Category Archives: Miscellaneous

The New York City Bodega

The New York City Bodega
In Spanish, bodega can mean food warehouse, wine cellar or grocery store. In New York City, a bodega is a Latino run grocery/convenience store/neighborhood meeting place. (Maybe not exclusively Latino run anymore, sometimes Middle-Eastern now.) Even Taylor Swift weighed in on them – see below.
Beyond those red on yellow signs, besides groceries, you can get cigarettes, coffee, beer, sandwiches, local news, productos tropicales, and sometimes, nutcracker and a loose joint.
Lately, The New York City Bodega has become news. Some West Coast techies think they have a better idea. There  was a recent NY Daily News article by the president of the Bodega Assn, of the United States dealing with them:

New York City Bodega

New York City Bodega

New York City Bodega

As New York’s Welcome Ambassador (?), Taylor Swift told the world about our bodegas.

Here’s another article on the same topic:

New York YIMBY – Why Bodegas Are Crucial To The Continued Success of New York City Real EstateNew York City Bodega

Rhythm and Power

Rhythm and Power

Salsa in New York – now until November 26, 2017Rhythm and Power


The story of New York salsa—an up-tempo performance of percussive Latin music and Afro-Caribbean-infused dance—is one of cultural fusion, artistry, and skilled marketing. Rhythm & Power: Salsa in New York illuminates salsa as a social movement from the 1960s to the present, exploring how immigrant and migrant communities in New York City — most notably from Cuba and Puerto Rico — nurtured and developed salsa, growing it from a local movement playing out in the city’s streets and clubs into a global phenomenon. The exhibition also looks at the role of record companies and stores in supporting and promoting the movement, and salsa’s often-overlooked ties to activism in the city. Rhythm & Power features dance costumes and musical instruments from some of salsa’s leading figures, as well as audio and video that bring the sounds and movement of salsa to life.

Rhythm and Power

I donated some of my photos from the early days of Salsa in New York for use in the exhibit and on promotional literature.
Rhythm and Power
Eddie Palmieri and Patato at the Beacon Theater, NYC – 1977

Jamming on Bethesda Terrace

Rhythm and Power

Go to the Museum’s website for full program details.

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Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp

A Buttered Roll

 Buttered Roll
A Buttered Roll
I didn’t realize it until I read it in the New York Times this morning that one of my standard breakfasts is something typically New York. You can get a buttered roll and coffee at any street cart or deli and what more would you need to start your day? A buttered roll isn’t sticky like a Danish or greasy like an egg sandwich and it doesn’t make crumbs like a muffin. So, it’s the perfect breakfast.
Here it is in the Times


Buttered RollButtered Roll

Robert Iulo – Writing Site and  Yelp

New York Times Eggplant Favorites

 New York Times Eggplant Favorites

There’s a good article in the NYT Food Section by David Tanis. He gives a brief history of eggplant and it’s use in Sicilian cuisine. And what he says about eggplant in Sicily applies to lots of Southern Italian areas – it’s a staple and used in many different ways and the recipes have many variations.

Article –  Eggplant Favorites, Rooted in Sicily

– Recipes –

Pasta alla Norma


Baked Eggplant


Arthur Avenue, The Bronx

Arthur Avenue, The Bronx
Arthur Avenue is the Bronx’s Little Italy’s shopping street. A few tourists find their way there but most of the shoppers on Arthur Avenue know what they’re buying and intend to take it home and make a meal of it. The Arthur Avenue food stores sell products that you can’t get just anywhere. And they’re products that are necessary for an Italian kitchen.
Last week my sister Nicki and I went to pick up a few things. We came home with bacalla, liver sausage, soprasade, olive oil, ricotta salada, fruselle, biscotti, tripe, and some very fresh fruit  and vegatables. There aren’t many places where you can get all that within a block or two. Plus we snacked on clams on the half-shell, ate lunch at a great restaurant (Emilia’s) and later got some fresh baked sfogliatelle and espresso.



Cosenza’s Fish Market – sidewalk raw bar


Calabria Pork Store – dried and fresh sauage


Teitel Brothers

Medonia Brother’s Bakery


Biancardi’s Butcher


Arthur Avenue Retail Market

One of the results of our shopping trip on Arthur Ave.20161204_180655

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Some Simple Kitchen Tips II

Some Simple Kitchen Tips  II

Powdered red pepper – Grind standard red pepper flakes in a blender until powered, Basilicata style. Be careful not to inhale when you uncover the blender or you’ll cough like a cat with a hairball.


Raisins – If a recipe calls for raisins never use black ones (they just don’t look appetizing.)   Always use golden and you can alternate with dried currants.


Ravioli – My mother, aunts and grandmother never used anything but a ricotta mix for stuffing. Since we never ate in Italian restaurants I didn’t know they could be made with meat or anything  else (pumpkin?) until I was almost an adult. My family’s ravioli were square, large, sealed by crimping with a fork and laid out on cotton sheets on the dining room table and the bed to dry before cooking. You can get good ones at Piemonte on Grand near Mulberry Streets or


Roasted Peppers – Char peppers over a gas burner set on high, turning frequently, until skin is blackened and blistered on all sides. Transfer to bag or a bowl and cover tightly; let stand  for 10 or 15 minutes. Rub skin off peppers with the back edge of a knife (without rinsing), remove and discard cores and seeds. Don’t worry about some of the black char remaining on the pieces.


Rustica – If, for instance, the recipe says peel, seed and finely dice tomatoes and you don’t have time, don’t peel or seed, just give them a rough chop and add the words “ala rustica” to the name of the dish. It means “country style” so you can avoid a lot of fussiness.


