Food

A Taste of Di Palo’s Essentials

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

By Tess Sanders

The Di Palo family’s shop has been a vital presence in Manhattan’s Little Italy for more than a century. It began as an unassuming latteria that Lou Di Palo’s great-grandparents opened to to serve immigrants mostly from their area of Montemilone in the region of Basilicata.

These days Lou and siblings Sal and Marie run a full-fledged grocery store. When visitors ask who owns the store, the current shopkeepers gesture to their great-grandparents’ photo on the wall. Di Palo’s moved only once at the turn of the 21st century and still boasts its exquisite dairy products. “Cheese is our life,” Lou says.

In the newly published Di Palo’s Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy, Lou shares generation-spanning stories that feature key Italian ingredients as their characters. For Lou, it’s a book about relationships. Relationships between food and people.

Lou worked with food writer Rachel Wharton to create a narrative that glides as smoothly as Di Palo’s signature cannoli cream–from the origin of the family’s life and shop in New York into the stories of the foods that form that life. The book tells the tale of eleven essential Italian foods, from ricotta to sea salt ending with piave and speck. Lou worked with Rachel to fold in many personal reminiscences “for other people, to invoke memory for them—their ancestors, what they did and how they did it.”

The tales of how these essentials are created and savored makes for a compelling and informative reader experience. An interaction not unlike the customer’s experience shopping at Di Palo’s where the staff prizes the sharing of flavor and knowledge above all else.

Speaking with Lou in the wine store Enoteca Di Palo that son Sam Di Palo opened next to the grocery, it became clear that he could pen another book’s worth of essentials right now. Working within the space confines of a printed book, Lou had to select the essential essentials.

 

Lou Di Palo continues the family business, located on Grand Street in Manhattan's Little Italy, with his brother, Sal, and his sister, Marie. Photograph courtesy of Di Palo Selects

Lou Di Palo continues the family business with his brother, Sal, and his sister, Marie (photograph courtesy of Di Palo Selects).

He revealed to SimpleItaly some other essentials that didn’t make it into the volume:

read more about Di Palo's

Tomato September Song

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
Allow garden or farm tomatoes to ripen at room temperature to develop deep flavor.

Allow garden or farm tomatoes to ripen at room temperature to develop deep flavor.

The calendar says it’s the first day of autumn. This is indisputable science. The equinox, those brief few days when the daylight and the dark are “equal,” will soon tilt (as the Earth’s axis does) to bring days of less sunlight and more darkness.

But wait! I’m not giving up that easily. The sun is warm on my face today and the temperature is approaching 70 degrees. I still have plenty of locally grown tomatoes on the counter. I’ve chopped them and added extra-virgin olive oil, garden basil, and garlic.

After this heady mixture macerates for a few hours, I’ll toss it with cooked, drained rotini. The aroma will be like an intoxicating distillation of summer. The taste will be like sweet-tart sunshine.

Uncooked tomato sauce is macerated at room temperature before tossing it with hot pasta. Don't refrigerate the sauce. It would blunt the flavor.

Uncooked tomato sauce is macerated at room temperature before it’s tossed with drained cooked pasta. Don’t refrigerate the sauce. It would blunt the flavor.

The calendar says it’s the first day of autumn but, in my kitchen, it’s summer.

Rotini with Uncooked Tomato Basil Sauce
Print
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Author:
Serves: 4 to 6
Use any short pasta--such as rotini, penne, baralotti, campanelle, or shells--to capture the rich tomato juice.
Ingredients
  • 4 large or 8 medium very ripe tomatoes (about 4 pounds), cored and chopped
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound dried rotini
  • Ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, oil, basil, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to mix. Set aside for several hours at room temperature.
  2. Set a covered large pot of water over high heat. When the water boils, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt and the rotini. Stir. Cover and return to the boil. Uncover and boil, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, or until al dente.
  3. Drain the rotini and return to the pot. Add the tomato mixture. Toss to mix. Set aside for for 5 minutes. Stir and serve.

 

SimpleItaly on WFMZ-TV

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Sharon Sanders (L-R), Chef Mike Pichetto of Vintage Restaurant, Eve Tannery, Ron Martin, and Walter Sanders.

