The Bavarian Inn, Café Geiger, Kline Konditori, the Berlin Bar and many others are gone. The last man standing is the Heidelberg Restaurant. It’s the only German restaurant left in what used to be New York City’s ‘Germantown’ on the Upper East Side. Times change and neighborhoods evolve but I’m glad the Heidelberg is still the same. The construction of the Second Avenue subway is disrupting businesses along its route. Many couldn’t handle it and closed their doors. Fortunately the Heidelberg is weathering the storm. I went for lunch one day toward the beginning of the subway project and saw construction trailers installed in front of the restaurant. When I got to the door there was a disheartening sign saying ‘Closed for Renovation.’ I was afraid that was the end of my favorite German restaurant. But no, when I went back a month later they were open and except for some fresh paint and new tables, no real change. The menu was the same with its wursts and schnitzels, and beer, oh what beer!
One of my favorite meals for a group of six or so is the Stammtisch – “House Table Plate.” It includes:
Blutwurst, Leberwurst, Black Forest bacon, Bratwurst, Kasseler Rippchen, Tongue, Leberkäse, and Schweinshaxe. Served with boiled potato, potato pancake, sauerkraut, and red cabbage
If you go during the day when their neighbor Schaller & Weber’s German butcher is open and you order steak tartar, the chef will go next door and have them grind the sirloin fresh. They also have an extensive dessert selection, very good coffee and a variety of schnaps for after dinner.
This is just about the height of La Cucina Povera. What’s less expensive and more filling than pasta and potatoes to feed a hungry family? My mother made this fairly often because it was a family tradition but would never serve it to guests – it wasn’t good enough. She pronounced it in Napolitano dialect as basta badon. It’s really a minestra, that is, sort of a soupy pasta with vegatables.
A quarter pound of meat for a little protein and extra flavor – some parsley to give a bit of color to a white on white dish, and there you have it. Recently my teenage granddaughter Molly came for dinner with a group of her hungry friends. We served six or seven courses with this as the pasta course. Of course it didn’t have the traditional poverty connotation for them and they said it was their favorite course of the dinner. Food doesn’t have to be expensive to be good.
¼ lb pancetta (or prosciutto) cut into small pieces
1 medium onion
4 small tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
3 Idaho potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes
salt & black pepper
1 lb small pasta
5 oz parmesan cheese
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
Sautee the pancetta and chopped onions until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and stir until they release their juice. Add potatoes and mix. Cover just barely with water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are almost done. Remove about 1 cup of the soup, puree it and return it to the pot.
Drain the pasta when it is almost done, saving the water. Add the pasta to the soup to finish cooking and also add as much pasta water as you need to make a soupy consistency. Mix in the cheese. Sprinkle with parsley for a little color and serve with additional parmesan cheese.
When I was growing up the standard after dinner question was, “Who wants brown or black?” Brown being American coffee, usually Maxwell House and black was espresso. Our brand was Medaglia D’Oro and I still use it. We started drinking coffee very young. I remember my little China cup filled with half coffee and half milk and some sugar. Kids were allowed milk in espresso. Adults used Anisette.
Not long ago we offered espresso to some guests and one said, “Oh, you have an espresso machine.” I told him we didn’t have an espresso machine but we didn’t need one because we had a Napoletana Macchinetta. Macchinetta actually means ‘little machine.’
Fill the top with water, put the coffee grounds in the screw in filter and place the pot on the stove upside down. When you hear it boil, turn it right side up. A vacuum is created that forces the hot water through the grounds making a rich brew.
It’s not the only type of espresso maker. I have some others.
If I ever get a full-sized espresso machine, I’d like one like this –
My grandfather Dominic came to America in 1905. He traveled from Reggio di Calabria to Naples where he boarded the Liguria which brought him to New York. The voyage took two weeks and the ship held 1050 passengers. 50 1st and 2nd class on the upper decks and 1000 immigrants in steerage class on a deck just below the water line. I found this picture of his ship on the Ellis Island database .
I also got to see the page of the ship’s manifest that he was listed on. It indicates that he had $30.00 when he arrived in the USA. The minimum an immigrant had to have to enter the country at that time was $25.00. He sold Italian groceries and fruit. My mother grew up living over the grocery store at 282 Mott Street in New York’s Little Italy.
My wife Bridget and I went to four bars in the New Orleans’ French Quarter to try Sazeracs and take away the best recipe. This was our favorite but after four Sazeracs I could only remember the recipe and not the name of the bar where I got it – maybe the Hotel Monteleone? Ingredients:
Preparation: Put ½ shot of Anisette in a small rocks glass. Coat the sides of the glass with it and then add some ice. In another small rocks glass add: a few dashes of Peychauds Bitters and 1 tsp of simple syrup. Mix, add ice and stir. Add a shot of rye and stir. Empty ice and excess Anisette from 1st rocks glass and strain mix of Peychauds, syrup and rye into it. Float a few dashes of Angostura on top. Serve cold without ice. Three aromatics, sugar and Rye – that’s a Sazerac.
*Simple syrup – Heat one cup of sugar in one cup of water. Stir until it’s clear and liquid.
This is a round whole wheat loaf, baked, cut in half, then baked again. It’s thin, very dry, crisp and crumbly. It’s about 6 or 7 inches across. You can get them in a good bakery in Bensonhurst in Brooklyn or on Arthur Ave. in the Bronx.
Dip it in, or hold it under running hot water to soften it a little. Shake off excess water. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and dried oregano and drizzle with oil. You can stop right there and eat it as is or you can add:
sun dried or fresh tomatoes,
shavings or provolone or parmigiana,
red pepper flakes,
etc. (you get the idea)
Serve it with a knife and fork like any open face sandwich. I’d be very surprised to ever see this on a restaurant menu.
“If you get the knack immediately, these are the easiest and prettiest desserts to make; if you don’t – you are doomed.” – Nicki
In order to make the rosettes you must have the “irons”. These can be purchased in any good house ware store. Irons come in different shapes and sizes, but I only use the rosette shape, probably because it is the only one I have had for the past 30 years.
Mix all the ingredients well in a small bowl. Let it stand for five minutes. Place Crisco (not oil or butter, nothing but Crisco. I once tried vegetable oil and had to throw them away. I was not happy, so don’t even try anything but Crisco. I don’t know why it works so well, but if it was good enough for my mother and it works, it’s good enough for me.) in a deep frying pan. The Crisco must be very hot and deep enough to submerge the iron to heat it thoroughly.
When the iron is very hot take it out of the Crisco and put it into the batter. IMPORTANT: Do not cover the top of the iron with the batter, just up to the rim. Then dip the batter-covered iron into the hot Crisco. Hold the handle steady and the batter will fry and the rosette will come off the iron. They may need a little coaxing with a fork. Immediately dip the iron back into the batter. (If the Crisco is hot enough, the iron is hot enough and the gods are with you this will go very smoothly.) Turn the rosettes when they are golden. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Place the drained rosettes in a pretty platter, drizzle them with honey and a good dusting of powdered sugar. They are crisp delights and go well with Asti.