Oscar Worthy “Moonstruck” Eggs

Oscar-Winning Eggs with Roasted Peppers Inspired by "Moonstruck"
Oscar-Winning Eggs with Roasted Peppers Inspired by “Moonstruck”

In anticipation of tomorrow night’s Academy Awards I cooked up some Oscar-worthy eggs this morning.

Ever see Norman Jewison’s 1987 movie about a Brooklyn Italian-American family? “Moonstruck” won Oscars for Olympia Dukakis and Cher.

There’s a kitchen scene where Dukakis is making these eggs for herself and Cher.

“Moonstruck” eggs were a popular item on my restaurant’s brunch menu. There’s no better combination than peppers and eggs. We served them with roasted pork and fennel sausage.

In Italy this dish is known as “birds in a nest”. They are super simple and they make a big impression for that special Saturday or Sunday morning. Add your favorite potatoes and breakfast meat and that’s it.

Here’s the “Moonstruck” kitchen scene that is the basis of my recipe.

Buon appetito!

Moonstruck Eggs
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A simple but fancy egg dish inspired by Olympia Dukakas cooking breakfast for Cher in the 1987 movie "Moonstruck".
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 1
  • 1 egg
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • 1 slice rustic bread
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Punch out a whole in the middle of the bread slice big enough to hold the egg.
  2. Put a skillet over medium high heat and add just enough of the EVOO to coat the bottom of the pan well.
  3. Place the bread slice in the pan. Toast briefly on both sides.
  4. Cut the roasted pepper into small strips and heat them in the skillet.
  5. Crack an egg in the whole in the bread.
  6. Let the egg cook until the white sets up well, about 2 minutes.
  7. Carefully flip the egg over to cook the yolk side to your taste.
  8. (If you're scared of flipping the egg, just put a cover over it and let it set to your desired doneness.)
  9. Top the egg with the roasted pepper and salt and black pepper to taste.
  10. Serve immediately by itself or with your favorite breakfast potatoes and breakfast meat.
  11. (If your making more than 1 Moonstruck egg, cook as many as fit comfortably in your pan. I can eat 2 of these for my breakfast or brunch.)



Beef Brisket Roman Jewish Ghetto Style

Beef Brisket
Beef Brisket
Beef Brisket in the Roman Jewish Ghetto Style

When I was in New York City a couple of weeks ago I ducked into a deli for a beef brisket sandwich before heading to the airport to come back home.

Unfortunately, the sandwich sucked. I left most of it uneaten on the plate.

Back in San Francisco, I still had a craving for tender, succulent long-braised beef brisket in a rich gravy. I couldn’t get it out of mind.

Luckily, on my last visit to Little City Meats on Stockton at Vallejo, the boys had plenty of beef brisket in the case. I had to get a hunk to satisfy my desires.

Here’s my take on how this dish might be made in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto. I’ll let you know if I find it on a menu when I’m in Rome this spring.

Beef brisket isn’t that hard to make. Most of the time is spent waiting for the brisket to slow-braise in the pot for a couple of hours in a broth flavored with aromatics.

You end up with fork-tender beef in a rich, mellow gravy. Serve the brisket with the carrots and celery scattered on top, pour the gravy all over and dinner is ready.

Make sure you get a big piece of brisket. Thick slices moistened with gravy make a fantastic sandwich. You want to have leftovers so you can stuff a crunchy Italian roll the next day.

Buon appetito!

Beef Brisket from the Roman Jewish Ghetto
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Beef brisket long braised with aromatic vegetables in the style of the Roman Jewish Ghetto
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
  • 2-3 pounds beef brisket
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 large stems Italian flat parsley
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 4 cups water
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Cut the celery and carrots in 2-3-inch pieces.
  2. Smash the garlic cloves and peel.
  3. Cut the onion in half and then quarter.
  4. Season the brisket all over with salt and pepper.
  5. Dust the brisket with the flour.
  6. Put a large enameled or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons EVOO.
  7. When the oil is hot put the brisket in the pot, fat side down.
  8. Brown the brisket on all sides.
  9. Put the brisket on a plate and set aside.
  10. Drain out the oil.
  11. Add 1 tablespoon EVOO to the pot.
  12. Add the tomato paste and toast it in the oil until it's color darkens a bit.
  13. Put in the celery, carrot, garlic, bay leaf, parsley and onion, mix the vegetables with the tomato paste and saute until the onion is just translucent.
  14. Add the red wine and deglaze the pot, scraping all the brown bits on the bottom.
  15. Simmer about a minute or 2 to let the wine alcohol burn off and the brown bits dissolve into the broth.
  16. Put the brisket and any juices on the plate back in the pot.
  17. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and about half of the brisket.
  18. Bring the pot to a low simmer, cover and simmer for about 2 to 3 hours until the brisket is fork tender.
  19. Put the brisket and some of the carrot, celery and onion pieces on a platter and set aside.
  20. Pour the gravy and the vegetable pieces through a strainer into a bowl.
  21. With a big spoon push down on the vegetables pieces in the strainer to get all of the flavorful liquid into the bowl.
  22. Return the gravy to the pot, simmer to reduce and thicken the gravy, about 3 minutes.
  23. Slice the brisket and put the slices on a platter. Serve some of the carrots, celery and onion on the side. Pour the pan gravy on top.
  24. Serve immediately.