Sharon Sanders (L-R), Chef Mike Pichetto of Vintage Restaurant and 3rd & Ferry, Eve Tannery, Ron Martin, and Walter Sanders in the WFMZ-TV Sunrise Kitchen.

This morning, Chef Mike Pichetto of Vintage Restaurant and Wine Bar,  and SimpleItaly’s Sharon Sanders cooked up a sneak preview of the sumptuous dinner that will be served at the RMG Insurance Golf & Gourmet event to benefit the State Theatre Freddy Awards on Thurs., Sept. 18 at the Club at Morgan Hill, Easton, Pa. Chef Mike prepared Gorgonzola Chicken Thighs with Braised Red Cabbage and Sharon made Panna Cotta with Caramel Sauce and Raspberries. Both recipes are from Cooking Up an Italian Life. We were in the WFMZ-TV kitchen with News at Sunrise host Eve Tannery and Ron Martin, the maestro of the annual charity event, from RMG Insurance. Click here to watch the segment–Sharon’s demo follows Chef Mike’s–and get the recipes!

Creamy Panna Cotta is the dessert equivalent of a white silk blouse. Here, it's accessorized with caramel drizzle and fresh raspberries.

Creamy Panna Cotta is the dessert equivalent of a white silk blouse. Here, it’s accessorized with caramel drizzle and fresh raspberries.

 

Pasta the Italian Way

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
Published by W.W. Norton with illustrations by Luciana Marini and photographs by Gentl & Hyers

Published by W.W. Norton with illustrations by Luciana Marini and photographs by Gentl & Hyers

Unlike pasta which is often best served right after cooking, this post has simmered on the back burner for a few months.

I wanted time to peruse the 400 pages of Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way by Oretta Zanini De Vita and Maureen B. Fant, which was released last fall to rave reviews. De Vita is an authority on the history and variety of the country’s regional cooking. Fant is a writer and native New Yorker who has made Rome her home for more than 30 years.

Reading the book has been like a conversation with trusted culinary colleagues. In some sections my head bobbles up and down in affirmation. At other times, I cock my head as a fresh idea leads me to consider something in a new way.

read more about Sauces & Shapes

Little Shop in Florence

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014
Just off the luxury goods trail in Florence, Sandra's little shop beckons with hidden "treasures."

Just off the luxury goods trail in Florence, Sandra’s little shop beckons with hidden “treasures.”

Ferragamo didn’t need to open its Salvatore Ferragamo Museo just for me. I approach all the luxury goods temples—Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Bulgari–on Florence’s stylish Via Tornabuoni with a gaze-in-awe-but-don’t-touch reverence. Owning these baubles is not for me but I can admire the artistry as I would the masterworks in a museum.

So, imagine my surprise on a blindingly sunny morning in April when I wandered a few footsteps east of the Salvatore Ferragamo Museo on peaceful Via B. SS. Apostoli to discover a shop called Sandra.

Gorgeous globe artichokes fresh from Sandra's garden.

Gorgeous globe artichokes fresh from Sandra’s garden.

At 41r, tucked into a street level space no wider than a train car, Sandra was honoring her store motto: “di tutto un pò un pò di più” (a little of everything and a little more). Surrounding the entrance were crates of fruits, vegetables, braids of garlic, copper pots, painted wooden plaques, bunches of dried flowers. Sandra said she had plucked the artichokes from her garden that morning.

Stepping over the threshold was like entering a time machine back to Florence of 30, 40, or 50 years ago. On the shelves and from the ceiling were household items, oils, vinegars, herbs, jewelry, collectibles, petite chandeliers. Every centimeter offered a new treasure.

Sandra occupied the space behind the glass refrigerated display case at the back. It was stocked with salume and formaggi, no doubt to fortify serious Sandra shoppers who might want to inspect everything on the premises.

Wild fragolini and their hybrid cousins.

Wild fragolini and their hybrid cousins.

I wondered to myself how Sandra could afford the rent in this alta moda area given the price points of the merchandise. As I paid for my lovely little olive wood mortar and pestle and fragolini (tiny sweet wild strawberries—the only strawberries that would have been in a Florence market 30, 40, or 50 years ago), I said a silent “grazie” to Sandra for having di tutto up pò.

Sandra, Via B. SS. Apostoli, 41r, Firenze, (055) 28.34.10