Salt & Pepper – It goes without saying that it should be added in layers as you add ingredients to a recipe.

salt and pepper

Seasoning a cast iron pan –  Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat the cooking surface of the pan with a thin layer of Crisco and put it in the oven, upside down, for 1 hour. Put a foil covered baking sheet under it to catch any drippings. Let it cool in the oven for about another hour and it’s done. If it’s sticky, heat it for another ½ hour. If it’s not an even coat, do the whole process again.


Stew – If wine is called for in red meat stew, Cote du Rhone is recommended.

cote du rhone

Tomatoes – More than acceptable to use canned if they are San Marzano and there are no other ingredients added to the can.

san marzano

To peel and seed fresh tomatoes – drop tomato in boiling water and wait until the outer thin skin cracks. Peel it. Cut it on the equator and take each half, squeeze and shake out the seeds. Cut off the stem end and remove some of the core.

Trinity – (the base for lots of recipes) – Equal parts chopped celery, carrots and  onions (with garlic & parsley also known by some Italians as balluto or sofritto). Saute until soft.  For a Cajun or Creole trinity replace the carrots with green bell pepper.


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NPR Article on Depression Era Diet

An interesting NPR article on the Depression era diet and an interview with the authors of “A Square Meal.”


Creamed, Canned And Frozen: How The Great Depression Revamped U.S. Diets


The food that Italian immigrants ate was certainly cheap and delicious and highly nutritious… And they would go out and collect dandelion greens, take them home, and saute them in a little olive oil… You want vitamins, there’s a great source of vitamins! …they had great pasta dishes, which were very good, filled with flavor and filled with nutrients. It’s tragic that we didn’t look to their example for foods to eat during the Great Depression, but that wasn’t “science,” and also that was “un-American.”

The Frying Pan – AS SEEN ON TV

The Frying Pan – AS SEEN ON TV

I don’t usually fall for those late night TV commercials, you know, the ones saying things like,  buy one, get one free, but wait there’s more and, act now for free shipping. I once bought this pair of super special driving sunglasses. I actually bought one and got one free. They were supposed to cut glare, help you see through haze and a few other things. The first time I wore them a lens fell out. Then the ear-piece broke off of the second “free” pair.

But even after that, the Gotham Steel frying pan commercial got to me. There’s this fast talking English chef, cooking all sorts of things with it. Trying to burn and scrape it, but nothing bad ever happens. Burnt food just slides off and nothing seems to damage the coating.  I saw the commercial a few times and I couldn’t resist. I forgot about the lousy sun glasses and went on line and bought one. I felt a little stupid but, what the hell, $19.99 plus shipping and handling, it was worth a try.

About a week later it arrived in the mail.  It looked pretty good – solid and shiny. I started with something simple – hamburgers – and they were perfect. I’ve used it for other things since and it never let me down.


The pan was everything they said. Here’s a screen shot from their site listing its “Features and Benefits” and you can see, it’s even PTFE/FOA/PFOS FREE, whatever that means.

Features and Benefits

Gotham Steel™ Pans _ The newest non-stick cookware made with ceramic and tit_Page_3
Another screen shot from the Gotham Steel site featuring Chef Daniel Green


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Some Simple Kitchen Tips

Some Simple Kitchen Tips

Anchovies – Lots of people don’t like them but when dissolved and used as a spice in a recipe most people can’t tell that they’re eating anchovies. It’s all about umami.anchovies

Basic Salernitano Rules (from Grandma):

  • Red onions are better left raw. Don’t cook them unless you have to.
  • Don’t overdo it with the aromatics, i.e. if you’re using garlic as a base, don’t add onions, especially in red sauce.
  • The same is true for basilico and oregano – try to stick to one or the other. Typically, basilico with red meat and oregano with chicken & fish.
  • If your bread needs butter to be edible maybe you should be buying better bread.
My grandmother with my aunt and uncle at her grocery store on Mott Street
My grandmother, Nicolina, with my aunt and uncle at her grocery store on Mott Street

Bouquet garni – 3 sprigs each, rosemary or parsley and thyme tied around 3 bay leaves.

boquet garni

Breadcrumbs If you don’t make your own (a blender and two day old bread – simple) always buy unseasoned breadcrumbs and use your own seasoning.  To toast – put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy frying pan on medium heat.  Add a cup of the unseasoned bread crumbs and keep them moving until they darken.  Don’t walk away to do something else because they’ll burn.  When they reach the right color remove them from the pan immediately or they’ll keep cooking.  They should smell like toast, not burnt toast.  You can use this on many pastas in place of cheese and there are some sauces where you can only use toasted breadcrumbs – fish sauces like pasta con sarde or baccala.


Browning meat – just put small batches in the pan. If you crowd it, instead of browning, it steams.

browning meat

Eggplant – for almost all eggplant recipes:

“Peel the eggplants but leave some of the skin on to ‘hold them together.’ Slice them into rounds and place the slices into a scolo pasta (colander). Salt the eggplants and place a heavy plate on top and set the colander in the sink for about 1/2 hour.” – Nicki Filipponi


Grated cheese – Use Parmigiana, Loccatelli, Romano or whatever you like but don’t think you can put it on everything because it can conflict with and overpower delicate flavors. If you really want cheese, eat a piece of cheese.


Oil – when a recipe calls for oil, it’s always regular olive oil unless otherwise specified. Only use extra virgin when it’s not going to be cooked because it burns and looses its fresh taste at a very low temperature.images4SG1W92H

Parsley – always flat leaf/Italian. Even French cooks use it because curly/French parsley has no taste.


Pasta –  First, use more water than you’d think you’d need, about four quarts for one pound. Add a lot of salt, at least 2 tablespoons (it can only absorb so much). Pick a pasta shape that compliments the sauce. Cook it until it’s done the way you like it and don’t worry about the Al Dente Police raiding your kitchen.


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