Nov 222014
 

Di Palo’s is one of the seven wonders of New York.—Chef Daniel Boulud

Di Palo Fine Foods on Grand Street, 1974. Photo: Eddie Hausner, The New York Times

Di Palo Fine Foods on Grand Street, 1974. Photo: Eddie Hausner, The New York Times

His paternal and legal name, he will tell you, is Luigi Santomauro but to everyone who knows him on two continents, he is Lou Di Palo, after his maternal grandmother. Concetta Di Palo founded a cheese shop with her husband, Lou’s namesake, 104 years ago. Everyone who has shopped at the legendary store on Mott Street, Di Palo Fine Foods, has heard bits and pieces of the family story over the counter as Lou, Sal, Marie, Connie or any number of their offspring cut cheese and sliced salumi while they waited.

Trade Commissioner Pier Paolo Celeste, left, Lou Di Palo, right.

Italian Trade Commissioner Pier Paolo Celeste, left, master of ceremonies at the book bash for the Di Palo clan. Lou Di Palo (Santomauro), right.

On a recent evening, I eagerly braved the blistering cold to join the Di Palo clan and their multitudinous friends at the Italian Trade Commission for a Italian style bash in celebration of Lou’s committing the family history to paper at last. The legendary Italian food expert and grocer extraordinaire has told his delicious family story in the newly released “Di Palo’s Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy” (Ballantine Books), with an introduction by old family friend and Little Italy compatriot, director Martin Scorsese. While Rachel Wharton, a James Beard award-winning food writer, co-authored the book, Lou is quick to tell you that every single word is his own. 

Concetta Di Palo and her husband, Luigi Santomauro with Lou's father, Savino. Courtesy: Lou (Santomauro) Di Palo

Concetta Di Palo and her husband, Luigi Santomauro with Lou’s father, Savino. Courtesy: Lou Di Palo (Santomauro)

Six publishers offered him a book deal but, he says, he called the terms. “My editor agreed that Rachel’s job was to write the story just the way I told it.” No mistaking the straight talking New York style, the patriarchal voice of the extended Di Palo clan, the enthusiasm for all things food—Italian food, that is. It’s pure Lou. And refreshing it is. His story is the real deal, with reminiscences of his Italian immigrant experience in New York’s Lower East Side and the stories behind the dozen essential foods he has collected in this book.

 

Lou, Vincenza Kelly of the Italian Trade Commission, and me.

Lou, Vincenza Kelly of the Italian Trade Commission, and me.

You’ll no doubt learn more about Italian foods within these pages than you ever knew, whether it’s Parmigiano-Reggiano or anchovies. About parmigiano, there are naturally four seasons of cheese making (Di Palo sells them all). The cheese will taste differently based on the flora or feed and how temperatures of summer, spring, winter or fall affects the cows. On Sicily’s best anchovies:”little jars of anchovies so good—tender and almost sweet, they’re never fishy or smelly—my customers go nuts when they are out of season.”

Mamma Viola Santomauro, the matriarch whose recipes New York City has come to love.

Mamma Viola Santomauro, the matriarch whose delicious Italian recipes have been the basis of Di Palo’s take-out.

Even if most of the 300 cheeses Di Palo procures from small producers in Italy don’t make it into these pages, the book is a primer on other Italian essentials he sells, from salumi to olive oil to coffee. There are some of the family’s recipes, the big crowd pleasers, like Grandmother Concetta Di Palo’s meatballs (the secret to their tenderness is a little ricotta in the mixture), eggplant rollatini and Sal’s tiriamisu. But the best part is the book is the story of this remarkable and generous  family. It’s going to be a cold winter. You might want to warm your heart with this story—it’s still the good old days in Lou Di Palo’s world or, as Lou puts it, “I don’t just sell the food in my store—I live it.

Connie Santomauro, Lou's wife, left; his daughter, Caitlin, right.

Connie Santomauro, Lou’s wife, center; his daughter, Caitlin, right.

Sal (Salvatore) Santomauro, Lou's brother and resident comedian, and his wife. About his job, he says, "I've never worked a day in my life." Guess he likes it there.

Sal (Salvatore) Santomauro, Lou’s brother and resident comedian, and his wife, Maryanne. About his job, he says, “I’ve never worked a day in my life.” Guess he likes it there.

Lou's sister, Marie Santomauro, works the counter every day of the year along with the rest of the family.

Lou’s sister, Marie Santomauro (center), works the counter every day of the year along with the rest of the family.

Lou with his daughter, Allegra, right.

Lou with his daughter, Allegra, right.

Left, Sam, Lou's son and proprietor of Enotca Di Palo next door to the main shop on Grand Street.

Left, Sam, Lou’s son and proprietor of Enoteca Di Palo next door to the main shop on Grand Street.