Spring has arrived.

Buon appetito!


Farro with Tuna & Tomato

Farro with Tuna and Tomato
Farro with Tuna and Tomato

Farro is the new kitchen darling. A few years ago most people didn’t know anything about this nutty, nutritious ancient grain. I just love it.

I usually make cold farro salads of one kind or another. But, here’s a delicious hot dish that you can serve as a first or main course.

Farro is easy to make. Cook farro as you do rice or barley. Dress it up like pasta and it’s ready to enjoy. Fast and easy.

This dish is from Puglia, the southern Italian region on the Adriatic.

The nutty, toothsome farro is enrobed in a sweet tomato sauce flavored by briny cured tuna and capers. The red pepper flakes add a hot sparkle at the end of every bite.

Want a break from pasta? Make farro.

Buon appetito!

Farro with Tuna, Tomatoes & Capers
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Farro dressed with a cured tuna, tomato and caper sauce, a wonderful mix of farm and sea. Easy to make and full of zesty, nutty flavor.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 pound (500 grams) farro
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28-ounce canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 2 6-ounce cans Italian tuna packed in olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Italian flat parsley, chopped
  1. Rinse the farro and drain in a strainer.
  2. Put the farro in a pot with 5 cups of water, bay leaf, ½ teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of EVOO
  3. Over medium-high bring to a boil and stir occasionally.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and let the farro simmer with the lid ajar.
  5. Cook until the farro is tender stirring occasionally.
  6. If the water is not absorbed, pour it out and remove the bay leaf. Put the cover on the pot and put the farro aside.
  7. Pour 3 tablespoons of EVOO in a pot or large skillet.
  8. Add the garlic slices and the pepper flakes.
  9. Saute until the garlic starts to take on some color, about 2 minutes.
  10. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt and the capers.
  11. Heat to a slow boil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.
  12. Drain the tuna and put it in a bowl.
  13. Flake it into large pieces and add it to the tomatoes. Stir well.
  14. Cook for 5 minutes more until the tomatoes are reduced and thicker.
  15. Lower heat to medium-low and stir in 2 tablespoons of EVOO.
  16. Add the farro to the pot and stir well into the tomatoes.
  17. Cook until the farro is heated through.
  18. Add the chopped parsley and stir well with the farro.
  19. Serve immediately.


Italian Grilled Cheese

Mozzarella in Carozza Italian grilled cheese
Mozzarella in Carozza Italian grilled cheese

Here’s an Italian twist on the wildly popular grilled cheese sandwich, mozzarella in carozza (mozzarella in a cart).

My Dad made this Neapolitan treat when I was a kid and I still make it often.

You have to construct the “cart” to carry the mozzarella. I skewer the corners of the sandwich with toothpicks so the mozzarella doesn’t fall out when I dip it in the egg wash and fry it in the pan.

Forget about tomato soup on the side with this grilled cheese. A quick, lemon, caper and anchovy sauce is the perfect companion for the melted mozzerella oozing out of the egg-dipped bread.

My recipe is for 2 at the table. Make more if you need them. The recipe is scalable. Serve a salad on the side and you have a meal.

Buon appetito!

