fear of bungling a centuries-old cuisine is very real.

Along comes Pasta by Hand: A collection of Italy’s regional and hand shaped pasta. The fact that no special equipment or ingredients are needed to form pasta shapes chips away at my list of excuses. The book contains more than 65 recipes for homemade pasta dough and easy instructions on how to shape it into small orbs, cups, twists, shells, noodles, and dumplings.

Ms. Louis has spent what seems like infinite hours of research and travel schooling herself on the humble dumpling, or what Italians call gnocchi. The book begins with a section on ‘The Basics.’ Exactly what I need. The pages outline the specific ingredients, tools, and techniques that will help craft dumplings, as well as a list of 12 tips for making great gnocchi. For example, ‘Tip #4’ instructs us to pay special attention to the mixing and cooking directions for each recipe. The mixing method for each dumpling dough will be different, to achieve the correct texture. Not all dumplings are meant to be tender and light.

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The best thing I ate this month – May 2015

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child

Behold the feast placed before me. Sticky-sweet finger-licking ribs. Perfectly grilled smokey eggplant and zucchini. Home-made capicola with the just right balance of fat, salt, fresh seasonings and meaty texture. Flavourful roasted eggplant and peppers itching to be topped on fresh bread. Chicken kebabs, juicy and tender. Freshly steamed lobster, oh so succulent and sweet. And enough wine and alcohol to subsist us for days.

These friends o’ mine are kind, cool and definitely ‘the best people.’ The spread was scrumptious and exquisite, mouth-watering and heavenly. It was fun and it was satisfying. And it was definitely the best thing I ate this month.

Product Review: Nonna Pia’s Balsamic Reductions

 

”Norman, you need to learn how to cook because when you grow up you may marry someone who cannot cook.”  

The passage of time had proven Nonna Pia correct. Her son Norm ended up marrying Natasha who is great at many things—cooking not being one of them. Because of Nonna Pia’s insightful wisdom, Chef Norm named his company in homage to his beloved mother, which is how “Nonna Pia’s Gourmet Sauces” came to be.

Chef Norm imports balsamic vinegar to his Whistler, BC facility from Modena, Italy. There, it is infused with fresh fruit and herbs and steeped in 100 gallon steam kettles for up to 12 hours. Nonna Pia’s Balsamic Reductions are gluten-free and do not contain caramel, thickening agents or starches. The thick consistency and intense flavour is arrived at by removing the moisture from the vinegar.

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Boobs, Whipped Cream and Sage Business Advice: Steve DiFillippo’s new book "It’s All About the Guest"


“Boobs slathered in whipped cream are great, but money is better. If you want to do well in your business, you should think the same way.” –Steve DiFillippo, It’s All About the Guest.

I love this guy. I’ve yet to meet him, but I am already quite fond of him. How could that be? It’s All About the Guest: Exceeding Expectations in Business and in Life, the Davio’s Way is no less all about the reader than it is about the guest, and I came away from the book feeling confident that he and I could be bona fide old chums.

DiFillippo is a great raconteur. In the book, his “character” leaps off the page, and you can’t help but cheer for his obsession with food and admiration for people. You are left with the sense of a man who has given himself totally to this world and who has an insatiable appetite for life.

He’s an all-in type of guy, one who shows reverence and a profound commitment to his family, friends, guests and his people. He’s inextricably bound to his upbringing. “Warm and comforting memories,” he calls them. In the book, he recounts how he grew up in the kitchens of his mother and his aunts—both Portuguese and Italian. From his Nana (grandmother) he learned that food mattered, and how it was prepared mattered. “I’m not sure where I’d be today if it wasn’t for Nana.” From his dad, he learned that it was all about having good people in your life. “You can’t get anywhere without them. And you have to treat them right. Then watch, they treat you right.” It’s clear that both his dad and Nana have had a profound effect on how he runs his business and conducts his life.

DiFillippo’s instincts and deepest beliefs are on full display in his book. His narrative shifts as he recounts the highs and the lows from childhood fat-camp, to coffee clerk, to head chef, to a multimillion dollar brand. Part The Art of the Deal, part Kitchen Confidential, with cherished recipes and practical wisdom thrown in for good measure, It’s All About the Guest is a story-driven, passionate chronicle of what it takes to triumph in the restaurant business.

But, this isn’t just a story about how to make it in business. It’s All About the Guest is a tale of DiFillippo’s personal, passionate pursuit to own and operate a successful restaurant, a quest that began when he was a young boy growing up in Lynnfield, Massachusetts. It’s a story of lessons learned along the way, and it provides a recipe for success for young entrepreneurs.

DiFillippo is a model of what it means to be focused and doggedly determined. “If you want to thrive for decades, you can never let up. Not even when a topless server flings whipped cream in your face.” Well put Steve, well put.