Caitlin Santomauro, chatting with Di Palo fan, Leonard Lopate.

Caitlin Santomauro, chatting with Di Palo fan, popular NPR radio host, Leonard Lopate.

Great crowd.

Great crowd.

With Denise Purcell, Senior Director and Editor, Specialty Food Media.

Having fun wiith Denise Purcell, Senior Director and Editor, Specialty Food Media; Chris Crocker, right.

With Denise again, and Chris Crocker, Senior V.P., Specialty Food Association.

With Denise again, and Chris Crocker, Senior V.P., Specialty Food Association.

Want some?

Want some?

The chefs made a delicious spread, cooking some of the family recipes in the book.

The chefs for the occasion. What a spread, from porchetta, to panini to Nonna Concetta’s meatballs, caponata and eggplant alla parmigiana, just for starters. Di Palo classics, in the book.

The fifth generation, Allegra's sons, learning about the art at papa's knee.

The fifth generation, Allegra’s sons, learning about the art at papa’s knee.

Looking forward to curling up with Di Palo's guide to the Essentials Foods of Italy: 100 Years of Wisdom and Stories from Behind the Counter.

Looking forward to curling up with Di Palo’s guide to the Essentials Foods of Italy: 100 Years of Wisdom and Stories from Behind the Counter.

Di Palo's has taught New Yorkers of every stripe what genuine Italian food is.

Di Palo’s has taught New Yorkers of every stripe what genuine Italian food is.

Photographs of the celebration by Nathan Hoyt/Forktales.

 

Nov 022014
 

Boulder is a serious food town where you can find everything from Colorado bison ragù to mule foot pork chops, local pecorino to real Venice-style gelato. I was there recently for the Chefs Collaborative Summit, a meeting of renowned chefs and like-minded professionals who are in the business of food—growing it, producing it, cooking it, selling it and writing about it. Many I spoke to told me that they have learned their trades from Italy’s artisans whose ancient food traditions have inspired them. Why that is, will be the subject of future articles, but here are some of the highlights of my visit, including a love story about two gelato producers who learned their art in the Veneto.

Strolling on Pearl Street…

A limber juggler with an amazing bag of tricks.

A limber juggler with an amazing bag of tricks.

Papa and baby out for a spin in a vintage convertible.

Papa and baby out for a spin in a vintage convertible.

Cured, on Pearl Street, wine, cheese, cured meat and food specialty shop.

Cured, a wine, cheese, cured meat and food specialty shop selling Colorado cheeses and salumi.

Trying to decide what to try first…

Trying to decide what to try first…

Ciao, Cured...

You want to take everything home from Cured. This pork item was one of my favorites, though not for sale.

Eating al fresco at SALT.

Eating al fresco at SALT.

Clams in garlic broth requires eating with fingers.

Clams in garlic broth with chorizo and beans.

Seared fresh water fish, on a bed of vegetables.

Seared fresh water fish, on a bed of vegetables.

salad with roasted endive and local bacon.

Frisée salad with roasted endive, bacon lardons.

Boulder, SALT oven, P1130088

SALT’s wood-fired oven, made in Modena, Emilia-Romagna

Boulder Theater founded by Desi Arnez, site of Chefs Collaborative food truck rally.

A warm welcome for Chefs Collaborative.

Hopping Pearl Street on a Saturday night.

Hopping Pearl Street on a Saturday night.

Chefs Collaborative Sustainable Food Summit, 2014, was an important gathering of movers and shakers in the food industry to fix our broken food system—make it greener, more sustainable, more local and more cognizant of feeding ourselves without harming the planet. The changes begin with small farmers, ranchers, brewers, distillers, vintners, food artisans, cooks, chefs, and grocers all around the country. Colorado, a state that is a hotbed of small farmers, artisan food producers and culinary excellence was the ideal setting. 

Chefs Collaborative Executive Director, Sara Brito

Chefs Collaborative Executive Director, Sara Brito.

A welcome from Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper…

Governor John Hickenlooper welcoming Chefs Collaborative at the St. Julien Hotel, says he is committed to helping farmers support themselves on smaller acres.

Governor John Hickenlooper, a “recovered” geologist and brewer, addressing Chefs Collaborative at the St. Julien Hotel, said he was committed to the vision of responsible and sustainable food practices. 

Kim Severson, The New York Times Atlanta Bureau Chief, leads the panel discussions.

Kim Severson, The New York Times Atlanta Bureau Chief, leads the panel discussions.

Boulder, panel with Kim

Left to right, Mel Coleman (Niman Ranch), Mo Siegel (founder, Celestial Seasonings), Anne Cure (Cure Organic Farm), Chef Hugo Mathieson (The Kitchen), with Kim Severson.

Mo Siegel, founder, Celestial Seasonings, Boulder, talking about the need to make food healthier, signs off with "Bye Bye Burger King!"