Italian Grilled Cheese
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An Italian grilled cheese sandwich with caper-anchovy sauce.
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 2
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 thin slices of sturdy white or whole wheat bread, crust removed
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of water or milk
  • Canola oil (or your favorite) for frying
  • 1tablespoon Italian flat parsley, chopped
  1. Make the sauce.
  2. Put the olive oil and garlic in a sauté pan over medium-high heat and cook until the garlic just starts to color.
  3. Add the anchovies and capers and stir until the anchovy dissolves.
  4. Add the butter and stir until melted.
  5. Pour in the white wine and lemon juice and simmer until the sauce is reduced by half and thickens. Set aside.
  6. Lay out 2 slices of bread on a work surface and cover each with a layer of sliced mozzarella. Don't let the mozzarella hang over the edge of the bread.
  7. Lay a bread slice on top and skewer each corner with a toothpick to hold the sandwich together.
  8. Put the flour on a dish.
  9. Beat the egg and water together in a shallow bowl.
  10. Put a about a ¼ inch of vegetable oil in a skillet and heat over medium heat. (Test the oil with a crust of bread. It's hot enough if the crust sizzles.)
  11. Dredge the sandwiches in the flour. Be sure to cover both sides and the edges too. Tap off the excess flour.
  12. Dip both sides of the sandwich in the egg. Moisten the sides too. (I use my hands but use tongs to maneuver the sandwich if you wish.)
  13. When the oil is hot enough, put the sandwiches in the saute pan and fry until they are golden brown on both sides and the mozzarella is melted, a minute or 2 on each side.
  14. Put the sandwiches on paper towel to drain.
  15. Heat the sauce, stir in the parsley and spoon some on each plate.
  16. Cut the sandwiches in half and put them on the plates.
  17. Serve immediately.


Baked Ziti for Valentine’s Day?

A quick, rich baked pasta dish from beautiful Sorrento on the Bay of Naples.
A quick, rich baked pasta dish from beautiful Sorrento on the Bay of Naples.

Why go out for a “romantic” dinner on Valentine’s Day? The restaurants are crazy busy. Why tolerate the hassle of overbooked places and food pouring out of an overworked kitchen? All you’ll get is agita (heartburn).

Don’t go out. Stay home and cook Valentine’s Day dinner together. Start a new tradition. Enjoy your time cooking together and share food made with love.

A fresh, crunchy and complex Fennel & Orange Salad with Oil-Cured Olives is a perfect first course. Prosecco or Pinot Grigio pairs well with the salad in a citrus vinaigrette.

Baked Ziti alla Sorrento is the star of this special dinner. It’s an Italian version of mac ‘n cheese from the sunny coast of the Bay of Naples.

The small pasta tubes are coated in creamy ricotta, soft melted mozzarella and marinara sauce then baked in the oven. I can’t resist picking off the nutty toasted ziti on top. Save the leftovers. Baked ziti is even better the next day. Aglianico, Nero d’Avola or Chianti go well with the ziti.

By making the marinara while the pasta water comes to a boil and the salad as the ziti bakes, dinner will be ready in about an hour.

And for dessert, top a big scoop of vanilla gelato with a shot of limoncello or your favorite liqueur. Who knows, after all that wine this might be just what you both need to get lucky.

Still want to go out for Valentine’s Day dinner? Try one of these North Beach restaurants.

Buon appetito! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Baked Ziti alla Sorrentino
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Easy baked ziti is sumptuous. The pasta is coasted with creamy ricotta, mozzarella and marinara then baked in the oven until crispy on top.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
  • Marinara Sauce
  • 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 large branch of fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Baked Ziti
  • 1 pound ziti
  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 5 basil leaves
  • 1 cup grated parmigiano, pecorino or grana padano
  1. Before you get started put a large pot of well salted water to boil over high heat. (Use about 5 quarts of water and at least 1 tablespoon of sea salt for a pound of pasta.) Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Marinara Sauce
  3. Put the olive oil and garlic in a pan and over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic until it starts to take on some color.
  4. Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano and salt.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir occasionally and cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
  6. Set the sauce aside.
  7. Baked Ziti
  8. Cut the mozzarella into 1-inch cubes.
  9. Put the ricotta in a strainer to drain.
  10. Cook the ziti in a large pot of well-salted rapidly boiling water. Drain the ziti just as it reaches al dente, about 10 minutes.
  11. Put the ziti in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, mozzarella, ½ cup grated cheese, 2 cups of marinara sauce and basil leaves ripped in small pieces. Mix to coat the pasta well,
  12. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with marinara sauce.
  13. Spread the ziti evenly in the baking dish.
  14. Top the ziti with the remaining marinara sauce and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.
  15. Bake in the oven until the top of the baked ziti starts to turn golden, about 30 minutes.
  16. Serve immediately.







Fennel & Orange Salad with Oil-Cured Olives

Fennel and Orange Salad with Oil-Cured Olives
Fennel and Orange Salad with Oil-Cured Olives

I’m hoping for spring. The quince blossoms are in bloom so spring can’t be far away. For me, this classic salad from Sicily is a prelude to the change of seasons.

