Friday, November 2, 2012

What Better Way…

to spend a Saturday afternoon than with great people sharing great food?

We find ourselves with our cousin Raina and her husband Jesse at Andreoli Italian Grocer for a long and leisurely lunch. We pegged our arrival time for 1:30 p.m. hoping that the lunch rush would be over and we would have plenty of time to monopolize a table before the dinner crowd arrived. We would order one—or at the most two—menu items at a time, lingering over each one.

We started with a double order of Maresciallo, an Italian antipasto tray of imported and housecured meats, cheese, and olives.
Clockwise from top left, the tray included one of Giovanni Scorzo’s cured salamis, two varieties of cheese (one was hard and salty and resembled parmesan), marinated mixed olives (so good that I bought some to take home), prosciutto, and calabrese salami. This latter is from the southern part of Italy and spicy and garlicy. Again, so good that I bought some to take home.

And what goes better with a plate of meats and cheeses than a basket of house-baked crusty Italian bread?

Well, we managed to consume the antipasto tray in record time. So much for lingering. Next was a plate of Calamaretti del Sacrestano or marinated and grilled calamari.
I like this more every time we order it, as much for the pool of olive oil, vinegar, and parsley as for the tender and smoke-flavored squid. Oh, and can we get another basket of bread?

We moved on to the Arancino Sicula, a Sicilian-style rice ball filled with meat sauce and cheese. “Arancini or arancine are fried rice balls coated with breadcrumbs, said to have originated in Sicily in the 10th century.
Arancini are usually filled with ragù (meat sauce), tomato sauce, mozzarella, and/or peas…. The name derives from the food's shape and color, which is reminiscent of an orange (the Italian word for orange is arancia, and arancina means ‘little orange’)” (

I have seen these on numerous food programs, but had yet to eat in a restaurant where they are served. I loved it. You have the very crisp outer shell encasing the softer interior rice—and you know how much I love texture contrasts in food. And if you look closely, you can see the faint outlines of the saffron threads which gave the rice a faint yellowish color.

Are we slowing down yet? No. But it was time for a little salad—the Cetrarese. This was a simple combination of grape tomato halves, the marinated olives that appeared on the antipasto tray, and sliced white onions all tossed with a mild olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing.
Nothing at all complicated here, but the impeccable quality of each ingredient did make “the whole greater than the sum of its parts.” By the way, how good are these olives? Chuck, no olive lover, even ate them.

Now that we have finished the appetizer and salad courses, it was time to progress to entrees—two sandwiches cut into fourths and—naturally—a plate of the amazing patatine fritte.

Jesse and I entrusted Chuck and Raina with the daunting responsibility of making the sandwich choices and I am happy to report that they did not disappoint. One was the porchetta—house-roasted pork seasoned with garlic, black pepper, and fennel on a crusty roll.

The other was the Tizio—Mr. Scorzo’s house-made Italian sausage grilled with peppers and onions. The sausage had enough fat content to keep it juicy when split and grilled and hinted of fennel and red pepper flake.
The sausage was so good that I bought a two-pound rope to take home so we can relive the Tizio experience.

But wait—we’re not finished yet! We did save—barely—room for dessert. As the perfect finish to the meal we ordered a round of cannolis (filled at the time of presentation so that the filling doesn’t make the shell soggy)
and two small lemon-cream stuffed cream puffs.

It is 4:30 and time to leave. Yes, we lingered for three hours and had a perfect 5.0 Addie afternoon. And a special thanks to Rosario—Andreoli’s “esperto di tutto” or expert of everything—for his constant—but not overbearing—attentiveness.

But Chuck and I couldn’t depart Phoenix without one final Andreoli lunch. On the table that day was—a no-brainer here—a shared order of the patatine fritte.
You can’t believe what frying the potatoes with the leek strips can do for the humble potato. And this comes from me—not the world’s biggest potato lover.

Chuck was so enamored by his quarter of the Tizio at our lunch with Raina and Jesse that he ordered one all for himself.
And he smiled with every bite.

I decided to try something new. Since I really liked the calabrese salami on the antipasto tray we shared with Raina and Jesse, I ordered the Abbuffino sandwich—a pressed calabrese and smoked mozzarella sandwich on house-made foccocia.
Foccocia is Italian flatbread and is made with a generous amount of olive oil. And it is all of this oil that helps create a really crunchy exterior to the bread when it is put on a hot press. I have eaten any number of great sandwiches at Andreoli but this may be my favorite of them all. Or, at least until the next visit.

We are off to Pahramp, NV, but did want to leave you with one final thought. Yes, everybody does love Rosario.

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