07/02/14 12:08pm
GOTHAM3

Court Street’s take on the roast pork Italian.

Ever since I heard about Gotham West Market—the highly curated Manhattan food court that includes everything from Ivan Ramen Slurp shop to the meatastic offerings of the Cannibal, Blue Bottle Coffee, and an outpost of Brooklyn Kitchen—I’ve been intrigued. I stopped by for a visit the day of the Italy-Uruguay soccer match, and had a look around. I couldn’t pull the trigger because I was overwhelmed, much like I was on my first visit to Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall. (Actually, that’s a lie. I was too full from eating hot dog and French fry pizza.)

As much as I really wanted to try Ivan Orkin’s famed ramen and The Cannibal’s lamb tartare, the thing that intrigued me most was Court Street Grocers, with its roster of a dozen sandwiches, many of which fall into the Italian-American canon. So, a week or so later I returned to Gotham West, after a most restrained browsing of the Summer Fancy Food Show. (more…)

06/25/14 12:35pm
MUFF

Ain’t nothing better than a muffuletta!

Summer is officially here and that means beach time. It’s also my favorite time of year to pack a sandwich and go on a road trip, or in my case a fishing trip. A couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune to go out on Long Island Sound for an evening of fishing. It was my first time, and I was a little bit nervous especially since I’m not the world’s greatest swimmer. So as I often do I took comfort in food, in this case a muffuletta sandwich that my buddy Dave had made for each of us. (more…)

06/18/14 12:05pm

“It was off the wall it was so good,” proclaims Queens-based rapper/chef/plus-sized male model/marijuana enthusiast Action Bronson in the latest episode of his Vice show Fuck, That’s Delicious. The object of his affection? The liveracce sandwich at Paesano’s in Philly, which manages to combine fried chicken livers, orange zest, and gorgonzola. Fast forward to the 16-minute mark to check out this inspired creation. (more…)

04/29/14 1:40pm
PELLICCIFUSION

Both the full English and the penne Pellicci are impeccable.

I’m grateful to my new friend Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet, a Manila-based blogger who I met over the weekend in London at the 2014 Chowzter Awards. For without his gentle prodding I might never have experienced the wonders of a proper English full breakfast at E. Pellicci, an old school East End diner. On my last evening in London the jet lag was kicking pretty hard, but I’m glad that I ventured out next morning to Bethnal Green with Anton and two other international food bloggers Catherine Ling of Camemberu and Stanislaus Hans Danial Subianto of Eats and Treats to this family-run institution. (more…)

04/02/14 10:15am
SW-FLETCHERS

A low and slow take on an Italian-American classic.

When I was growing up barbecue was synonymous with cookouts and birthdays. These days I draw the distinction between backyard grilling and low and slow American barbecue. A while back I made a pilgrimage to the whole hog heaven that is North Carolina. Heck, I even have a barbecue alter ego, Joey Deckle. But back in the 70s my birthday was the perfect excuse for the old man to throw a blowout BBQ. Hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken grilled with tomato and garlic were all on the menu, but my favorite was always his sausage and pepper sandwiches. So when I heard Matt Fisher was doing a low and slow take on this Italian-American classic at Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue I decided to take a trek out to Gowanus. (more…)

03/19/14 10:02am
VASTEDDA

What’s better than vastedda?

A couple of weeks ago while doing some research for a Brooklyn Chinatown/Italian Bensonhurst food tour I stopped by Gino’s Focacceria for a vastedda. I was saddened to see the shop was for rent. I asked a local merchant where I might I obtain the traditional Sicilian calf spleen sandwich. “Joe’s of Avenue U,” she said.

I forgot all about the offal and cheese sandwich until Friday after leading that food tour. After several hours of eating and talking I often like to decompress with even more eating. So I paid the Gravesend institution a visit for a vastedda. My namesake Sicilian diner still sits beneath the Avenue U stop on the F. The old-school sign has been changed, but the magnificent steam table filled with stuffed artichokes and other Sicilian specialties looks exactly the same. And they still have vastedda ($6.99). (more…)

02/28/14 10:17am
SAMOSA

Surely these are New York City’s only Uzbek-Italian samosas.

Eating a beef or lamb samsa just plucked off the wall of a blazing tandoor oven is one of the pleasures of living down the road from Rokhat Kosher Bakery. The use of the tandoor has always made me suspect a link between Indian foodways and those of Uzbekistan. The other day my suspicion was confirmed—well, sort of—by the discovery of a most unusual samosa.

The package reads “Bon Appetito Samosa.” Despite the name these sugar-dusted treats from the No Regrets Bakery aren’t Italian. Nor are they Indian, or filled with potato. The light and buttery little pastries contain just a touch of sweetened walnut. Rokhat’s owner seemed as puzzled by them as I am. “At first, I thought they were Italian,” he told me.

To submit your delicious finds to Photo Friday simply tag your Instagram photos with #CMSHUNGRY. And while you’re at it, check me out on Instagram, joedistefanoqns.

02/19/14 9:57am
CM-MAMAS

An Italian-American cure for the wintertime blues.

If you’re anything like me you’ve had enough of winter. So today’s Sandwich Wednesday is for you and me, one of my summertime favorites, the Mama’s Special ($7.50) from Leo’s Latticini in Corona. I like to eat it in the backyard of the neighboring cafe, which like most of Queens is still a frozen waste land.

Unlike other Italian combos, which employ an entire deli case of meats, this hero takes a more restrained approach. Three ingredients: Genoa salami, pepper ham, and creamy white mozzarella are tucked into a semolina loaf. You will be asked if you want roasted peppers and marinated mushrooms. It’s an offer you shouldn’t refuse. I’d give my lucky chopsticks to eat one right now and watch Corona’s boys of summer play boccie in nearby Spaghetti Park. And, of course an Italian ice for dessert.

Leo’s Latticini (Mama’s of Corona), 46-02 104th St., Corona, 718-898-6069

01/09/14 9:45am
CASSGANG

Behold, the Sicilian dessert empanada!

At first I thought the small battalion of golden crusted treats were empanadas, but then I remembered I was in an Italian bakery. Then again this Italian bakery, Russo’s, also sells Irish soda bread. I soon found out that cassatine ($2.20) are Sicilian and delicious. The puffy crecent shaped pastry had a lovely fried dough crust filled with ricotta cream. It was denser, but less sweet than a certain more familiar tubular Italian pastry and quite lovely with a cup of coffee. As I was leaving I discovered that the gal seated at a table taking five is from father’s hometown, Castellamare del Golfo. Ma che fortuna!

Russo Bakery, 61-04 Grand Ave., Maspeth, 718-894-4919

12/23/13 9:50am
pannacotta

Best Chinese bakery panna cotta ever!

The last place one would expect to find panna cotta would be a Chinese bakery in Queens. Nevertheless there it was in the case at Morning Glory Bakery, raspberry peach panna cotta, $3.25. Morning Glory’s Chinese buns—particularly the chicken and pork buns with mustard greens and chili are excellent—but what really sets this Rego Park bakery apart from others are items like this panna cotta. (more…)