Eating Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago

What's Left of the Chicago Classic Deep Dish Pizza
What’s Left of the Chicago Classic Deep Dish Pizza

I just flew in to the Windy City and I had to have a deep dish pizza for my first dinner tonight.

I can hear my producers yelling at me now. I was starving and the pie’s aroma overwhelmed me. I didn’t think of the food porn still shots until I was sated. This was all that was left of the pie when I remembered I needed a photo.

This one’s from Lou Malnati’s, the runaway winner of the last March’s Eater Chicago best deep dish poll beating out Gino’s East, Pizzeria Uno and Giordano’s.

Luckily for me there’s a branch of all 4 close to the hotel I stay at during my frequent trips to Chicago so I’ve had them all. Lou Malnati’s is one of my go-to places too. They’ve been making deep dish for decades.

While I love a good deep dish my favorite pizza is a true Neapolitan thin-crust pie encircled with a puffy dark crust. That one’s in and out of a wood burning beehive oven in 60-90 seconds. You have to wait for these deep dish pies for about 40 minutes so you gotta be patient.

In an article on certified true Neapolitan pizza, The Wall Street Journal reported that “When Lou Malnati’s…decided to introduce its version of a Neapolitan pizza, it offered it as an appetizer.”

“That speaks to what we think about it,” says spokeswoman Meggie Lindberg. The chain discontinued its Neapolitan offering since so few customers ordered it, she says.”

My choice this time is the Chicago Classic with Lou’s trademarked Buttercrust that costs 75 cents more and worth every penny. Layers of sausage, tomato sauce and extra cheese atop the almost flaky buttery crust, it’s a 3-inch high slice of heaven.

If you’re not in Chicago make a deep dish pizza at home with my recipe. If your in San Francisco’s North Beach get a really good deep dish pizza at Capo’s where they celebrate Chicago Italian-American food.

Italian beef sandwich, Chicago Dawg, pastrami, the difference between deep dish and stuffed pizza, it’s all in my Chicago street food prowl post. Gotta love the Windy City.

Keep on cooking. Buon appetito!

A New Ship Docks in North Beach

New North Beach Library Branch
New North Beach Library Branch

Just kidding. You know that North Beach really isn’t a beach anymore. If you took my tour you know why.

Look at the new North Beach Library Branch that opened today. The beautiful sleek design looks like a modern ocean liner slipped it’s Fisherman’s Wharf mooring and ended up smack on Columbus Avenue at Mason near the cable cars and below the crooked turns of Lombard Street.

The library’s opening is the culmination of a long-fought battle between those who opposed the plans entirely or wanted to preserve the old mid-century modernist library building and city planners. The Chronicle’s architecture critic provides the full details in today’s paper.

A big crowd gathered in the warm sun for the opening enjoying a children’s chorus belting out songs from Annie followed by Mal Sharpe’s Big Money in Jazz dixieland band. An expert was giving lessons in the bocce courts across from the new library entrance.

More change is on the way. The old library will be demolished and the Joe DiMaggio Playground will be enlarged and renovated next year.

Boy am I happy that this northern fringe of North Beach has come alive again. Be sure to visit soon.

BTW, behind me in the video is North Beach poet and visual artist Agneta Falk‘s How Long/The Storm that she painted while watching a violent thunder storm over Fisherman’s Wharf.

North Beach First Friday Art Crawl

An artist at work in the midst of Live Worms Gallery crowds
An artist at work in the midst of Live Worms Gallery crowd

A fingernail moon glowed brightly low in the Maxfield Parrish dark blue sky. Live music, restaurant chatter and laughter filled the night air.

The galleries were packed for last night’s First Friday art crawl, the art in the  galleries superb.

Don’t miss Nicholas Coley’s new California plein air impressionist work at Emerald Tablet. It’s coming down soon.