Mo Siegel, founder, Celestial Seasonings, Boulder, talking about the need to make food healthier, signs off with “Bye Bye Burger King!”

Chefs on journey. Left to right, Sara Brito, Michael Leviton (Lumiere and Area Four, Boston)...

Chefs on a journey. Left to right, Sara Brito, Michael Leviton (chef/owner, Lumiere and Area Four, Boston); Evan Mallet (chef/co-owner, Black Trumpet Bistro and Joinery, Portsmouth, NH); Paul Fehribach (chef/owner, Big Jones, Chicago); Piper Davis (co-owner, Grand Central Bakery, Portland, OR); Matt Weingarten (executive chef, Sodexo, NYC); Kim Severson.

Dan Rosenthal, Owner, Green, Chicago

Dan Rosenthal (owner, Green, Chicago).

Nate Appleman, Culinary Manager, Chipotle, says the  restaurant chain is committed to purchasing sustainable foods.

Nate Appleman, Culinary Manager, Chipotle (center), says the restaurant chain is committed to sustainability and environmentally sound practices. On left, Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey (owner, Frasca Food and Wine, and Pizzeria Locale, Boulder) right, Kimbal Musk (CEO, co-founder, The Kitchen Community, Boulder).

Woody Tasch (chairman/founder, Slow Money) giving Rocky Mountain Sustainer Award award to Hugo Mathieson and Kimbal Musk (The Kitchen, Boulder); Michel Nischan at left.

Woody Tasch (chairman/founder, Slow Money) giving Rocky Mountain Sustainer Award award to Hugo Mathieson and Kimbal Musk (The Kitchen, Boulder); Michel Nischan at left.

From left, Mel Coleman (Niman Ranch), Jesse Ziff Cool (Flea St. Cafe, San Francisco), Paul Willis (Niemen Ranch)

From left, Mel Coleman (Niman Ranch), Jesse Ziff Cool (chef/owner, Flea St. Cafe, San Francisco), Paul Willis (founder and manager, Niman Ranch).

The Zester Daily tribe, from left, me, Ruth Tobias, Corie Brown (Founder and Publisher) and Louisa Kasdon (CEO, Founder, Let's Talk About Food, Cambridge)

The Zester Daily contingent, from left, me, Ruth Tobias (Denver), Corie Brown (Zester Daily founder and publisher, Los Angeles) and Louisa Kasdon (Let’s Talk About Food, CEO and founder, Cambridge)

And break-out sessions for hands-on workshops with producers and top chefs…

Shepherds and cheese makers, Jimmy Warren (left) and Chef Alex Seidel making sheep milk ricotta with milk from their dairy.

Shepherds and cheese makers, Jimmy Warren (left) and Chef Alex Seidel making sheep milk ricotta with milk from their dairy.

Gnocchi lesson with Chef Alex for a little pasta dish with Colorado lamb ragù.

Chef Alex giving a gnocchi lesson that ended with a tasting of the pasta and his Colorado lamb ragù.

Their award-winning sheep cheese, Colorado Cacio Pecora.

Their award-winning sheep cheese, Colorado Cacio Pecora.

The gathering was also about hospitality and generosity—nourishing ourselves body and soul with wholesome and delicious food that strengthens our connection with nature…

Recipetion at the St. Julien Hotel, with a view of the Flatirons.

At left, Andrea Reusing (chef/owner, Lantern, Chapel Hill, NC), cooking up scrapple and grits for breakfast at the St. Julien Hotel, in view of the Flatirons.

Ari Rosenzweig,CEO and co-founding partner, Zingerman's, Ann Arbor

Ari Rosenzweig (CEO and oo-founding partner, Zingerman’s, Ann Arbor, MI).

The next day, breakfast food truck rally…

Breakfast pork and veg out at food truck rally.

Breakfast pork- and veg-out at food truck rally.

Boulder, food truck, P1140012_2

Better Green Eggs and Ham than the Ted Cruz version.

At Pastures of Plenty Organic Farm for a Colorado cowboy tradition: the campfire rendevouz to swap stories and refuel…

Western-style feasting...

Western-style feasting…

Pastures of Plenty feast.

…featuring Colorado lamb and bison. At right, Pastures of Plenty co-owner, Lyle Davis.

Eating around the campfire.

On the Summit’s final day, Boulder and Denver chefs team up for a six-course menu focused on technique and the power of procurement at Chattaqua Park…

Starters...

Starters…

Local artisan salumi and cheese.

Local artisan salumi and Fruition Farm pecora cheese.

Chef Michel Nischan (CEO, founder, Wholesome Waves, Bridgeport, CT) with Justin Brunson (Executive Chef, owner, Old Major, Masterpiece Deli, Denver Bacon Co., Denver), at Chautauqua Park.

