A verdant reminder of spring on a cold Elmhurst evening.
Despite all the writing I do about various international cuisines there remains a soft spot in my heart and stomach for pizza and pasta, particularly as served by New York City pizzerias. It’s a rarity to find homemade pasta at the corner slice shop, so I’ve been curious about the homemade pasta at Louie’s Pizzeria for years. The thing is I’m usually too full after eating two or three pieces of their award-winning grandma slice to enjoy it. (more…)
Fish cakes from Bronx-based Vendy finalist CaSpanish.
Back in 2009, when the Vendy Awards were held in the shadow of the Unisphere, there was only one food market game in town: Smorgasburg. LIC Flea & Food came along in 2012 and a few years later Queens got its very own night market. Well these days it does and so does the Bronx. The finalists for this years Vendy Awards are a lineup of vendors from the street and from the markets that is almost as diverse as Queens itself. Puerto Rico, the Domican Republic,Trinidad, Italy, China, Indonesia, Japan, El Salvador, India, and Romania are all represented. What’s more, six of the nine finalists have a connection to Queens.This year’s Vendy Awards will be held on Governors Island on September 22. Click here to get tickets. Ladies and gentlemen, we present your 2018 Vendy Awards Finalists for Best Market Vendor and Best Dessert Vendor.
These Bronx Night Market stalwarts take their name from a blend of Caribbean and Spanish cuisines as reflected in a menu that features straight up Dominican fare like mangu—a trifecta of salami fried cheese, and eggs—and fusion specialties like jerk chicken empanadas. Husband and wife duo Keith and Judy were in the middle of planning their wedding in 2015 when they could not find a caterer that offered the varied menu they were looking for. Keith is Trinidadian-American and Judy is Puerto Rican and Dominican. They wanted a reception spread that included each of their favorite foods reflecting their Caribbean-American backgrounds. Unhappy with what they found they decided to cater their own wedding reception, and thus was born CaSpanish.
D’Abruzzo NYC took top honors at this spring’s World’s Fare.
Tommaso Conte started D’Abruzzo NYC in August 2017, and now sells his arrosticini, succulent roasted lamb skewers, at Smorgasburg and other markets. While growing up on Long Island, Tommaso’s family, in particular his nonno, or grandfather, instilled in him the values, traditions, and work ethic that he learned in Abruzzo a rugged mountainous region is southern Italy. Early on Tommaso grew tomatoes, helped make wine in his Cantina, and turned the soil in his nonno’s garden. This connection to the land at an early age has inspired Tommaso to pay homage to his roots with D’Abruzzo NYC.
Hometown Spring Pancakes
Founder Annie Ye hails from Wenzhou, China and got started in the food market game with CBao Asian Buns, which can still be found at Queens Night Market, beside her new venture, Hometown Spring Pancake, which showcases a lesser known Northern Chinese snack. Each flaky pancake is made fresh to order and then filled with such meats as stewed beef or roast pork. (more…)
Speck, truffle, and ricotta team up for this gourmet pie.
Lately I’ve been getting in touch with my Italian heritage through food, which is how I wound up at Levante, Long Island City’s newest pizzeria last night. Actually, that’s not exactly true my barber Kirk Riley told me about it while I was in the chair yesterday evening. “Gonna go wherever the wind takes you?” he quipped when I told him I had no plans for the night.
And that’s how I wound up standing on Jackson Avenue perusing the menu of this Napoletana newcomer, which opened late last month, and is named for the East Wind. After mulling over the roster of more than a dozen pies, I settled on the LIC ($21), topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, speck, fresh ricotta, and truffle pate. (more…)
A lifetime ago before I came to Queens, I lived in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood that realtors hopefully called Park Slope vicinity. It was a short ride from there to Bensonhurst where I would indulge my Sicilian heritage with vastedda—the ricotta and calf spleen sandwiches—at Gino’s Focacceria and pastry at Villabate. Back then, Villabate and Alba were two separate shops. These days they’ve united to form confectionery powerhouse Villabate Alba.
Recently I found myself back in the County of Kings and decided to take a walk from Together, Brooklyn’s sole Burmese restaurant, to Bensonhurst to visit Villabate Alba.
“I’ll have that chocolate-covered cannoli,” I said to the young Chinese girl at the counter pointing to a little number with a broad swath of chocolate in the center flanked by white icing and capped with pistachio.(more…)
I have yet to travel to my paternal homeland of Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, but when I do I might have to trek Southeast to Siracusa to feast on a sandwich from Chef Andreas of Caseificio Borderi. It’s a good thing that this 10-minute video starts with a shot of the finished product—piled high with a gorgeous salad; several types of cheese, including fresh ricotta; and lovely ham—because it takes Andreas almost that much time to complete a single panino.
