Monday, November 23, 2015

Sicilian Christmas Pizza Sfincione

Panificio Graziano ..  Palermo Sicily
Sfincione (Cristmas Pizza) is a special treat served at The Feast of SanGiovanni in San Giovanni Sicily on Christmas Eve, new Years, and Good Friday .. Sfincione is one of Palermo's most popular dishes along with Pane e Milza also known as Vastedda a sandiwhc made with Beef Spleen Ricotta & Caciocavallo Cheese. Sfincione is quite different from the hugely popular Neapolitan Pizza that everyone knows. Very few people know about real Scilian Pizza which is Sfincione and not the so-called Sicilian Pizza of America which like the real Sicilian Pizza Sfincione, American Sicilian Pizza is made in a pan and has a thick crust and is topped with tomato and mozzarella like Neapolitan Pizza .. Sfincione is topped with a breadcrumb topping that is made with onions sauteed with anchovies and has a little bit of grated Parmigiano in the breadcrumb mixture that is baked on top of the dough. Sficione is quite tasty and unique and if you ever have the chance to eat it, if you're in Plaermo or other parts of Sicily or in one of the few places that makes it in the States, like Ben's Pizzeria on Spring Street in Soho, New York, NY  ... If you can't find it, you might want to take the task of making it yourself and it would be quite a treat to eat in you no-meat Christmas Eve Feast whether you are makeing the Christmas Eve Feast of The 7 Fish, called La Vigilia, which is the Vigil of waiting for the Birth of The Baby Jesus .. And it doesn't have to be Christmas for you to make it, in Palermo they enjoy all year roudn every day of the year where it's served in Panfico (bakeries) or on the street as one of Palermo's most popular strret foods, it's absolutely awesome and a real special unique treat to eat. Bon Appetito e Mangia Bene Sempre ...
  • 3 cups All-Purpose Flour 
  • 1 + 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons to 1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water*
  • Topping
  • 3 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • olive oil, for sauteing
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper
  • 28-ounce can chopped or diced tomatoes
  • 3 or 4 anchovies, chopped, optional
  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 + 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs, like Panko or seasoned Italian
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons oregano, divided
1. Combine all of the crust ingredients and mix and knead to make a smooth, soft dough, using a stand mixer, bread machine, or your hands.  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and allow it to rise until puffy about 90 minutes.  3. While the dough rises get your toppings ready. Fry the onions in a large skillet over medium heat with a few tablespoons of olive oil, sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Stir every five minutes until browned, about 25-30 minutes.  4. Add in the tomatoes, anchovies and a teaspoon of oregano, simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool.  5. Stir together the bread crumbs, oil and oregano, set aside.  6. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet (a 13″ x 18″ half sheet pan) with non-stick spray. Drizzle it with olive oil, tilting the pan so the oil spreads out a bit.  7. Gently deflate the risen dough, and stretch it into an oval in your hands. Put it on the baking sheet and gently knead and stretch it out to fit the pan. If you have a hard time stretching it leave it alone for five minutes and try again.  8. Cover the dough, and let it rise again for about 90 minutes.  9. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Uncover the dough and sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over top, then spread the tomato/onion sauce over top, sprinkle with Parmesan, then the bread crumbs.  10. Bake the pizza for 35 minutes, or until the crust and crumbs are brown. Remove from the oven and let set for 5 minutes before slicing. To keep the crust crispy cut pizza in half or in quarters and place on a wire cooling rack. Slices can be cut with kitchen shears. Serve hot or cold. 
Real Sicilian Pizza
The FEAST of The 7 FISH
Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know
About The Italian Christmas Feast of The 7 Fish
But Were Afraid to Ask
by Daniel Bellino Z

Sunday, November 22, 2015


How to Make Italian Meatballs




Saturday, November 21, 2015

Amazing Breakfast on The Amalfi Coast

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My Breakfast at Villa Maria Agroturismo, Minori

"Yes the Breakfast was amazing and trully the best of my life. How can it not be, look where I was sitting."  Perched hi atop the town of Minori on the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy, "My God!" I had the most beautiful view imagineable on the terrazzo at Villa Maria Agroturismo looking down on the lovely seaside town of Minori with Ravello higher up the mountian and to the right. My breakfast, The BEst in The World. Well the best breakfast I've ever had; nice hot Coffee, Amalfi Lemon Cake, fresh Sfogliatelle, fresh fruit, toast and 10 different Homemade Jams made my Vincenzo and Maria with fruit from there farm. What could be better? Not much I tell you!