Make your way to Focus Gallery at the other end of Grant Avenue for Ferlinghetti’s works on paper and Jack Micheline’s portraits including Bar Mitzvah Boy and his 1961 Mexico City memory of Marilyn Monroe.

Focus Gallery owner John Perino told me a funny story about North Beach’s heroic criminal defense lawyer Tony Serra’s preparation for a recent talk there. Tony’s representing Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow in the recent Chinatown gang & corruption bust.

On the way stop in at Live Worms for a group show of 10 Bay Area artists. You may even see art being created in the midst of the appreciative crowd.

The North Beach art scene is booming. I Heart North Beach just opened next door to Green Street Mortuary with a group show of North Beach artists. A new gallery featuring digital art will open soon in the old North Beach Pizza space on the corner of Grant/Green.

Don’t miss North Beach’s next First Fridays art crawl. Mark your calendar for June 5 and be enriched by dozens of artists in more than 20 galleries. See you there.

North Beach sure is special. Subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss my new Gianni’s North Beach series where I share what’s happening in the neighborhood, in the farmers market and cooking in my kitchen. Oh, that’s Maury Lapp’s Washington Square behind me in the video.

Cannoli Siciliani: Crispy Tubes Filled with Sweet Creamy Ricotta

Don’t miss the next recipe video: Subscribe now to my YouTube channel.

Homemade cannoli are easy to make and even easier to eat.
Homemade cannoli are easy to make and even easier to eat.

Often at the end of a special meal growing up in Jersey Italian pastries would cap off the day’s celebration.

I’d visit Ferrara’s Pastry on Bloomfield Avenue in Newark and buy a dozen and a half of my family’s favorites. Sfogliatelle, baba, Cannoli, Neapoleans, eclairs. After Ferrara’s closed Calandra’s Bakery near the Water Tower and Dicky Dee’s fried hot dog joint further down Bloomfield Avenue became my go to place.

Here in San Francisco’s North Beach my favorite cannoli (little tubes) is Santo’s at Cavalli Cafe on Stockton. He fills them when you order one and drizzles the ends with his fresh orange syrup. He has regular size and minis. I always get the regular.

But I like my homemade cannoli too. They’re fun to make and really not that difficult. You can make the shells ahead and fill them just before serving.

My shells are crispy with blisters all over so be careful, they’ll shatter as you bite into the sweet, creamy ricotta filling studded with candied orange and chocolate chips.

If you don’t want to make your own shells you can buy the shells. I got a box of Ferrara’s shells at North Beach’s Molinari Deli on Columbus. Whip up your own ricotta filling and fill the shells just before serving so they stay don’t get soggy.

Zeppole di San Giuseppe is a Neapolitan pastry I love too. Check out my zeppole video episode and make some for yourself.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cannoli
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
Shells
  • 4 cups sifted flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • canola or your favorite vegetable oil for frying
Filling
  • 4 cups ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • ¼ cup finely chopped candied orange peel (or lemon peel or candied citron)
Instructions
Shells
  1. Mix the flour, sugar and sea salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter.
  2. Add the yolks. Stir in the wine a little at a time until a dough forms. (Use more wine or water if the dough is too dry.)
  3. Knead the dough briefly on a well-floured board.
  4. Roll out the dough to ⅛ inch thickness, or run it through a pasta machine.
  5. Cut the dough in 4-inch circles. Wrap the circles around cannoli forms. (Buy the forms on Amazon and many retail stores.)
  6. Wet the overlapping edge and pinch the ends together. Flare out the ends.
  7. Heat the oil in a pot to 350 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to make sure the oil stay at this temperature. Fry the shells in the oil until lightly brown all over.
  8. Drain the shells on paper towel.
Filling
  1. With a wire whisk blend the ricotta with the powdered sugar until very smooth.
  2. Add the vanilla, candied fruit and chocolate and mix well into the ricotta and chill.
Assembly
  1. Fill the cannoli shells with the filling just before serving so the shells stay crispy. Piping the filling with a pastry bag works well or use a spoon to fill the cannoli from both ends.
  2. Dust with powdered sugar.