Start or end your meal with this perky salad. The licorice and sweet orange notes float in the citrus vinaigrette. The intense wrinkled, meaty, oil-cured olives add surprising complexity to this crunchy salad.

Usually I eat salad at the end of a meal but this one goes to the top. It’s fresh and complex and easily fills the bill as a simple first course or add it to your antipasti platter.

Buon appetito!

Fennel & Orange Salad with Olives
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A simple, complex from Sicily. The fennel's anise flavor enhances the orange sweetness and the oil-cured olives add intensity to the crunch.
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
  • 2 large fresh fennel bulbs, about a pound
  • 2 oranges
  • ½ cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and sliced in half
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Cut off the top of the fennel and the stalks where they connect to the bulb.
  2. Cut the bulb in half and remove the tough outer leaves.
  3. Cut out the core.
  4. Slice the fennel very thin or use a mandolin.
  5. Put the fennel in a bowl.
  6. Cut off the top and bottom of the orange.
  7. With a cut end on the work surface cut off the rind. Be sure you remove all of the bitter white pith.
  8. Holding the peeled orange over the bowl with the fennel cut out each section of the orange by running a sharp knife close to the membrane. (You can cut the orange in slices instead.)
  9. Put the orange sections in the bowl with the fennel. Squeeze the juice from the membranes into the bowl.
  10. Add the salt, black pepper, olive oil and lemon juice and toss well.
  11. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Saltimbocca: So Good It Jumps in Your Mouth


I’m in New York City and meeting up with friends. On a brisk, sunny Saturday morning we’re off to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, the true NYC Little Italy.

We’ll spend the day cooking together, eating and drinking in northern Jersey. But first we have to decide on the menu and get everything we need to prepare our meal.

As is our habit, our first stop is Caffe DiLillo for a cappuccino and cornetto and to plan our menu. Our 4-course meal fell into place quickly.

My assignment is saltimbocca, the classic Roman dish, veal scaloppine topped with fresh sage and prosciutto and sauteed in butter and extra virgin olive oil. Saltimbocca is so good it’s moniker translates to “jump in your mouth”.

Saltimbocca is easy. I made enough for 8 at the table in about 15 minutes. The salty, crispy prosciutto enrobes fresh sage atop fork-tender veal scaloppine. Deglaze the pan with a dry, white wine to create a silky sauce and you’re done.

The dish works just as well with chicken. I used both veal and chicken scaloppine to satisfy the preferences of my table mates. Asparagus roasted with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and lemon completed each plate. Yum.

I made panna cotta for dessert too.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
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Saute veal or chicken scaloppine topped with fresh sage and prosciutto in butter and extra virgin olive oil to create a dish that "jumps in your mouth."
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
  • 1 pound veal (or chicken) scaloppine
  • fresh sage
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin oil oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  1. Sprinkle the scaloppine with salt and pepper.
  2. Depending on their size, lay 1 or 2 sage leaves atop the scallopine.
  3. Cover the scaloppine with a thin slice of prosciutto.
  4. Tap the prosciutto with the back of a knife to attach it to the scaloppine.
  5. Lightly coat the scaloppine with flour. Tap off any excess flour.
  6. Put the extra virgin olive oil and the butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat.
  7. When the butter is melted and starts to foam, add the scaloppine and saute prosciutto side down until the prosciutto is golden and crispy, about 2 minutes.
  8. Saute the other side about a minute.
  9. Put the saltimbocca on a plate, loosely cover with foil and set aside.
  10. Saute the remaining scallopine.
  11. Over high heat, add the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all of the crispy brown bits on the bottom of the plan and stir to dissolve the bits in the wine. Cook until the pan sauce thickens, about a minute.
  12. Pour the sauce over the saltimbocca and serve immediately.




Eggplant Rollatini

Fried eggplant stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella baked in the oven with marinara sauce.
Fried eggplant stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella baked in the oven with marinara sauce.

You know how much I love eggplant and this is one of my favorite dishes.

On my restaurant’s menu in the 80s, Eggplant Rollatini was a popular main dish. I ate it often at the end of the evening service.

Make the marinara sauce, fry the eggplant, stuff and bake the rollatini in the oven. You can make this flavorful dish in about an hour.

The creamy ricotta filling is wrapped in crispy eggplant and salty prosciutto. The mild San Marzano tomato, basil and garlic sauce echoes the eggplant’s sweetness.

Watch my eggplant parmigiano video episode to see how to coat and fry the eggplant. Watch me whip up a ricotta filling in my ravioli video episode. But be sure to follow this recipe for the best Eggplant Rollatini ever.