The World's Best Breakfast? Yes, well maybe. Or maybe not, but for me, the best breakfast I've ever had in my life. I came across Villa Maria Agroturismo when I was watching vidoes of Sicily and The Amalfi Coast on Youtube one night. I was getting ready to go on my trip and I was just looking for inspritation and a way to psych myself for my upcomong vacation. I just happened upon this video made by David Rocco. David Rocco is a Celebrity Chef from Toronto and he had done a series of food & wine videos on Italy. This particular one that I came across was about this wonderful little agroturismo Lemon Grove Farm in Minaori Italy on The Amalfi Coast called Villa Maria Agroturismo. Well I loved the video and fell in love with this place and the people who run it, husband and wife team Vincenzo & Maria. Vincenzo tends to his farm which is mainly a wonderful Lemon farm, but Vincenzo also has a good number of Olive Trees to make olive oil, he has grapevines from which he gets grapes to make a wonderful red wine and a white as well, he grows all sorts of fruits and vegetables, he has chickens for eggs and meat, as well as pigs so he can make his own homemade Salami and Prosciutto.
Yes Vincenzo takes care of the farm and he also runs his little inn agrosturismo that has 6 lovely little rooms way up in the mountain top of Minori. They also have a nice little restauarnt that you eat, yes the world's best breakfast and a marvelous 4 Course Dinner every night made my Maria with all the food made from products from their farm; Salami, Wine, Olive Oil, fruits and vegetbles, Pork Chops, Frittata (eggs) etc.. You'll not get a better meal anywhere, I promise you.

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View of Minori From VILLA MARIA

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Lemon Grove, Villa Maria Agroturismo, Minori Italy

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Pacceri Frutta di Mare  .. My Lunch Vilal Maria, the day I arrived ...






Monday, November 16, 2015





Learn How to Make Spaghetti & MEatballs and Meatball Parm Sandwiches in SUNDAY SAUCE by Daniel Bellino-Zwicke .. Recipes for Meatballs alla Sinatra, SUNDAY SAUCE alla CLEMENZA, Goodfellas Priosn Sauce and much more .. SUNDAY SAUCE - When Italian-Americans Cook ..

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Vasteddi Beef Spleen Sandwich New York Palermo

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Vasteddi Sandwich

Also Known as Vasteddi or Pane e Milza

Is a Specialty of Palermo, Sicily

Made of Beef Spleen w/ Ricotta & Caciocavllo Cheese

on a Sesame Seed Bun called Vastedda

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East Village .. NEW YORK NY

Vinny is on The Right (Sadly La Foccaceria Closed in 2010)

