Recipe: Pasta a la Gandolfini

June 21, 2013

James Gandolfini, who passed away at a tender young age of 51 this week, was an actor who played film and TV characters that were bigger than life.

More often than not, they were the “Bad Guys”. But from all accounts I have heard, especially from those who knew him personally, Gandolfini was a kind, gentle and generous man that respected everyone who he worked with. I never met him. I wish I did.

Gandolfini will always be known for his role in playing the modern-day Italian-American New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano, a thug with a heart, a family man, and a man with considerable weaknesses and great personal demons.

He was brutal, as a Mafia Don should be, but he commanded respect and he was obviously a guy that appreciated the good things in life. Like Gandolfini.

So for Gandolfini, who like his alter-ego Tony Soprano also grew up in the Garden State, in the exact Bergen County area I lived in for 22 years, I wanted dedicate a dish to him.

This is what I came up with — a  pasta twist on the classic Italian-American sausage and peppers that is seen in summer festivals and pizza restaurants as a sandwich all over the New York and New Jersey metro area.

But like Tony Soprano, this one has a bite.

The recipe is also somewhat heart-healthy as it only uses a small amount of oil. Given the circumstances of Gandolfini’s passing, he’d probably not want you to go the same way.

This dish calls for fresh ripened tomatoes (plum, if you can get them) and fresh basil. Don’t even bother to make it unless you have these.

Pasta a la Gandolfini

Servings, 2

1/2 Box of Dried Pasta (6oz) , Whole Wheat preferred

3/4lb  fresh Italian sausage, hot or sweet. If sweet add chile pepper flakes.

1 Tbps Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 White Onion, sliced

1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced

4 or 5 Cubanelle Peppers, sliced

1 Habanero Chile or other very hot chile pepper, fresh, julienned

4 Garlic Cloves, julienned

1 cup diced ripe tomatoes, preferably a variety from your garden

1 handful of fresh basil leaves (also from your garden)

Grated Parmigiano Cheese to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Cook pasta of your choice in salted boiling water to al dente consistency while you prepare the condimenti.

Remove sausage from casing if using links. Brown in large non-stick pan and drain to remove excess fat. Set aside in large bowl.

Using a silicone basting brush, brush a scant amount of olive oil in the pan, saute the onions and peppers of each type individually, adding to the bowl with the sausage as soon as you get some char marks and is just barely cooked.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan, along with the sliced hot chile pepper and garlic. Stir for 30 seconds then add the tomatoes. Once again, just cook until they barely wilt. Add the reserved ingredients back to the pot.

Reserve about 1/2 cup water when you drain the pasta. Add the pasta and the water to the pan and toss to combine with other ingredients.

Remove from heat, add the basil, black pepper & cheese.  Toss and serve.

NJ Dining: Holsten’s

June 20, 2013

With news of James Gandolfini’s passing, I thought that I would pay respect to the man by bringing back some older content about the restaurant that will always be remembered for the place where the iconic TV series that defined the actor’s career met its end.  — JP

NEW: Click for Hi-Res Slide Show

1063 Broad St, Bloomfield, NJ
(973) 338-7091

Web Site:

Holsten’s, as depicted in the final scene of The Sopranos. (HBO)

There was a time back in the not so distant past where the typical activity for dating teenagers on a Friday or Saturday night was to head down to the local Ice Cream Parlor or Malt Shop, sit down at the counter, share an Ice Cream Soda or a malted with a hamburger and fries, and then go out and see a B picture at the drive-in. As my grandparents and my parents used to tell me, there once were many such malt and ice cream soda shops, but few of these American originals survive today.

One such place that seems to have resisted the destruction of these quaint landmarks of the 1950’s is Holsten’s, in Bloomfield. Opened in 1939, going there is literally like being sent back in a time machine to observe the social habits of pre-WWII and 1950’s American youth. The menu of ice cream treats and food items it serves are totally retro.

This is not by design like one of the newer established 50’s chains like Johnny Rockets or Cheeburger Cheeburger, but because it has ALWAYS been that way — it is the Real Deal in every respect. The prices are also remarkably cheap, and while there only are about a dozen or so varieties of ice cream, all of them are made in-house and are very fresh.

Holsten’s Storefront.

You don’t need to be the Jersey mob boss to appreciate the old-time ice cream at Holsten’s. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Florida Dining: Jersey Dawg

June 11, 2013

Jersey Dawg Food Truck
(305) 582-8849

Web Site:

Twitter: @jerseydawg201

Jersey Dawg Food Truck, parked in the Shell Station on the corner of Cypress Creek Road and Powerline in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

I’m frequently asked, “Is there life after Jersey?”

It was almost one year ago that Rachel and I packed up what remained of our belongings and set forth in a Volkswagen to South Florida. We got on the New Jersey Turnpike, and drove until it became I-95.

A week later, we found ourselves in the Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach area. Which we now call home.

I’ve made my choice and I’m very happy with it. The weather is fantastic, I have a lovely home. The food down here is great. I have no complaints.

Well, maybe one or two.