Buon appetito!

Eggplant Rollatini
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Crispy fried eggplant with a ricotta and prosciutto filling is baked topped with a simple marinara sauce.
Recipe type: vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
  • For the Eggplant
  • 2 eggplants
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • For the Egg Wash
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons grated pecorino or parmigiano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat Italian parsley
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the Ricotta Filling
  • 16 ounces ricotta
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • For the Marinara Sauce
  • 28 ounce can imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • 1 sprig fresh basil
  • sea salt to taste
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese for topping the rollatini before baking
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Making the Marinara Sauce
  3. Put the tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them with your hands (or a potato masher). Remove any large stems and skin.
  4. Put the oil and the garlic in a pot over medium-high heat.
  5. Saute the garlic until it takes on a light tan color.
  6. Add the tomatoes to the pot.
  7. Add sea salt to taste.
  8. Add the basil and simmer over low heat stirring occasionally until the volume reduces by one-third.
  9. Frying the Eggplant
  10. Cut off the ends of the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in ½ inch slices lengthwise. (I don't peel the eggplant so I discard the first and last slice that is completely covered by the black skin on one side.) You should have about 15 slices to coat.
  11. Sprinkle with salt and place the slices in a colander. Put the colander in the sink or over a large plate for about 15 minutes. Bitter dark liquid will release from the eggplant slices.
  12. Wash the eggplant slices well and pat dry. Set aside.
  13. Add the eggs to a bowl large enough to hold the eggplant slices and beat them well.
  14. Add the grated cheese, parsley, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and beat the egg mixture well.
  15. Put 3 tablespoons of EVOO in a large saute pan and heat over medium heat.
  16. Place the egg wash on the counter closest to the saute pan.
  17. Place the the flour in a dish and place it next to the egg wash.
  18. Flour both sides of the eggplant slice. Tap off any excess flour.
  19. Coat both sides of the eggplant slice with the egg mixture.
  20. Saute the eggplant slices until both sides are golden brown.
  21. Remove the slices to a dish lined with paper towel.
  22. Continue coating and frying all of the eggplant slices. Add more oil if necessary.
  23. For the Ricotta Filling
  24. Put the ricotta in a strainer to let the liquid drain, about 15 minutes.
  25. Put the ricotta in a large bowl along with all the other ingredients and mix everything together well.
  26. Assembling the Rollatini
  27. Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with a light coating of the sauce.
  28. Put the fried eggplant on a work surface and cover each with a slice of prosciutto.
  29. Put a tablespoon of the ricotta filling on each slice about 2-inches from the narrow end of the eggplant slice.
  30. Starting at the narrow end roll up the slice and place it seam side down in the baking dish.
  31. Continue making the rollatini and place them in rows in the baking dish.
  32. Sprinkle the grated pecorino evenly over the rollatini.
  33. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the ricotta filling is hot and the mozzarella melts.


49ers Super Bowl Meatballs and Roasted Peppers

49ers Super Bowl Meatballs & Roasted Peppers
49ers Super Bowl Meatballs & Roasted Peppers

What do you expect from a guy in San Francisco’s Italian North Beach who hopes the Lombardi Trophy comes home with the 49ers?

Here’s an Italian-American appetizer for your Super Bowl buffet that sports the Niner’s red and gold.

The meatballs are easy to make and will be ready in way less than an hour.

If you don’t want to make them on Sunday, make the meatballs in advance and heat them in the oven when you’re ready to serve. Roast peppers yourself or just buy a jar at the supermarket.

The zesty little meatballs topped with sweet roasted peppers will be a winner no matter the outcome of the game.

Buon appetito!

Go Niners!

49ers Meatballs and Roasted Peppers
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These meatballs are delicious and easy to make. For Superbowl Sunday they sport the San Francisco 49er colors.
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 8
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup cubed, crustless hardy (or stale) Italian bread
  • 2 cups water or milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 jar of marinated red and yellow roasted peppers
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Soak the bread in the milk or water and set aside.
  3. Lightly brush a rimmed baking sheet with some of the oil.
  4. Put the ground beef in a large bowl.
  5. Squeeze out the liquid from the bread and add the bread to the bowl along with the other ingredients, except the olive oil.
  6. Mix the ingredients well. (I use my hands but you can use a utensil instead.)
  7. Put a heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture in your hands and roll it into a small meatball about 3-inches in diameter.
  8. Put the meatballs on the baking sheet leaving some room between them so they brown evenly.
  9. Liberally brush olive oil over the meatballs.
  10. Bake the meatballs in the oven for 20 minutes or until they are cooked all the way through.
  11. While the meatballs are in the oven, cut the red and yellow roasted peppers into 1X2 inch strips. (You want 24 red and 24 yellow pepper strips.)
  12. Put the pepper strips in a bowl and mix with the vinegar.
  13. When the meatballs are cool enough to handle put a strip of red and yellow roasted peppers on top of each meatball and skewer with a toothpick.
  14. Serve warm. (You can keep the meatballs warm in a 200 degree oven loosely covered with foil.)
  15. Makes about 24 small meatballs.





Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries
Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

Panna cotta means “cooked cream”. The classic Italian dessert now enjoyed everywhere was created in the Piedmonte region in the northwest corner of Italia.

Cows have a good life in Piemonte. They graze in beautiful Alpine pastures. It’s no wonder that their milk produces fantastic butter, cream and cheese and is the inspiration for this delicate flan-like delight.

Panna cotta is simple and sumptuous. You can eat it alone or with berries, caramel sauce or amerena cherries. I like to add strawberries macerated with a sprinkle of sugar and a little balsamic vinegar.

Panna cotta scented with vanilla and lemon melts in your mouth. The balsamic strawberries mute the sweetness and add texture to each bite.

Panna cotta takes about 5 minutes to cook. Pour the cooked cream into ramekins and chill for a couple of hours to set. That’s it. No more waiting to find it on a restaurant menu. Now you can eat panna cotta whenever you want some.

Buon appetito!

Panna Cotta
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  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4½ teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • .25 ounce packet gelatin
  • 2 strips lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons walnut, almond or flavorless vegetable oil
  1. Lightly brush the ramekins with the oil. Put them in the refrigerator to cool.
  2. Put the water in a bowl.
  3. Add the gelatin. Set aside until the gelatin has softened.
  4. Put the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
  5. Heat the cream mixture to a simmer. Take off the heat as soon as small bubbles begin to form at the rim of the pot. Do not boil the cream. Remove from heat and pick out the lemon zest.
  6. Mix 1 cup of the mixture into the gelatin to dissolve the gelatin.
  7. Pour the gelatin mixture back into the pot and mix well. Set aside to cool.
  8. Pour the panna cotta into the ramekins and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or until fully set.
  9. To serve, run a small knife around the edge of the ramekin. Upend the ramekin on a plate, shake gently to loosen the panna cotta and carefully lift off the ramekin.
  10. Serve panna cotta chilled by itself or with amerena cherries, fresh berries or strawberries macerated with sugar and a touch of balsamic vinegar.

Green Bean & Red Onion Salad

Green Bean & Red Onion Salad
Green Bean & Red Onion Salad

Add this recipe to your list of dishes that you can have on your table in less than 30 minutes. It’s healthy and delicious.

I love the simple taste of green beans drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon.

Make the green beans part of your antipasti platter or as a side dish at lunch or dinner, served warm or at room temperature.

I’m not a crunchy vegetable guy. I cook the green beans until they are tender to unleash their full, rich flavor. The red onion mellows in the lemon juice and adds a sweet crunch to the salad.

Buon appetito!

Green Bean & Red Onion Salad
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Green bean salad is fast and delicious. Add it to your antipasti platter or as a lunch or dinner side dish.
Recipe type: vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 pound green beans
  • ½ red onion
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  1. Thinly slice the red onion and cut the slices in half.
  2. Put the onion in a bowl, add the juice of ½ lemon and the sea salt. Set aside to let the onion's flavor mellow in the lemon juice.
  3. Put on a pot of salted water to boil.
  4. Cut off the stem end of the green bean and cut them in 3-inch pieces.
  5. Cook the green beans in boiling salted water until knife tender.
  6. Drain the beans well and add to the bowl with the onion.
  7. Add the EVOO to the bowl and mix the salad well.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Grilled Steak with Herb Sauce (Bistecca con salsa delle erbe)

Grilled ribeye steak with an herb and EVOO sauce
Grilled ribeye steak with an herb and EVOO sauce

Want a fast weekday evening meal? You can have this flavorful steak on your table in less than 15 minutes.

Ribeye, strip or porterhouse steaks work well. Cook the steaks on an outdoor grill or in a grill pan on top of the stove.

I was in a hurry and only had to feed myself, so I had my butcher cut ribeye steaks about an inch thick. They grill to medium-rare in just 4 minutes.