La Foccaceria? Oh where have you gonna? Well, i know. After more than 90 years in business, it was time to close the doors. And a sad day it was for thousands, including me. I first moved into the East Village in November 1982 .. I was working in another famed old New York Italian institution in The East Village, in John's (Since 1908) on East 12th Street right around the block from La Foccaceria .. La Foccaceria was a great little Sicilian Specialties restaurant on 1st Avenue between East 11th and East 12th Streets on the east side of First Avenue .. That was  the first spot where they opened the doors in 1914 ... I'm sorry to say, I never went to that one but to it's (La Foccaceria) 2nd locatoion a couple blocks south on 1st Avenue between East 7th Street and St.  Marks Place (E. 8th Street) on the east side of the avenue. The new La Foccaceria, run by one Vinny Bondi was jsut one block from my apartment at the corner of Avenue A and St. Marks Place. In 1982 to the East Village was on an up-swing in popularity and improvement from a sort of sub-ghetto of The Lower East Side. the neighborhood which was strongly Eastern European; Ukranian and Polish, mixed with Hispanics, Italians, and people of Jewish persuasion. At this point in time many rental apartments were quite cheap and the neighborhood was attracting artists, so-called wannabe actors and musicians and young people who wanted to live in Manhattan. In the East Village they could find an apartment (though not the best physically) at reasonable rates for the time, I did. Through a friend I was able to procure a 2 bedroom apartment for a mere $400 a month. Quite a bargain. I shared the apartment with my good friend jay F. for the first year in that apartment. Once he moved out, I kept the apartment for myself.    Hey, I'm getting off the beaten track. Yes back in 82 the East Village was an exciting and changing neighborhood, perfect for me and other young people just starting out in this great city of ours.     I was only paying $400 rent and had money to spend eating out. i used to eat at a Ukrainian Diner Odessa on Avenue A and Leskos as well, 2 doors down from Odessa. there I could get plates of home-made Perogis, fresh Keilbasi and other solid for for cheap. In the East Village there were a few old-school Italian holdovers like; John's were I was working as a waiter & Bartender at the time, Lanza's (now over 100 Years old), De Roberta's Italian Pastry (over 100 years old) Brunetta a great little Italian Restaruant I used to go to which was on the same block as the original La Foccaceria and there was the current La Foccaceria on 1st Ave near East 7th Street .. I went in to La Foccaceria one  day, I met Vinny and I loved it from the start. Vinny's father and mother had started the place way back in 1914 ... Vinny, I never asked his age, but he must have been in his late 60's at the time (1983). La Foccaceria served an array of wonderful dishes; all the usual pastas like; Lasagna, Spaghetti & Meatballs, Spaghetti Vongole (Clam Sauce), and Sicilaian Maccheroni like; Pasta con Sardi and Lasagna Coccati, broken pieces of lasagna pasta baked with sausage,peas, tomato, and mozzarella. Vinny had great soups like Pasta Fagoli and the best Lentil & Escarole Soup around. He sold sandwiches like Chicken Parmigiano, Meatball Parm, Sausage & Peppers, and his most famous dish of all, the famed Vastedda Sandwich of Palermo. A Vastedda (Vastedde) Sandwich as we've said is a very famous sandwich that is a specialty in Palermo, is made with Beef Spleen (or Veal) with Ricoota and Cacciocavallo Cheese on a small Sesame Seeded Bun. It is quite wonderful and was a specialty of the house at Vinny's La Foccaceria. I just loved it, and at $1.60 per, even in 1982 it was one of New York's great prepared food bargains. The average price of a sandwich  back then was about $5.00, so at $1.60 per? Wow! I had tried most of the dishes at La Foccaceria in my first year eating there, but there was one that I loved by far most of all. Yes, the Vastedde. Most times I would have a Vastedde and a bowl of Vinny's wonderful Lentil & escarole Soup, the best I have ever had. If it was Thursday or Saturday, the days that Vinny made Arancini (Sicilian Rice Balls) and Sfingione (True Sicilian Pizza), I might get a piece of Sfingione and Lentil & Escarole Soup, or Sfingione, a Vastedde, and Soup. Yeah!  Boy did I love Vinny's. There was nothing like those Vastedde and Vinny making them. Vinny had a special stattion at a counter up front of the place where he cut the cooked Beef Spleen, fry it in lard, cut the bun, cut some Cacciocavallo, he'd lay the spleen on the bun, add some Ricotta, and sprinkle the cut Cacciocavallo Cheese over the top. Yumm! And I'd have a little chat with Vinny as he made my Vastedde right before my eyes. When i ordered it, all I had to say to Vinny, was, "One with everything." That meant everything; the spleen, Ricotta and Cacciocavallo. Some people would order them minus the spleen. Why? Amateurs. Sadly, Vinny closed his Foccaceria a few years ago. it was a sad day for me, no more Vinny, no more La Foccaceria, no more Vastedde. Ode to La Foccaceria Ode to My Pal Vinny Ode to My Beloved Vastedde, I Will Miss You All So



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Ferdinando's Focacceria 

Union Avenue, Carrol gardens Brooklyn, New York

Ferdinadno's is the Only Place to Get a Good Vasteddi Sandwich Left in New York

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Sunday, November 15, 2015





Our Pal Gianni makes an awesome Sunday Gravy and we just love his passion. This recipe is for the Gravy that his Mom and Aunt Fran would make when Gianni was growing up in New Jersey where they make along with New York the Best Sunday Sauce Gravy to be found on the planet .. 



This Sunday Sauce video is from our friend Daniel Bellino, author of Sunday Sauce - 
When Italian-Americans Cook  ... We love Daniel's book, his Sunday Sauce (Gravy) recipe, and especially Daniel's great passion and love for Italian-American food and the rituals within ... Daniel just like our buddy Gianni is "The Real Deal," and these guys are both Italian-Americans from Jersey, one of the strongest Italian enclaves in the country. Bravo Daniele ! Bravo Gianni !