This delay is largely because he stops halfway through to make a snack for the long line of customers. “OK now I make you taste this one. Do you know garlic?,” he asks. “For us Sicilians, garlic was truffles,” he says as he prepares chunks of ricotta with garlic and herbs.
“You have to know that ricotta is the most valuable asset of human beings,” he says as he passes out the Sicilian amuse bouche, only to be interrupted by the customer who ordered the sandwich: “Where is he going? I want my sandwich!” Apparently, it’s well worth the wait!
Kickshaw’s ‘Hero’ eats like veggie version of a roast pork Italian.
Astoria’s Queens Kickshaw might be best known for its fancy pants grilled cheese sandwiches, but the other day I tried a sandwich there that was far from dainty. Listed simply as Hero ($13), I like to think of it as a vegetarian version of a Philadelphia roast pork Italian sub. This is mainly because the ingredients feature plenty of broccoli rabe and provolone in addition to fried eggplant and sauteed peppers and onions. It’s the best vegetarian Italian sandwich I’ve had in Astoria, mainly because it’s the only one I’ve had. Faint praise aside, it is a lovely gooey hot mess of a sandwich. I only wish there were some hot cherry peppers and sauteed garlic on it!
The Queens Kickshaw, 40-17 Broadway, Astoria, 718-777-0913
The Giuseppe, Astoria’s take on Philly’s roast pork Italian.
The late great Josh Ozersky once said that I had forsaken my Italian-American heritage to eat my way through the Chinese food courts of Queens. He was partly—well, really mostly—right. When I find myself in need of comfort and familiarity though, there’s nothing quite like a good Italian deli.
I am a huge fan of the ladies at Leo’s Latticini in Corona and their food. They know how to make this Italian boy feel right at home. I am lucky to live so close to their shop. Lately I have been exploring the Italian delis of Astoria. My favorite so far might be Rosarios. Under the el Rosario DiMarco serves up old-school Italian-American comfort food in the form of killer Margherita pizza and more than a dozen sandwiches. (more…)
One of the first places I lived in Queens was Woodside. Walking Roosevelt Avenue to hit Thai places, Filipino spots, and taco trucks turned me on to the delicious diversity of food that makes the borough my favorite place to live, eat, and play. There’s one place I never frequented in all my time in Woodside though, La Flor, a cafe restaurant helmed by journeyman Chef Viko Ortega. I only just got around to meeting Chef Viko and trying his wonderful nuanced dishes. I was mightily impressed by his cooking. As were my friends Chef Jonathan Forgash and Gabe Gross of Queens Dinner Club. That’s we’ve decided to have Chef Viko cook our next dinner Mexico Meets France and Italy via Roosevelt Ave. which takes Tuesday May 17, 2016, 7:30 p.m. Chef Viko was kind enough to take some time away from the kitchen to answer seven questions.
How did you get into cooking?
I started baking when I was 13 years old in my hometown of Puebla, Mexico. In 1987 when I was 21 the main reason I came here was that I was tired of baking. So I came here and figured out that the only way to make decent money was back to the kitchen. I started doing pizza and pastry and salads. I cooked at dozens of restaurants including Larry Forgione’s An American Place. I can’t get away from baking though. The starter I use to make all the breads at La Flor is 24 years old.
Atlantic salmon with potato gallettes.
How would you characterize your cooking at La Flor?
I would say it’s a combination of everything I learned. I mix Italian, French, Mexican—that’s one of my favorites—a little bit of Asian. So it’s kind of fusion and I just love food. The dishes that you’re going to find here you’re not going to find anywhere else, I just love to play.It’s me. (more…)
Tutti Matti brings Calabria and Sicily together via the magic of pasta.
Growing up in an Italian-American household the product of Sicilian and Calabrian heritage, I didn’t learn much proper Italian. My language lessons were limited to staizitt’ and the like. Thus it’s not surprising that when I first heard of the maccheroncini dello stretto at Long Island City’s Tutti Matti, I assumed the name meant “little macaroni of the street.” This assumption was aided by a spicy seafood flavor that called to mind spaghetti alla puttanesca. After all it doesn’t get more street than the whore’s pasta. (more…)
When people ask me about traveling, my stock response is something along the lines of “I’m still working my way through Queens.” Lucky for me I have friends who travel that I can live and eat vicariously through, friends like Kristen Baughman, who was kind enough to write a guest post about a certain porchetta sandwich in Florence that goes by the name L’Inferno.
I spent the past two months traveling around the Middle East indulging in giant plates of hummus and late-night chicken shawarma sandwiches. So, when I discovered that a flight back to New York City was cheaper if I did a stopover in Italy, I had to extend my trip for two more weeks. Plus, my stomach was ready to be filled with as many pork products as physically possible. I was ecstatic to enter the land of unlimited amounts of porchetta,culatello and prosciutto! (more…)