To Mangia Bene At Home

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By Cathy Kiley~

I love to cook even more than I love eating out and big Italian meals are always my family’s favorite. Purchasing ingredients for any meal is time-consuming and a great Italian meal commands special attention. In this article, we will hit the road to accomplish the “great Italian meal” via three options: Italian specialty shops; the one-stop farmer’s market and the supermarket version. All three offer what you will need but some are more interesting and definitely more fun. So, we’re off!

For real fun, I grabbed a true Rosetan and special friend, Bea DeFranco Harrison and visited Ruggiero’s Market. Since 1917, Ruggiero’s Market has been located on Dante Street, in the middle of a residential area, within walking distance of just about every section of Roseto. This small grocery and Italian specialty store packs a big wallop and is filled with customers on any given day. Ruggiero’s reputation for fine quality meats is undisputed. When preparing sausage and peppers, this is the place to buy your sausage. It is made in-house nearly every day and is so fresh that you can see and taste the difference. You can also buy locally baked rolls for your sausage sandwiches and extremely good quality dried pastas (Ferrara’s, Italy Brand American and Riscossa) should those sausages be going in your spaghetti sauce. Ruggiero’s is where the locals go to buy their Baccala (dried salt cod fish) for the holidays as well as very pretty pasta bowls, platters, coffee makers and specialty items as gifts for their friends and family. Appetizers, cheeses and prepared foods are also available at this local market.

While in Roseto, I tried to find a copy of Anna Marie Ruggiero’s “The Roseto Cuisine Cookbook” to no avail but I did find one at my next stop, Calandra Cheese at 350 E. Lawn Road in Nazareth. This family-owned and operated facility has been making deliciously fresh mozzarella in three shapes (twist, rope and ball) every day and fresh ricotta at least four to five times a week for nearly 60 years. Robin and Lauren Calandra (daughter-in-law and granddaughter) were on hand to serve up my mozzarella twist which I served later that evening as an appetizer with roasted red peppers, fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil. Calandra’s also sells smoked mozzarella and provolone as well as grated parmesan and Pecorino Romano. There is a selection of olive oils and dried pastas and noodles but it is for their cheese that they have developed a huge following.

Nearby in Forks Township is Klein’s Farmstead Store located at 410 Klein Road. Layne and Beth Klein are third generation farmers who specialize in gourmet cheese spreads, raw milk products, organic eggs and farm raised beef. Klein’s has a nice selection of cheese spreads including Roasted Garlic, Tomato Basil, Horseradish and Six Pepper Cheese Spread. Their fresh mozzarella and pepperoni roll ups are always in great demand and it is difficult to keep them in the case. (The spreads make great appetizers for any dinner party) This location is recognized as a Dairy of Distinction and Northampton County Preserved Farmland.

Giacomo’s Italian Specialties and Grille has been located on College Hill in Easton since January 2003. Current owners Mario and Sal Famularo have brought this family-operated specialty store (and its reputation) to College Hill from a 35-year stint on Washington Street in Wilson Borough. Sausage, meatballs and homemade sauces have always been their biggest sellers along with other fresh meats, prosciutto as well as imported olives, oils and cheeses. This is a friendly, busy establishment simply chock-a-block with anything you’ll need for dinner. Choose from a wide selection of fresh-frozen homemade cappelini, fettucini, manicotti, stuffed shells, tortellini and gnocchi. There is also a variety of raviolis from New York Ravioli and Pasta Company including butternut squash, pumpkin, roasted chestnut, chicken, shrimp, and sundried tomato to name a few. You will find lupini and fava beans in wooden barrels and Jordan almonds and pignoli nuts in glass candy jars. Coffee and espresso makers are on sale as well as other specialty gifts. You will truly enjoy a visit to this clean and well-stocked Italian market where you are also able to enjoy freshly prepared fine foods, either in the grille with great Italian background music, or by taking tasty treats home with you. They sell Calandra’s Italian breads shipped daily from their Newark bakery and freshly-filled cannoli are also available.

If you prefer local baked goods, stop in Easton Baking Company at 34 North Seventh Street in Easton and ask Mitzy to package up some fresh Italian breads and rolls to serve with dinner tonight. For over 35 years, patrons have been lining up to purchase their baked goods including classic and chocolate cannoli, cheesecakes, Italian cookies, pastries and other desserts. Pick up a sugar-coated jelly doughnut to eat on the way home in the car. They are the best in town! Another amazing Italian bakery in the area is La Dolce Vita Italian Bakery at 5531 Hamilton Boulevard in Allentown. This is a superior specialty bakery offering rows and rows of butter cookies as well as a great selection of biscotti and pignoli cookies along with tiramisu, Italian and American cheesecakes, chocolate mousse cake, cannoli, cassatelle and Napoleons. Their display cases are filled with delectable delights to end your fantastic Italian meal. They also make a great cup of coffee to sit and enjoy in their lounge before you head home with your treats.