Carla mkaes an Awesome Sunday Gravy .. She's so Sweet, we just Love her. Her and her awesome Gravy Napolitan .. Brava Carla !!!


This girl just cracks us up .. And she's from Jersey .. We swear, we didn't plan this, but we realize most of the best Sunday Sauce gravy recipes come from New Jersey, more than anywhere else in the country, even Brooklyn and the rest of New York .. Well I guess Jersey Wins Top Prize for The Best SUNDAY GRAVY in All of America ..




Cousin's Antony & Daniel make an awesome SUNDAY SAUCE with Sausage, Meatballs. and Pork Spare Ribs .. We just love it .. Here they make this Gravy at Tony's father's house in Lodi, New Jersey which was at one time 100% Italian, mostly from Sicily and Napoli  .. Tony & Daniel's grandfather and grandmother were from Lercara Friddi Sicily, the same town that one Charles "Lucky" Lucciano was from, as well as another Jersey Boy named one Francis Albert Sinatra (Frank Sinatra) ...

Excerpted from SUNDAY SAUCE - When Italian-American Cook 
Of all the fine traditions of the Italian-American enclave in the United State, the Sunday afternoon ritual  of making  and eating a Sunday  Sauce, a.k.a. “Gravy” is Italian-America’s most Time-Honored of all. Mamma, Grandma (Nonna) will make her celebrated “Sunday Sauce” and all is glorious. Sunday Sauce? What is it? Well, first off, Sunday Sauce, or as some call it, Gravy or simply “Sauce,” is without question thee number-1 undisputed “Supreme Dish” of our great Italian-American Cuisine and the Italian-American enclave as a whole, “It doesn’t get any better than a Sunday Sauce.” Ok, now, to be more specific for those who may not know about Sunday Sauce, there are a number of variations on the theme. Most Sunday Sauces are made with Italian Sausages, Braciole, and Meatballs. Some people make their versions with; Beef or Pork Neck, while others make their Gravy (Sunday Sauce) with just Sausage and Meatballs, like Pete Clemenza, or the most popular version of; Sausages, Meatballs, and Braciole.  Some may throw some Chicken Thighs or a Veal Shank into this mix. Sunday Sauces can be made with any combination of these aforementioned meats. The meats are slowly simmered for several hours in a “Sauce” made with tomatoes, minced onions, and garlic. I generally like to make my Sunday Sauce Gravy with  Sausages, Meatballs, and Pork Ribs. Other times I’ll make it with Sausage, Meatballs, and Braciole.  An old tradition in some families is that mother or Grandma would start the Sauce early on a Sunday morning, get all the ingredients in the pot and start the Gravy simmering away for a couple hours on top of the stove, then put it in the oven for a couple hours while everyone goes to Church. When you get back home, the Sauce would be ready, “ready to be devoured that is!”
   Our family would usually start our Sunday meal with the most traditional Italian-American-Antipasto of roast  peppers,  Salami, Olives, Celery, and  Provolone.  After that, it’s on to the Main Event of Maccheroni and Sunday Sauce, a dish which is something so Blissfully and Pleasurably Sublime, that it is almost “Sinful.” Yes it is.
   When a meal centered around a Sunday Sauce is announced, one can have visions of Blissful Ecstasy at thoughts of eating Pasta laden with Italian Sausages, Savory Meatballs, Beef Braciola, and succulent Pork Ribs. All this has been slowly simmered to culinary perfection. Yes just the thoughts can enrapture one into a delightful frenzy of the “Most Blissful Feelings” of smelling, seeing, and consuming all the ingredients, the Sausages, Meatballs and Gravy. Yes a Sunday Sauce can and does have such effects on one’s mind, body,  and soul. And, I do not want to sound prejudice, but this is pure fact, it is the Male of the Italian-American species who Love The Sunday Sauce in all its form, far more than the female sex.  True! Meatballs too! And Italian-American men and boys Love and hold oh-so-dear, their Meatballs, Sunday Sauce, Sausage & Peppers,  and Meatball Parm Sandwiches.
Daniel Bellino-Zwicke