 

North Beach is San Francisco’s Heart

Worth the wait!
Santo’s Cannolo at Cavali Cafe–A North Beach Treasure

So says Carl Nolte in today’s Chronicle.

“People will tell you that South of Market is the new center of San Francisco. But North Beach has all the contradictions that made San Francisco what it is. And for my money the heart of the town is North Beach.”

Molinari’s Deli, early morning tai chi in Washington Square, lunch at Original Joe’s where a mistress may be at the next table, Liguria Bakery’s fantastic focaccia, Carl surveys it all in his ode to North Beach.

You know how much I love North Beach. Come along with me as I scour what’s left of North Beach’s Italian-American neighborhood to get all the fixings for a 4-course meal with friends last weekend. Homemade ricotta and mozzarella ravioli in a San Marzano tomato-basil sauce were the star of that 4-hour meal. Santo’s incredible cannoli weren’t too bad either.

Wayne Thiebaud's Laguna Rising
Wayne Thiebaud’s Laguna Rising

Only one week left to see the incredible Memory Mountains, the Wayne Thiebaud exhibit at the Paul Thiebaud Gallery on Chestnut Street at the fringe of North Beach.

You may know Wayne Thiebaud from his luscious cake paintings or the gum ball machine. I love his landscapes as well.

At 94 Wayne remains a prolific artist. The exhibit features his recent work and older food and landscape paintings that give the exhibit context over time.

Don’t miss this extraordinary collection of art. See which new ridge painting resembles a cake good enough to eat and another like a swirl of chocolate gelato ready to be scooped up.

What’s not to love in North Beach?

I know, the messy and disruptive subway to nowhere dig, loss of old Italian businesses. Don’t get me started. I’m in a wonderful mood this morning.

4 North Beach Sandwiches on 2 Top 10 Lists

Molinari Deli on Columbus
Molinari Deli on Columbus

4 North Beach places own top spots in 2 recent San Francisco best sandwich lists.

Molinari’s and Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store are on both lists, Eater SF’s Most Iconic Sandwiches and Sean Timberlake’s Citysearch Guide’s Best Italian Sandwiches.

Giordano Brothers and L’osteria del Forno are on Timberlake’s list too.

Stop in Molinari’s to get a Renzo Special (prosciutto, coppa “hot or mild” fresh mozzarella, with sun dried tomatoes). Be sure to take a number as you enter the deli. Grab your choice of bread for your sandwich from the bin while you’re waiting for your number to be called.

Head to Mario’s on Washington Square Park for a meatball sandwich oozing melted cheese and marinara sauce on focaccia from Liguria Bakery just across the Square.

Giordano Brother’s “all-in-one” sandwich is an homage to a Pittsburgh tradition, stuffing a truck driver’s whole meal between 2 slices of bread so he can eat lunch behind the wheel. North Beach’s Italian-French Bakery bread holds your meat and cheese picks, delicious french fries and oil & vinegar coleslaw.

L’osteria del Forno house-made focaccia sandwiches can’t be beat. If you want a bigger meal their simple, Tuscan food will not disappoint.

And Eater SF’s downtown pick near my office, Sentinel’s corned beef focaccia sandwich never fails to sate my lunchtime deli cravings. The Sentinel is a street front walk-in for take-out only.

Buon appetito!

Citysearch List

Eater SF List

Celebration Crab Salad on My New Year’s Eve Menu

Dungeness Crab Salad
Dungeness Crab Salad

San Franciscans love dungeness crab this time of year. The crabs are big and meaty this season. I’m making a celebratory dungeness salad with celery and shallot, EVOO and Meyer lemon.

The lemon perks up the briny sweetness of the crab bathed in mellow olive oil. The celery and shallot add a background crunch to the crab salad. Simple and sinful.

