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

Directions:

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.


NYC Dining: Ann & Tony’s

July 9, 2009

Ann & Tony’s
2407 Arthur Avenue, Bronx NY 10458
(718) 933-1469

Web Site: http://www.annandtonysonline.com

Ann & Tony's, Bronx NY by you.

Ann & Tony’s restaurant in the Arthur Avenue section of Belmont in the Bronx is one of the oldest continually operating Italian restaurants in the borough, dating back to the 1920s.

Twitter is a very interesting phenomenon. I’ve only really started using it in the last year, initially as way of sending automatic updates from OTB and Tech Broiler to people who actually cared about using the service. A year ago, I thought the idea was pretty pointless, with these limited 140-character messages that people send out that everyone on the Internet can see, which seemed to focus on fairly dumb, exhibitionist status updates such as “eating a Cannoli” or “This alfredo sauce is @#$%ing awesome dude!” so I stayed away from issuing my own updates because I didn’t want to look like a total ass. I knew a lot of people were LOOKING at Twitter, but I didn’t feel like engaging in it beyond the “let’s feed my blog updates into it and see how it goes” capacity.

But then something else happened. I joined FaceBook, which hooked me up with a lot of old friends and many other foodie and technology industry colleagues. But FaceBook, like Twitter, requires you to enter updates about what is going on with your daily life to make your friends feel like you haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. So if I was now committing to doing FaceBook updates, I might as well start updating my Twitter as well. So I downloaded Twitter software for my Blackberry and my PC and started sending updates to Twitter, and automatically syncing those to FaceBook.

So now I’m addicted to Twitter. I have TweetDeck running constantly in the background on my PC and whenever I’m traveling I have TinyTwitter running on my BlackBerry. When people have questions, such as when Eater “Retwittered” a particular person’s inquiry about where to eat in the Bronx on Arthur Avenue, I offered up some advice. No later than 10 minutes afterward, I get a message from Twitterer @RalphNapolitano:

ralphnapolitano by you.@jperlow saw your tweet about Arthur Ave. When are you coming to eat in my restaurant…LOL!!!

So I look Ralph up. Along with this brother Anthony, he Co-owns Ann & Tony’s, one of the many Italian-American restaurants on Arthur Avenue. Normally, when restaurateurs want me to come visit, I usually get  an email extending an invite to an open house or a press event, or sometimes even a phone call from a publicist, but receiving a challenge over Twitter to come eat was a first. Okay, then, I’ll play. What kind of guy broadcasts a message like that to the entire Internet and not expect a serious foodie like myself to take him up on it?

I told him I was coming over that very evening, with hungry wife and friend in tow, and he had better be ready to face the consequences if the food wasn’t any good.

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NYC Dining: Roberto

August 6, 2008

Roberto Restaurant
603 Crescent Avenue, Bronx NY 10458
718-733-9503

Web Site: http://www.usmenuguide.com/Robertos.htm

Rachel and I have been dining at Roberto for many years now, so much that it has become part of our Arthur Avenue “routine” — Shop at the Retail Market for specialty items, hit Teitel Brothers for bulk goods, go buy bread (and cannoli) at Madonia, grab some raw clams at Cosenza’s, hit the Cheese Shop, and then go have dinner — EARLY! — at Roberto. Notice that I emphasize the “Early” part. The restaurant gets into full swing at around 6PM, and unless you get there by 5:30 or so, you’re going to have to wait a bit for a table. It is by far the most fine dining of the Italian American restaurants in the Belmont area, and I think it compares quite favorably with some of the very best Italian choices in Manhattan.

Roberto's, Bronx NY by you.

Storefront on Crescent Avenue.

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NYC Dining: Umberto’s Clam House Bronx

August 6, 2008

Umberto’s Clam House Bronx
2356 Arthur Avenue, Bronx NY 10458
718-220-CLAM (2526)

Web Site: http://www.umbertosclamhousebronx.com/

My parents were recently visiting from their home in Florida, and asked us where we could go get some brunch. Given the fact that Rachel and I are trying to avoid brunchy, carb-laden stuff, I suggested we go to Arthur Avenue, do a little window shopping and try Umberto’s Clam House, a seafood restaurant that is open for lunch on Saturdays. Umberto’s is also based out of Manhattan’s Little Italy, but as a result of the “Chinatownification” of the Little Italy that most people are familiar with, they decided to open an outpost in the Bronx, where the “real” Little Italy is now.

Umberto’s on Arthur Avenue.

Umberto's Clam House, Bronx NY by you.

Umberto’s Main Dining Room.

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Cape Cod Dining: Ardeo

May 29, 2008

Ardeo Restaurants
Cape Cod, Massachusetts (Various Locations in Yarmouth, Hyannis, Brewster)

Web Site: http://www.ardeocapecod.com

In New England, one cannot live on traditional baked and fried and steamed seafood alone. But we were still in the mood for some good local fish and shellfish, prepared in a different fashion and in a healthier way. It was our good fortune that we came across Ardeo, a local chain of Mediterranean-style restaurants that specialize in Lebanese, Greek and Italian cuisine.

The Union Plaza location in Yarmouth is the original, and we happened upon it after a long day of museuming and shopping, and I am happy to note that they are able to accommodate requests to make dishes healthier when asked. A word of warning however — ordering the”Sauteed” calamari will result in them bringing you FRIED calamari sauteed in an al oglio garlic sauce over greens. Don’t get me wrong, it looked awesome — but as my grandmother Slyvia Perlow used to say, “It’s not for us, Jack”.

The original Ardeo location in Yarmouth.

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San Jose Dining: Original Joe’s

April 5, 2008

Original Joe’s Italian Restaurant
301 S. First Street, San Jose, CA 95113
1-888-841-7030

Web Site: http://www.originaljoes.com/

On our third night in the Silicon Valley area, Cheryl told me she was ready for something hearty and suggested Italian Food. I hadn’t eaten a really decent Italian-American meal since I more or less gave up on pasta when I burned my lifetime Fat Pack membership card, so I figured I would treat myself to a nice basic red sauce dish. One place that I knew we definitely wouldn’t be disappointed in was Original Joe’s, which is near the downtown San Jose Convention Center on First Street.

I have been to Original Joe’s on a number of occasions, pretty much exclusively when the summer IDG LinuxWorld Expo used to be in San Jose before they moved the show to Moscone Center in San Francisco — a tragic mistake on part of IDG, in my opinion. The nearby Fairmont Hotel where I used to stay during LinuxWorld made Original Joe’s a convenient place to eat. It’s not fancy stuff, just traditional red sauce classics and steaks and chops, but they know how to do it properly and do it well. They’ve been in business for over 50 years, and the atmosphere is unique — its sort of a Steakhouse-cum-diner-cum-wine bar-cum-Italian mobster hangout. Its always very busy and the place is huge inside, and it’s got a really loud vibe. I love it.

In September of 2007, the restaurant closed for three months and underwent a major renovation. It’s less edgy than it used to be, with hardwood accents and a classier new “speakeasy” look, but in many ways its still the same good ‘ol Original Joe’s I remember from years ago. The food and drink does not disappoint.

The entrance to the restaurant on First.

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