It’s All About the Guest: Exceeding Expectations in Business and in Life, the Davio’s Way” by Steve Fillippo is available at Amazon.com and Chapters.Indigo.ca.

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"Birthday Month" – Italians do it better!

Basil. Roasted tomato. Garlic. Walk into Parma Ravioli and the smells of Italia assault your senses. There’s a flurry of activity in the open kitchen. Cooking, chopping, baking. Rolling dough, stuffing pasta, simmering sauces. Man this place is cool!

I was psyched when my friend brought me to Parma for lunch on account of my bday. Nice! One of the sweet features of Parma is their express lunch counter. I indulged in a chicken parm sandwich. Pretty much the best I’ve ever had.

I work near Parma. I’ve been there a million times and will be back a million more. Their pastas are awe-inspiring, probably cause they’re made right on site. Need some assistance with dinner? Take away their fresh pastas and sauces or try their ready made dishes. Asparagus and Mascarpone and Goat Cheese and Butternut Squash are two of my favourite pastas. Apparently they do catering. If anyone is listening, maybe for next year, how awesome would it be to have a Parma catered CFD birthday lunch? Way awesome.

Although I intended this post to be more about my bday outing I couldn’t help but give a shout-out to a very deserving establishment. Thanks friend for springing for lunch and for remembering my birthday. And thanks Parma for another great meal. I’ll see you again soon.

Parma Ravioli, 1314 Wellington Street, Ottawa
Lots of take out options
Best chicken parm sandwich I ever ate!

Parma Ravioli on Urbanspoon

Tennis and Ravioli at the Rogers Cup

The Rogers Cup is tennis nirvana. It’s where I go to be amongst my people. Around these parts, most folks are not tennis aficionados. The conversation never gets beyond Federer or Nadal. I can’t rhapsodize on the virtuosity of Katarina Srebotnik or Kveta Peschke without seeing eyes glaze over. It’s saddening. But at the Rogers Cup, I’m surrounded by tennis fans that are enlightened, passionate and just plain nuts. Walk over to any practice court, point at even the most obscure player and say “who’s that?” and not only will you learn the player’s name, you’ll get a personal and professional bio, an anecdote on the player’s likes and dislikes, which hotel they stay at and sometimes, the fan might even pull out a scrapbook filled with photos of past tournaments. It’s bonkers and sooo incredibly fun.

I couldn’t help but enjoy myself standing a few feet away from some of the best tennis players in the world. Check out a few pics I took.

Caroline Wozniacki
Daniela Hantuchova
Sam Stosur
Dominika Cibulkova
Anna Ivanovic
Parc Jarry Fountain

After hours of stalking players, my buddy and I decided to call it a day and get some supper. But where? The great city of Montreal is a culinary Mecca with no shortages of fine eateries. My friend chatted up one of the tennis fanatics and she recommended Ristorante Pomodoro, a favourite haunt of tennis fans. It was located on St-Laurent Boulevard in nearby Little Italy, about a 10-minute walk from the tennis stadium. It did not disappoint and I highly recommend it. Good service, fantastic food and a seat on the terrasse made for an outstanding end to our day.

On the drive home, I felt a twinge of sorrow and couldn’t help but replay the day in my head. Goodbye crazy tennis fans, fellow stalkers and overzealous Felicano Lopez devotee. Buhbye Rogers Cup Official who writes the names of the players on the white boards while we peer over her shoulder. See ya later nice policeman who helped us find a parking spot. Sayanora Marion Bartoli and your disturbing training methods. Au revoir Anna Ivanovic. I can watch you train all day. Sigh. Fare thee well Aleksandra Wozniak and thanks for the pic. Peace out Lidnt chocolate lady, “merci beaucoup” for the free samples. And so long grumpy stadium usher guy, telling us to sit in our proper seats. I will miss you all (well maybe not the usher dude.) Until we meet again next year.

Ravioli alla Gigi/Ravioli sauce rosée, pancetta and champignons

Nicastro’s Italian Food Emporium

Ottawa’s a pretty small town. The hunt for annoto seeds, fresh dates, morel mushrooms or cabot cheddar can take you on a pretty wild goose chase. Nicastro’s on Bank street has bailed me out on more than one occasion in those times where I need to acquire a hard to find ingredient for my recipe. It’s a beautifully well-stocked market where you can find fresh produce, pasta, meats and sausages, deli items, cheeses, coffee, cookies and other gourmet foods. If Julia Child had lived in Ottawa, this is where she would have shopped.

Il Negozio Nicastro, 792 Bank Street (at Third Ave), Ottawa
A variety of olives in the deli case.
Find pretty much any mushroom you need for your recipe. Even those very expensive morels.
One of the best assortment of cheese in the region.
The walls are lined with oils and vinegars from all over the world.
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