If your have steamed, cleaned and cracked crab the salad is done in 10 minutes. Use the recipe below and put a celebratory crab salad on your table. Add fried calamari and giardiniera and your antipasti is complete.

Lentil soup with cotechino is a traditional New Year’s Eve first course. It brings you good luck in the new year. The dish full of tiny lentils represents the coins you will amass in the new year and the fat boiled sausage your impending opulence.

I wasn’t completely satisfied with the New Year’s Eve dinner menu I posted the other day. Something was amiss. As often happens I found inspiration in the market.

There it was, a beautiful boneless leg of veal roast sitting in the display case at Little City Meats. The roast with a zesty spinach stuffing will be the anchor of my meal. I’ll post this recipe soon.

I’m all set for New Year’s Eve dinner at my place. Are you?

Except for the Prosecco, we’re drinking some nice California reds.

Buon Capo d’Anno! Happy New Year! Buon appetito!

Gianni’s New Year’s Eve Dinner Menu

Antipasti

Calimari fritti. Fried calamari served with vinegar pepper confetti.

Fresh dungeness crab salad with celery, shallot, EVOO and fresh Meyer lemon (recipe below).

Giardiniera

Zeppole. (fried savory, light doughnuts with anchovies)

Prosecco, a sparkling dry wine from the Veneto in northern Italia

Primo Piatto

Lentil soup with cotechino

Pinot Noir, Beulieu Vineyard, Carmeros Reserve, Napa, 2007

Secondo Piatto

Leg of Veal Roast with spinach stuffing

Roasted spaghetti squash

Cabernet Sauvignon, Francis Coppola Diamond Collection, Ivory Label, Napa, 2010

Dessert

Sfogliatelle (crispy Neapolitan pastries filled with sweet ricotta)

A sip or two of my homemade limoncello and my strawberry liqueur

Italian still and sparkling bottled waters throughout the meal

Celebration Crab Salad on My New Year's Eve Menu
 
A fresh clean taste of the sea, dungeness crab salad with shallot and celery,
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 2 steamed dungeness crab
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 shallot
  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat parsley
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Steam the crab or buy steamed, cracked crab at the market. (Blue crab or boiled shrimp can be substituted for the dungeness crab.) Put the crab meat in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Clean and crack the crab. Pull out out all of the meat leaving the pieces as intact as possible.
  3. Cut the celery in very thin slices.
  4. Squeeze the lemon juice in a small bowl.
  5. Mince the shallot and add to the lemon juice. Let it sit for 5 minutes to mellow its flavor.
  6. Add the EVOO and whisk well.
  7. Pour the dressing over the crabmeat.
  8. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  9. Roughly chop the parsley and add to the crabmeat. Mix well.
  10. Put the crab salad on a serving dish and serve chilled.
  11. Serves 4-6.

 

Holiday Sausage @ Little City Meats

Little City Meats
Little City Meats @ Stockton/Vallejo

I was excited when I walked into North Beach’s Little City Meats this morning.

The Christmas sausage stuffed with pork, fennel, imported provolone and basil was in. Run, don’t walk. Get some before they’re all gone. I absolutely love these holiday sausages and can’t wait for them to appear this time of year.

Father and son Ron and Mike Spinelli at Little City have been my butchers for over 2 decades. They have fantastic meats and just as importantly, they both have hard to find Old-World meat cutting skills.

Want cutlets? They pound out lovely, thin scallopine. Need braciole or a butterflied pork roast. No worries. They do it all.

Little City is the place to go if you want Italian pork sausage. All year round I cook up their mild Sicilian sausage with fennel and their spicy hot Calabrese sausage.

In case you’re in the mood, here’s my recipe for a one-pan sausage and peppers.

Recently Little City was a Chronicle pick for one of the 5 best sausages in the Bay Area.

Ron and Mike are getting too famous. Bold Italic just posted Joseph Schell’s piece about making sausage at Little City.

You just have to try this stuff.

Buon appetito!