There are certain types of food items that are either difficult or impossible to find in South Florida. You either have to go to great lengths to get them, or they just plain do not exist. And there’s certain things I fully accepted I would never have again, unless I returned home.

Like New Jersey-style hot dogs and sliders.

I mean, you don’t even think such a thing would exist here, so you don’t go looking for it. Sure, we have some really good burger and dog places. We even have a food blogger down here that specializes in it. He’s practically a celeb.

But these are substitutes and not full-blown replacements. The only way you can replicate this kind of food is to have the exact ingredients and to prepare it exactly the same way. By someone who is intimately familiar with such things.

So when I heard about Jersey Dawg, a new food truck that recently started doing Jersey-style hot dogs and sliders, I couldn’t wait. I hadn’t had either one in a year.

Yes, fairy tales can come true. It can happen to you. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Florida Dining: Announcing the Off The Broiler Meetup Group

June 1, 2013

If you’re a foodie based in South Florida, don’t miss out on our new Meetup group, Off The Broiler Dining Adventures. My plans for this new group are ambitious — I intend to have group dinners and special food events at least once per month, at restaurants and venues selected by yours truly.

Joining our Meetup group is free. As we did with previous dining events in the NY Metro Area, we’ll be planning dinners in Broward, Palm Beach and Dade County/Miami with set (as well as a la carte) menus and will need to secure reservations, so please be sure to notify the event organizers at least a day before if you need to cancel.

You must participate in this group to be notified of upcoming events and to reserve your places at these dinners, as we have no other way of tracking attendance.

Seattle Dining: 8oz Burger Bar

May 28, 2013

8oz Burger Bar
1401 Broadway  Seattle, Washington 98122
(206) 466-5989

Web Site:

I have often been told that my food phototographs resemble hardcore pornography, and it’s clear that there are primitive, sexual urges at work when I post on this blog.

Guilty. As. Charged.

Frankly, I don’t know any self-described foodies that also aren’t extremely sexual people. The love of food and the love of sex are tightly interconnected things, because they both stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain.

It probably shouldn’t surprise you either that every person that I have met who has been involved in the porn industry in some form or another has been without exception, also a foodie.

And so it came to pass that a few years ago, in the course of my writings for ZDNet, I made the acquaintance of the founders of MiKandi, an independent, Seattle-based app store for Android smartphones and tablets. And I quickly found out these people are also hardcore foodies.

[Did I neglect to mention that MiKandi also specializes in porn applications and content for your Droids? No? Alrighty then.] 

So whenever I’m in Seattle, and I want to find seriously good places to eat, and people to share it with me, the first person I call is Jen McEwan, co-founder of MiKandi.

“You really should check out the 8oz Burger Bar on Capitol Hill.”

I’m thinking, okay, burgers. I mean, I love burgers, but it doesn’t sound particularly exotic or sexual. Not like say, Sushi, or classic French cuisine. But hey, if Jen likes them, they must make one hell of a burger.

Main Dining Room at 8oz Burger Bar in Seattle, Washington.

Indeed, burgers can be sexual. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Florida Dining: Zuma

May 11, 2013

270 Biscayne Boulevard Way
Miami, FL (Located in the Epic Hotel)
(305) 577-0277

Web Site:

Since I’ve moved down to South Florida I have been concentrating more on the “ethnic eats” rather than the fine dining aspect of food blogging. But as I’ve been having more and more business meetings in Miami, I’m starting to get exposed more towards the high-end cuisine offerings here.

I recently had the opportunity to dine at Zuma, which bills itself as “modern Japanese”. Zuma is part of the Azumi restaurant group, which has branches of Zuma in different parts of the world, including London, Hong Hong, Istanbul, Dubai, Miami and Bangkok.

My understanding is that the original Zuma restaurant in London was a partnership of two very wealthy Indian businessmen who had dined at the London branch of Nobu and decided that they could create a similar concept restaurant on their own. Certainly Zuma is very “Nobu-esque” in its menu format (including the miso black cod that every high-end Japanese restaurant seems to copy from Nobu these days) and also overall presentation.

I will also state I have no idea what anything at this restaurant costs. I was treated to lunch here by a very generous client, and I never saw any prices because I never looked at the menu, someone else did the ordering, and the online menu has no prices either. So if your interest is piqued in dining here, just take that into consideration.

The bar area of the Miami outpost of Zuma. This is one of the few dining room photos I was able to take, as the management got quite annoyed with me after observing me just taking a few casual shots of the general dining area and told me to put my camera away.

Nobu too rich for your blood? Well, so is this. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Florida Dining: Versailles

May 10, 2013

Versailles Restaurant
3555 SW 8th St Miami, FL 33135
(305) 444-0240

Web Site:

Full-size photo gallery available on Flickr

If there’s one iconic Cuban restaurant in Miami, and if you ask anyone where the center of activity is for food on Calle Ocho past 9PM, then that place is Versailles.

Like the French palace from which it gets its name, Versailles is a HUGE restaurant. On weekends and in prime dining hours the place gets absolutely packed with people, including large number of out of towners looking for authentic Cuban food.

This is where Cuban food gets real in Miami. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 243 other followers