Vitamia & Sons
206 Harrison Ave, Lodi NJ 07644
Web Site: http://www.pastaboy.com
Sometimes you can only find the best places by sheer accident, or as a result of a string of unfortunate events.
About two weeks ago New Jersey experienced a severe rain and lightning storm which disabled a critical water treatment plant that caused our local water supplier, United Water, to issue an advisory requiring all Bergen County residents to boil their water before consuming, affecting approximately 800,000 people. This also caused our local health department to shut down just about every restaurant in the county. Unfortunately, this happened on a Saturday, one of the busiest restaurant days of the week. Jon and I originally planned to visit Lodi Pizza on a recommendation from Carlo Bartolomeo, the owner of my favorite local Italian deli in Palisades Park. When we got to Lodi Pizza, it was closed — as was just about every local food business. Jon suggested we drive around Lodi and intentionally “get lost” and see what other local food options we should explore, since we never really hang out in Lodi.
Eventually, we drove down Harrison Avenue and found one of the only food businesses still open — Vitamia and Sons, a bakery, pasta factory and Italian deli that has been in business for over 41 years. It was like as if God himself had sent us there. It should be noted that there is a major Roman Catholic church across the street, so I won’t rule out divine influence even if it is from a different religion from my own.
Vitamia (pronounced Vee-ta-mee-ya) and Sons Bakery on Harrison Ave in Lodi.
You don’t even have to walk into this store to come to the immediate realization that you’ve discovered a fresh bread and pasta paradise. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.
I have no other words to describe Vitamia and Sons as anything other than “the real deal”. These are the most hardcore, real Sicilian-style baked goods, pasta and pre-prepared Italian and Sicilian specialties as you are ever going to find on this side of the Hudson river. I’d even compare it favorably to the stuff you can find on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, which is a pretty serious statement right there. The Satin Dolls strip club may be the most famous business in Lodi for being the film location of the fictional Bada Bing club, but if any place in Lodi deserved to be immortalized on the the Sopranos it should have been this one, given the importance food was to that show.
Jon and I found this big, hulking guy, an actor currently working in a new Spike Lee film, eating a big sandwich. I asked him what he was eating and he looked at me quizzically and said “WHAT? You never had one of ‘dese? Hey, Paulie, make this guy a sandwich!”
This is Paulie and his brother Pino (background) proudly wearing their trinacria T-shirts. Paulie is the conversationalist and Pino is the straight man. All I have to say about Paulie is like his store, he is the real deal. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about Italian food and and wine (he makes his own) and will happily let you try pretty much anything in the store. Want to be taught about the nuances of aged Provolones and Parmigianos? Want to get a tasting tour of his Prosciutto di Parmas and his Culatellos? No problem. Want to learn about the history of Sicily? Okay, you might be in the store for a while.
Exhibit A, a fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, marinated peppers with balsamic vinegar on freshly baked Vitamia bread.
Closeup of the Sangweech. Oh man was it good.
This is what Paulie calls an “Appeteaser”, a marinated hot pepper stuffed with Sorpressata and Provolone. They are awfully good, I’ll say that.
A close-up of the Antipasto bin.
All kinds of pre-prepared goods that are ready to eat are in the offing. The things on the upper right are arancini, delicious saffron rice balls stuffed with cheese and meat, a Sicilian specialty.
Like these nice big meatballs.
And these stuffed peppers. They have both riccota cheese/mozzarella and sausage/mozzarella varieties.
Vitamia also makes its own fresh Italian Sausage.
Vitamia’s stuffed breads are truly fantastic, particularly their sausage bread. It’s great eaten at room temperature or heated up. I ripped into this one cool right in the store — Jon had to stop me from finishing the whole thing in one session.
Some of the other breads need to be heated in an oven before fully appreciating them, such as the prosciutto bread, which has prosciutto ham and mozzarella cheese in it.
Prosciutto Bread, heated and cut up.
Vitamia’s foccacia are also world class. Here we’ve topped it with fresh mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil from our garden, and baked it in the oven to get the cheese all nice and melty.
Vitamia’s cannolis are also absolutely decadent, filled with marscapone cheese and candied orange peel.
I didn’t try these sflogliatelle (pronounced Shfoo-ya-dell in Soprano-speak) but I’m definitely going to get some next time. I caught hell from Rachel for not buying any.
What Vitamia is best known for, however, is their raviolis, fresh pastas and pasta sauces, which they make every day, and in many different varieties. I bought some of the traditional large Sicilian ricotta and parsley filled ravioli to try out at home.
The first way we tried them was in the most simple preparation possible, which was to boil them and then toss them in a quick made tomato sauce made from canned San Marzano tomatoes, fresh garlic and fresh basil.
Boiled ravioli in San Marzano tomato sauce with Parmigiano Reggiano grated on top, plated.
Vitamia ravioli cross-section.
We also tried it in the traditional Sicilian (and Paulie’s preferred) manner, baked in a pan over some of the San Marzano tomato sauce and with fresh mozzarella on top.
I have to admit that of the two variations, both of which were excellent, this was my favorite. When in doubt, listen to Paulie.