Bolognese Pasta Sauce

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Actually it’s called ragu alla Bolognese. It’s a long-cooked meat sauce from Bologna, in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, the culinary heart of Italy.

The ragu is traditionally served with tagliatelle in Bologna, a flat pasta a bit narrower than fettuccine. The pasta’s shape is perfect to maximize the sauce captured on its surface.

Spinach tagliatelle is the favorite in Bologna. I grabbed fresh spinach pasta at Molinari’s Deli on Columbus so I could focus on the ragu.

The ragu has to simmer at least 3 1/2 hours, even longer. I like to make it Sunday morning to eat for lunch or dinner. The aroma will fill your house all day.

You’re building layers of flavor here. Saute minced onion, celery, carrot and pancetta in EVOO and butter. Add the meat and mix them together. Cover it all with wine. Cook off the wine and add milk and nutmeg. Cook those off too, then add the tomatoes and simmer, simmer, simmer. You end up with a thick brick-red ragu with tons of flavor.

When the sauce is done, boil some well-salted water and cook the fresh tagiatelle. That will take about 3 minutes. Put half the sauce in a large bowl. Drain the pasta when al dente and put it in the bowl and mix well with the ragu. Place a serving of pasta on a plate and top with a big spoonful of the ragu. Sprinkle with grated parmigiano reggiano and eat!

The fresh tagliatelle is silky and coated with the ragu. The long simmer intensifies the complexity of the sauce and melds all the flavors together. The dusting of parmigiano reggiano completes this homage to Bologna.

This ragu is for a pound of tagliatelle, fettuccine or your favorite pasta.

When I don’t have time to make my own, one of my favorites in North Beach is Graziano’s ragu alla Bolognese at his Caffe Puccini on Columbus.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:114]

4 North Beach Treasures

Molinari Deli on Columbus

Marcia Gagliardi of Tablehopper blog fame shares her appreciation of 4 North Beach spots in her just-released video tour.

Marcia visits Caffe Trieste, Molinari Deli, Liguria Bakery and Stella Pastry. Find out Marcia’s favorite coffee, focaccia, sandwich and sweet. I’m with her all the way. These are some of my favorite North Beach haunts.

If those tourists in the picture took my North Beach walking tour, or Marcia’s video tour, they wouldn’t have to scour that big map to figure out where to go.

Where’s the best cannoli? Want a quick pasta fix? I have a few ideas. Who’s still cooking inspired, authentic food you find in Venice, Tuscany, Rome, Calabria and Sicily? Want pizza? I always head to one of 4 places.

Tired of Italian, God forbid?  How about Mexican, Thai, French, or American? All of my favorite shops, markets, restaurants, cafes, bakeries, art galleries and bars are on our route, as we leisurely stroll through the Village.

Come out of the fog. Make North Beach your own. Let me know if you’re interested in my 90-minute North Beach walking tour and I’ll schedule one soon.

In the meantime, take Marcia’s North Beach video tour.

Mercato Opens in North Beach

Imported and local oils and vinegars at North Beach’s new Mercato

Mercato Artisan Food & Gifts just opened in North Beach on Columbus near Green, nestled between Stella’s Pastry & Lola’s Card Stop.

Mercato features imported and local artisan food and gift products, with a focus on Italia that befits the neighborhood. You may not know many of the artisan goodies, but don’t worry. Almost everything in the store is available for tasting.

I did a balsamic vinegar flight. I tasted a 6 and 8-year old traditional balsamic and a young and 6-year old white balsamic vinegar. My favorite was the 8-year old traditional. It was syrupy, the sweetness nicely balanced by the mild acidic finish.

Drizzle a few drops of this finishing vinegar on grilled vegetables or a sharp cheese. Any of these vinegars would pair well with fresh strawberries to create a simple dessert.

Stop in and say hello soon. Don’t forget to taste before you buy. If you live in North Beach you get a local’s 5% discount.

