(photo: street scene in Bagnara Calabra, courtesy of myworldshots.com )
I’m going to make a statement that may upset serious cooks, but here goes: It’s almost impossible to cook foods from other places in the world outside of their place of origin. I’m not stating an absolute truth because you can get pretty damn close to replicating a pizza from Naples for example; maybe importing a wood burning stove (along with olive wood or some other exotic species to get the right temperature), specialty flour, San Marzano tomatoes, and bottled water from Italy, but at the end of the day it’s just not going to taste the same as, say, a pizza made in Italy.
There are intangibles when experiencing a given food, including the physical environment, the person preparing the food item, and, of course, the psychological state the eater is in. For example, if you’re on vacation in August in Bagnara Calabra facing the Stretto di Messina in Southern Italy and you order a pizza and a cold beer at a local eatery, you’re going to consume a pizza made with fresh mountain water, just harvested tomatoes, and first cold pressed olive oil from one of the surrounding villages. You’ll also be sun-burnt and famished because you’ve spent a few hours on Bagnara’s famous Violet Coast. In other words, that pizza will most likely be the best you’ve ever tasted.
(photo: courtesy of Artisan Books)
My point above is not to discourage you from cooking Italian food in the US, but rather to make a subtle point that all Italian food made in the US is “Italian-American” food (this, to get fancy with a philosophical term, is an a priori truth <i.e., a truth independent of experience!>). I cook Italian-American food, my mother cooks Italian-American food, and Mario Batali, for example, cooks Italian-American food.
(photo: courtesy of Artisan Books)
Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo cook classic Italian-American food (by way of their families) and they are both extremely proud of the cuisine they serve each and every night at their restaurant. And, although, I have not eaten at their Carol Gardens, Brooklyn restaurant Frankies Spuntino, they rightly situate the “American” in the “Italian-American” food category (that is to say, their recipes and cooking style focus on the classics of Italian American cuisine, rather than to try and bring “authentic” Italian fare to it’s customers which, to my point above, is impossible in the US!)
Falcinelli and Castronovo recently published their first cookbook entitled, “The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual” and the book hits on a few terrific themes including bringing the classic dishes prepared in their Brooklyn restaurant into your home kitchen.
The book, which is beautifully produced and leather-bound, has terrific illustrations and includes sections on cooking equipment and the Italian pantry, as well as a wonderful chapter on the philosophy of “Sunday Sauce.” The same chapter has a brilliant timelines of how to go about constructing a traditional Italian meal on Sunday (this section would make any engineer proud!).
Other recipes included in the cookbook (really a “cooking manual) are Linguine with Fava Beans, Garlic, Tomato and Bread Crumb, Sardine, Blood Orange, and Puntarelle Salad, Cipollini Onion Vinaigrette, Roasted Eggplant, Braised Pork Shank with Gigante Beans and Rosemary. Falcinelli and Castronovo have produced an excellent, all around, cookbook and it may be the only Italian-American cookbook you’ll ever need to use in your kitchen! In fact, why don’t you enter to win a chance to receive your very own copy the The Frankie Spuntino Kitchen Companion! Here’s what you need to do:
– Only one entry per person please.
– The contest is open until 12 midnight on 9/20 and a single (1) random user will be picked via Random.org (sorry contest only open to folks from the US given shipping logistics). The winner will be announced immediately on Twitter (so please follow me) and on Scordo.com by 8PM on Friday, 9/21.
– Requirements (both are needed): 1. Become a fan of Scordo.com on Facebook (if you’re a fan already please “share” the page on your Facebook account) and 2. leave a comment on an experience you’ve had where a dish/food item was incredible because of the location / atmosphere.
– Artisan Books will send out the book to a single contest winner during the week of 9/27.