For a fancier and more classic version of this traditional dish, use a thicker steak. A 24-ounce, 3-inch thick steak will take 8-10 minutes for medium rare and serves 2-4 people. Cut the steak across the grain and serve the slices on a platter topped with salsa.

Make the herb sauce in a food processor in minutes. Start with a base of fresh basil, Italian flat parsley and EVOO. I had rosemary and oregano in the fridge so I added a little of both to my salsa. Marjoram, tarragon or fresh thyme work well too. Salsa delle erbe goes well with other grilled meats, fish and chicken too.

Serve the steak and herb sauce with baby spinach sauteed with olive oil and garlic or a green salad dressed with red wine vinegar, EVOO and sea salt and you’ve got dinner.

Buon appetito!

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  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons packed fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon packed fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 rib-eye, strip, or porterhouse steak, sliced about an inch thick per person
  1. Put the herbs, garlic and ¾ cup EVOO in the food processor and pulse a few times until the herbs and garlic are finely minced, almost a paste consistency.
  2. Season herb sauce with salt and pepper, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld.
  3. Put steak on a plate, season both sides generously with salt and pepper and rub with the remaining 2 tablespoons of EVOO.
  4. Heat a gas grill to medium-high or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat on top of the stove.
  5. Cook the 1-inch steak for about 3 minutes on the first side and cook on the other side for about 1 minute for medium-rare. Adjust the cooking time if your want a more rare or more done steak or your using a thicker steak.
  6. Place the steak with the browned first side you grilled up and let rest for 5 minutes. Spoon the herb sauce over the steak. Serve immediately.


Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone Bread Pudding
Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone is a buttery bread studded with raisins and candied orange, lemon and citron peel.

Italians, especially in the north, love to eat panettone at Christmas and New Year.

Dunk panettone in your morning espresso or cappuccino. Panettone for dessert pairs well with a glass of vin santo or marsala. Leftover panettone is ideal for bread pudding or even french toast.

I didn’t have any panettone this holiday season but I couldn’t pass up buying one last week at a post-holiday 50% discount. After a few days I had my fill so I decided to use it up and made panettone bread pudding.

Bread pudding takes about 10 minutes of actual work to make. The rest of the time is just waiting for the panettone cubes to toast, then to absorb the custard mixture and bake in the oven. It’s an easy recipe with a big payoff.

My bread pudding has a rich and creamy interior with a golden, crunchy top. The buttery flavor sparkles with sweet raisins and candied orange peel. A little dark rum in the custard deepens the flavor. I had to add a dollop of freshly whipped cream to balance everything out.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Panettone Bread Pudding
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Panettone bread pudding is easy to make with a creamy, sweet interior and a golden, crunchy top.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
  • 1 Panettone (1 pound loaf) cut into cubes
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups of heavy cream, 1 for the egg custard and 1 for whipping
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum or ameretto
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the panettone into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them in the oven until they lightly brown, about 10 minutes.
  4. Put the eggs, 1 cup cream, milk, vanilla, sugar and rum in a bowl large enough to hold the toasted panettone cubes.
  5. Beat the mixture well and add the panettone cubes and mix well. (You may need to push down on the cubes to ensure they all absorb the egg custard mixture.)
  6. Let the panettone cubes sit in the bowl to give them time to absorb all of the custard, about 30 minutes.
  7. Lightly butter a 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Pour in the panettone cubes and spread them evenly in the pan.
  8. Bake the bread pudding in the oven until the custard is cooked through and the top has browned, about 50 minutes.
  9. Remove the bread pudding and set aside to cool.
  10. Whisk the remaining cup of heavy cream to soft, stiff peaks.
  11. Place a square of the bread pudding on a plate and top with a dollop of whipped cream before serving.


Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Anchovy

Orecciette with Caulifower & Anchovy
Orecciette with Caulifower & Anchovy

April Bloomfield just bought North Beach’s iconic Tosca Cafe on Columbus and will soon be serving her food there. She has a cult following at her restaurant The Spotted Pig in NYC’s Greenwich Village. I wondered what was in store for us when she arrives here in North Beach.

She describes her dishes as “British, but with Italian undertones.” I haven’t been to The Pig and I wanted to find out more about April’s British take on Italian food.

I came across one of April’s pasta recipes and decided to give it a go. I’m adding it to my list of dishes where the sauce can be cooked in the time it takes to boil the pasta. You can get these pasta dishes on your table in less than 30 minutes.

