04/19/16 10:16am
mattimach

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…)

10/30/15 12:20am
gianna3

Gemmeli were a childhood favorite for Mamma Gianna Cerbone of Manducatis Rustica.

This year marks the 100th birthday of Ronzoni, the venerable pasta maker that was started by one Emanuele Ronzoni in 1915. To celebrate its centennial the company chose a chef from each New York City’s borough to be the face of Ronzoni. When I received an e-mail stating that Chef Gianna ‘Mamma Gianna’ Cerbone of Manducatis Rustica was named the Ronzoni chef for Queens, I couldn’t help but smile, her restaurant is one of my favorite Italian spots, and, just like Ronzoni, she got her start in Long Island City, Queens.  (more…)

03/18/15 11:39am
SPAGWICH

Carbohydrate love, Italian style.

“It’s kind of like a banh mi,” the waitress said of the roast lamb sandwich at M. Wells Dinette. As I scanned the menu my eyes darted between the lamb sandwich ($12) and the spaghetti sandwich ($12). Lamb and Vietnamese sandwiches sit pretty high in my culinary pantheon, but ultimately I went with the spaghetti sandwich.  It bears pointing out this kooky sandwich predates, that other noodle-based mashup, the ramen burger. (more…)

02/26/15 11:23pm
SOTTOPIZZA

Sotto 13’s pork pie pizza topped with head cheese.

Last November I had the privilege of being taught how to make turducken by Ed Cotton, the executive chef of Sotto 13. “Come back some time; I’d love to feed you,” he told me after our lesson and frankenbird photo shoot. A couple of weeks ago I finally took him up on that offer.

The meal began with that week’s special pizza, pork pie. Provolone cheese, caramelized onions, and cabbage are topped with pork shank meat. Once the pie comes out of the oven it’s blnaketed with housemade coppa di testa and lashed with mustard vinaigrette. It’s like a subtler, more sophisticated version of an Italian combo sandwich. Cotton changes out the pizzas regularly and recent iterations have included beef carpaccio with creamy kale, wild mushrooms and fontina and this week’s special: spicy lamb sausage pizza with n’duja, ricotta, and mint. (more…)

11/10/14 12:06pm
ROOM55-1

Slow cooked lamb with sage, shallots, and touch of pepper and prune.

I first met Vinny Accardi, the chef at the newish Room 55 in Glendale at the kickoff to Queens Restaurant Week. He had run out of food but was quick to tell me that his first restaurant “overdelivers on the food,” and suggested I come in for a tasting.

So I took him up on the offer a few weeks later. The restaurant, named for the month and day of his graduation from the Culinary Institute of America in 2000, is tucked away on an otherwise nondescript block. Everything I tasted, from the autumn harvest salad ($9) of mixed greens, beets, and candied walnuts with warm goat cheese to his casino style Little Neck clams ($11) was excellent, but my favorite dish was the one of the menu’s two pasta offerings. (more…)

11/21/13 10:41am
BEAR-ASPIC

Char aspic with pomelo and lemon.

The tyranny of the tasting menu—that feeling of being held hostage by a chef’s creativity  as course after course after course comes to the table—is a phenomenon with which I have scant experience. The only tasting menu of note I’ve had is Momofuko Ko’s and while not quite tyrannical, it was vast, running to more than a dozen courses, each quite good in its own way.  Even so sensory overload sets in by course eight or nine. It’s not that I was full, but rather that I was punch drunk on the experience, much the way I feel after wandering around an art museum for too long. So when Chef Natasha Pogrebinsky of Bear invited me to try to her $85 seasonal tasting menu, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.   (more…)

10/14/13 2:00pm

Punjabi chana daal over Italian cavatappi pasta. Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

I first learned to cook during the year I studied in England. University students there typically fend for themselves in dorm kitchens, rather than relying on meal plans.

With little free time and even less money, most of us took to dumping readymade soups or canned beans over toast or pasta. If we were feeling fancy (or starved for protein), we crowned these starchy, carby meals with a fried egg.

That experience left me with an abiding kernel of culinary wisdom: Any light dish can be transformed into a stomach-filling meal simply by adding pasta.

Enter my Punjabi mother-in-law, who re-educated me in the kitchen and taught me Indian home cooking. Thanks to her, I can whip up a full meal from my usual pantry staples (i.e., lentils, rice, spices, garlic, and ginger) and a few stray vegetables (e.g., onion, tomato, potato, carrot). If only she’d been there, in England, to save me from British student food (and my own culinary incompetence). (more…)

09/02/13 12:39pm
MIKEPASTA

Maspeth’s most decadent veal ravioli sings with the flavors of sage and speck.

My buddy Josh Ozersky likes to say I’ve forsaken my Italian heritage to eat weird Chinese food in dodgy Flushing basements. He’s only partially right. I grew up in a home where soy sauce and hoisin were as common as Sunday gravy and the hunk of Pecorino we called “grating cheese.” Now and then I am turned on to a dish that makes me proud of my Italian heritage. Most recently it was the pasta—specifically the ravioli di vitello burro, salvia e speck ($13.95)—at the newish Osteria Italiana in Maspeth, a neighborhood that’s more Polish than Italian. Of all people it was my adopted Jewish mother, Times Ledger food critic Suzanne Parker, who turned me on to this lovely dish. Perfectly al dente triangles are filled with veal and sauced with butter and sage. Salty, smoky bits of speck top it all off. Buttery and decadent, it’s nothing like my Italian mother’s pillowy red sauce ravioli, but every bit as good.

Osteria Italiana, 57-57 61st St., Maspeth, 718-894-4391