Alisha Fowler, Michael Leviton of Chefs Collaborative. Fried rabbit, finger-licking delicious!

Chef Collaborative’s Alisha Fowler (Program Director) and Michael Leviton (Board Chair) tackling the fried rabbit course.

A taste of things to come at  Chautauqua Park Green.

A taste of things to come at Chautauqua Park Green.

One more day and another meal before heading home, comfort food and a gelato high…

The Kitchen Next Door, on Pearl Street.  The idea is simple, simple, simple good local ingredients.

The Kitchen Next Door, on Pearl Street. The idea here is simple, simple, simple, using high quality and local ingredients.

Meatballs over polenta. Can't get much more Italian than that.

Meatballs over polenta. It doesn’t get much more Italian than that.

Bangers and mash, not Italian, so delicious!

Bangers and mash with kale, not Italian, so delicious!

Dessert (or breakfast, if you like)—genuine, small-batch artisan gelato made every day on Pearl Street. For the love story, continue reading here…

True small batch, hand-made gelato at Fior di Latte, Pearl Street.

True small batch, hand-made gelato at Fior di Latte, Pearl Street.

The Boulder Flatirons at twilight.

All photos ©Nathan Hoyt/Forktales.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 082014
 
There's Good News in the World, Too: Gelato Explosion!

In my recent article for Zester Daily, I wrote about the gelato explosion. One thing is for sure, gelato is on the move from its Italian home base as more and more entrepreneurs set up shop all over the world using Italy’s state-of-the-art equipment, designed for small-batch, artisan production. Following up on my last post about Rimini, here’s the scoop about why I was in that famous beach resort last month. No, it wasn’t to sunbathe or take in the nightclubs. It was to join the World Gelato Tour which, after circling the globe and picking finalists along the way—including […more…]

Oct 042014
 
Happy Birthday Joan Dye Gussow!

To professor, author, food policy expert, environmentalist and gardener; my friend, my mentor, my neighbor, my children’s honorary godmother, American hero, Joan Dye Gussow, on your 86th year!   As for my keeping on keeping on, I do believe that we are in serious trouble—maybe fatal trouble, that is, maybe it’s too late to stop the express train we’ve been riding on—but as I say to my students, suppose it’s too late? What are we going to do? Lie around reading novels and eating bonbons? I think we should all try to live responsibly because it’s the right thing to do and it’s what’s […more…]

Jul 242014
 
Going Italian at the Fancy Food Show

Summer Fancy Food Show, New York, 2014. The Italians always come bearing cheeses and prosciutto, impeccably dressed and wearing the latest eyeglass styles. If you want to sample some truffles or condimento, they’d rather huddle together in the back corner of their little booths and sip espresso than give you any. You have to wait until they’re good and ready to sell you something, or for those without importers yet, to promote something. That’s the the idea, isn’t it?—To sell you something? Even my “Press” badge doesn’t budge them. Still, the Italian pavilion is always my first stop. I like […more…]

Jul 022014
 
True American Eats for the 4th: Fiery Italian-Fried Chicken Wings

There’s thunder and lightening from where I’m sitting looking out my kitchen window, with no sign of let-up for July 4th. If that means a change of plans for you from an all-American barbecue, consider the Independence Day tradition of the American South: fried chicken. While I grew up in an Italian household, fried chicken was always a special dish and it fit in just fine with potato salad and all the other American trimmings. Whether it’s Kentucky-fried, Georgia-fried, or Italian-fried, it’s as American as grilling on the Fourth of July. Here’s my recipe, sprinkled with some fried chicken history. […more…]

Jun 152014
 
Toritto, Puglia: An Afternoon in My Father's Land

My father left his native Toritto as an infant in his mother’s arms in 1909. With his young parents and grandmother, he sailed for Ellis Island in steerage. The family said that in those bleak times in Puglia, they had survived by eating the wild greens that grew in the fields where they had toiled. Although he returned to Italy many times as an adult, especially to the Carrara quarries to buy marble for his shop in America, my father never went back to where he was born. What kindled his memory was the food he was raised on. His […more…]

Mar 212014
 
A Tipple, a Tid-Bit, and Delights Discovered at the Italian Trade Commission

Spring is in the air everywhere, not least at the Italian Trade Commission in New York City, the Italian government agency charged with promoting and educating about Italian products abroad. Always on the job, at a special reception this week for the newly appointed Commissioner and Executive Director, Pier Paolo Celeste, I turned up some discoveries, old and new. One, panettone gastronomico, or unsweetened panettone, a fairly recent phenomenon in Italy for making little bar sandwiches, and new to most Americans. It was carved up into a layered tower of delicious “tramezzini,” triangular sandwiches with various fillings of genuine Italian products. Francine Segan, a […more…]