Sunday, March 8, 2015

Staten Island Red sauce

There's a certain kind of soulful neighborhood Italian restaurant that I think doesn't really exist outside of the NY area. Casual family friendly spots, priced for the working class that offer a vast menu of Italian American specialties and crisp crust pizza.
Everyone has his favorite. A new friend recently took a group of us to his red sauce spot of choice, Denino's of Staten Island.
As we sat down the table was already covered with eggplant, chicken and shrimp parmigiana platters -- topped with a heavy but tasty red sauce and gooey, dreamy melted mozzarella. The sideboard held crisp green salads and one of my favorites, cold scungilli salad. Scungilli, a long-time Italian American favorite, has practically disappeared from the menu of Italian restaurants though under the English name whelks they are becoming an ingredient of the moment among celebrity chefs and hipsters alike. I forgot how much I like scungilli.
Next came lightly fried calamari with both spicy and mild red sauce for dipping. The food kept coming.
I thought it was over and then came the pizza. Crisp, hot, covered in melted cheese. Wide slices just right for folding over before a first joyous bite.
Though chefs in the city are trying to claim and create chains of the area's red sauce tradition with "joints" like Parm and Carbone, the real thing still exists, and while there still are family owned restaurants and delis serving up hearty red sauce on stacks of paper plates and hero rolls I'll be there.

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