April first had the dish in Puglia, the southern most region on Italia’s Adriatic coast where it was served by a skilled home cook she was visiting. Her hostess made it with homemade orecchiette, small ear-shaped pasta. Quality dried orecchiette from Italia works well too.

Don’t be scared off by the anchovy in the sauce. Anchovy melts in hot oil and adds dimension to any dish. It’s an umami, like miso, a preserved ingredient that is known as a “5th taste”. The anchovy in this dish adds flavor and depth to the sauce.

The little pasta hats capture the sauce. The anchovy and garlic sauce is mellowed by the sweet cauliflower with a rosemary accent.

I love this pasta and can’t wait for April Bloomfield to wow us with more of her food at the revived Tosca Cafe. Try my riff on her recipe to get a preview of what’s coming to North Beach.

Buon appetito!

3.0 from 1 reviews
Orecchiette with Cauliflower & Anchovy
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Orecchiette with cauliflower & anchovy is a really simple, flavorful pasta dish you can have on your table in the time it takes to boil the pasta.
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 pound or 500 grams imported Italian dried orecchiette
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO, plus a drizzle to finish the dish
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3 anchovy filets, chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmigiano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.
  2. Cut the cauliflower florets into bite size pieces.
  3. Cook the florets in the boiling water and cook until knife-tender, about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove the florets with a slotted spoon or spider to a plate and set aside.
  5. Over a medium-low flame, put the EVOO in a saute pan large enough to hold the pasta.
  6. Add the onion and garlic, add a sprinkling of salt and cook until the onion is soft and slightly caramelized.
  7. Add the anchovy and rosemary and mix well with the onion. Cook for about 2 minutes. The anchovy will dissolve and disappear.
  8. Add the florets and a sprinkle of salt and mix well with the other vegetables. Cook for about 10 minutes. (If the sauce is too dense add some boiling water.)
  9. While the cauliflower is cooking add the orecchiette to the boiling water and cook until al dente.
  10. Strain or drain the orecchiette and add to the cauliflower sauce. (If you drain the sauce, reserve a cup of the pasta water.)
  11. Coat the orecchiette well with the sauce and cook for about a minute or so. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  12. Put the orecchiette on a serving platter, top with a drizzle of a good finishing EVOO and the grated parmigiano.
  13. Serve immediately.


New in North Beach

HRD Smokin Grill on Green in North Beach
HRD Smokin Grill on Green in North Beach

Lots of good things happening in the Village food scene.

Dogfather’s on Green is now HRD Smokin Grill, right next to Golden Boy Pizza on Green Street. The folks from the SOMA’s HRD Coffee Shop have staked a claim that they can draw a crowd for their famous spicy pork kimchi burrito and Mongolian cheesesteak. Dinner only for now. Here’s Guy Fieri’s video of his visit to the original HRD Coffee Shop.

Tony Gemigniani got 2 1/2 stars in Michael Bauer’s Capo’s review in Sunday’s Chronicle. Tony’s Pizza Napoletana on Stockton is a blockbuster and Tony has scored with his latest endeavor that celebrates Chicago’s Italian-American food traditions. I agree with Bauer, hats off to Tony for creating some nostalgia in North Beach. We’ve lost too many old-time places. Capo’s with its ’30s look and feel is most welcome.

Tosca Cafe has been facing eviction since the fall. Would the North Beach icon go the way of Caesar’s and other North Beach institutions that were shuttered over the last few months? The answer is a resounding no. New York City celebrated chef April Bloomfield and her partner restauranteur Kevin Friedman who own The Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village and other spots, bought the place.

They pledge to keep Tosca as it has always been.  That may include keeping the former owner Jeannette Etheridge around to reign over the place as she had for decades. The new owners are adding a full food menu. I can’t wait to see what the talented Bloomfield has in store for us.

Fior d’Italia re-opened late last month after a brief hiatus. Chef-owner Gianni Audieri promised a come back when he closed the restaurant last year. Now that it’s back I wonder if will regain the title “oldest Italian restaurant in America”.

Geppetto, the Italian deli across the street from Capo’s has been “on vacation” for months. Pete Mrabe who owns the popular Don Pisto on Union and Chubby Noodle, the just-reopened permanent pop-up in Amante’s on Green, is taking over the space. Fresh pasta and sandwiches are on the menu. I haven’t seen much activity in the space so it may be a while before it opens.

Txoko, the Basque place on Broadway closed on New Year’s Eve. The outrageous sandwich shop Naked Lunch took over the space and opened this weekend.

So when’s the last time you visited North Beach? Lots of fantastic new and well-established food choices beckon. What are you waiting for?

Buon appetito!