Now, on to option number two–the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market one-stop shopping trip. This is a less time-consuming option and you are able to purchase everything you will need for your excellent meal without all the travel. Park at the far right end of the market and make your first stop The Bread Brokers where owner Wanda Januskiewicz brings in freshly baked artisan breads daily from Philadelphia. French baguettes, Tuscan and European Black or San Francisco Sourdough Breads will certainly complete your meal. After purchasing fresh produce from one of the market’s vegetable and fruit vendors, stop by Glenn Miller Culinary Experts to choose from one or more of their many interesting selections of unique salad dressings that include Oriental Toasted Sesame, Orange Poppyseed, Lavacca Bay Honey Mustard and Caribbean Mango Viniagrette. They also have fresh stuffed pepper shooters (peppers stuffed with provolone and prosciutto.) I also spotted shooters at Mo’s Pasta Deli when I stopped in to buy a pound of sweet potato linguine from their shelves of homemade fresh and frozen pastas. If you are planning a soup course, Mo’s had a supply of Italian Wedding and Pasta Fagioli soups available. New England and Manhattan chowders are also available a few steps away at Heckenberger’s Seafood, a market staple that has sat directly on top of the ramp for 28 years (15 years under the present owner.) Here you can pick up clams for clams oreganata, zuppa de clams or linguine in white clam sauce; mussels to serve in white wine and garlic or marinara; or shrimp for your parmesan dish. You may also pick up herring in wine or cream and smoked whitefish to serve alongside your imported olives as an appetizer.

Next door is The Nut Hut where owner Bill Seyfried displays a large selection of packaged dried spices, hot sauces and, of course, nuts of every kind to nibble on while enjoying a glass of wine. Opened in 1988, Wittman’s World Cheeses offers the finest in imported and domestic cheese. (Bill was on hand to serve up a piece of Vendo d’ Estate for my dinner that evening.) There is a selection of parmesan to accompany your olives and prosciutto and wonderful fontina to finish off chicken breasts with white wine. Yum! Last but not least is fresh mascarpone to complete your dessert of poached pears and peaches.

At Clover Farms, pick up a link or two of their specialty sausage, such as the Italian Job (wild mushroom and Asiago) or the Godfather (green and red peppers and Asiago); or freshly made braciole to add to your homemade spaghetti sauce. They also have special homemade burgers and meatballs. It is worth a trip to Clover Farms, the oldest meat stand at the market, just to experience David’s bantering with market-goers as they pass by. Last but not least, Mr. Bill’s Poultry Market offers the freshest in chicken and turkey products. Note: turkey sausage is well substituted into many Italian sausage dishes if that is your preference.

On to option number three: Any food writer would be remiss in not recommending Wegmans. Though I visited the store on Easton-Nazareth Highway in Lower Nazareth, all Wegmans locations in the Lehigh Valley offer the olive and appetizer bar where you may create your own platter with an amazing choice of olives (both stuffed and not) as well as marinated vegetables such as artichokes, capers, mushrooms and lupini beans. Add freshly-prepared cold antipasto, bruschetta, relishes, stuffed grape leaves and hummus as well as fresh mozzarella balls and roasted red peppers to complete your first course. The olive and appetizer bar is conveniently located adjacent to their cheese counters (offering hundreds of selections of cheese and spreads) from which you may select bleu cheese to dress your salad and a chunk of Locatelli parmesan or Pecorino Romano to grate onto one of Wegmans many fresh pasta and sauce selections. Located just a few steps away is their bakery section offering bread and cakes that are continually baked on premises throughout the day. And, don’t forget to pick up a dozen roses for your dinner table before leaving for home! After Wegmans, go across the highway to the Wine and Spirits Store to purchase an Italian wine to accompany your dinner. You may choose perhaps a fine Aldo Conterno or Enzo Boglietti Barolo, a Fonterutoli or Felsina Chianti, or Tommaso Bussola Valpolicella to enjoy with a delicious pasta dish; or a Santa Margherita or Jermann Pino Grigio to enjoy with your clams. Wine and Spirits Stores are located throughout the Valley; selections vary by location.

Ah….Mangia Bene… perfecto!!!

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