Mercato is the second retail location for Buyer’s Best Friend, the San Francisco wholesaler of a carefully curated collection of artisanal food and other products. Check out Bold Italic’s take on wholesaler Buyer’s Best Friend and their Haight Street retail store.

Off the Grid in North Beach

Off the Grid Food Trucks Will Gather Here

San Francisco food trucks are hot. These roving kitchens offer fantastic food from all over the world. Many follow their favorite trucks on Twitter and Facebook and track them down at various parking spots around the city.

Luckily, Off the Grid brings a horde of food trucks together in one place every week. Eat your way around the world at these round-ups, from appetizers to desserts.

If you don’t know about Off the Grid, here’s what they say about their weekly markets.

Off the Grid is your roaming mobile food extravaganza — bringing you delicious food, with free sides of music, craft and soul. Check out all your favorite gourmet food vendors in one place – creating markets like you’ve never seen before.

I don’t mind trekking to Fort Mason or Mint Plaza for an OtG food truck orgy, but I’m ecstatic that Off the Grid is bringing a market to North Beach. The soft launch is tomorrow,  Wednesday, 10/24.

Show up and make this the first of many weekly OtG North Beach markets. Food trucks and music galore, what’s not to like? See you there.

Off the Grid at North Beach’s Joe DiMaggio Playground.

Buon appetito!

 

North Beach Parade & Fall Bounty from Italia

Cavalli Tuscan Treasures

North Beach’s Italian-Heritage Parade, the oldest in America, is Sunday, October 7. Book your lunch table now at one of the many caffes and restaurants on the parade route. They’re going fast. It’s a fantastic holiday. You don’t want to miss it. Everyone will be there.

We’re in for a really special treat this year. Piero and Lorenza Cipriani are flying in from Italia laden with bounty from the fall harvest. Santo Esposito who owns Cavalli Cafe is pitching a big tent outside on Saturday & Sunday so the Ciprianis can share tastes of their Italian culinary loot with anyone who stops by.

They’re bringing this year’s extra virgin olive oil from a small producer in Tuscany, just-picked truffles from Emiglia-Romagna and Umbria, just-milled Tuscan chestnut flour and fresh and dried porcini mushrooms.

I’d kill for a fresh porcini. I like to grill them with garlic-infused olive oil and a light sprinkle of oregano or marjoram and sea salt. It’s like eating steak.

All of the Cipriani goodies are for sale so grab some while you can. And stop in Cavalli Cafe before you move on for an espresso and Santo’s cannoli, the best in all of North Beach. I hope I see you there after our Parade lunch party.

I have a few seats at my lunch table if you want to join us. Send me an email and I’ll let you know the details and where to meet up.

Read more about my Parade experiences.

 

Square 5 Best in SF

North Beach’s Graffeo Coffee Roasting Co.

The Chronicle’s food writers just completed a year-long culinary tour of San Francisco, one square mile at a time.

The city was divided into 49 “squares”. Each Sunday the culinary adventurers shared their take on the best restaurants and food attractions in each square. After exploring all that San Francisco has to offer, one square topped the heap.

Square 5, including North Beach, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and Jackson Square, is the best in all of San Francisco. Woohoo!

What’s not to like? It’s one of the oldest parts of the City, home to the first public square, the first air-dried salami, the bawdry Barbary Coast, vibrant Italian and Chinese neighborhoods, and coffeehouses loaded with colorful locals.

Why Square 5 over all the others?

If I was going to pick one square to explain the quirkiness, vibrancy and ethos of San Francisco, it would be Square 5. Here lies the heart and soul of San Francisco. This square mile encapsulates the city’s beginnings, its forced acceptance of ethnic diversity, its independent entrepreneurial spirit, its love of life.

So what to pick as the best of Square 5? There are so many fabulous restaurants and food outlets in these rich neighborhoods.

It was a tough choice. “Yet in the end we picked Graffeo Coffee because it represents the type of creative and entrepreneurial spirit the city embraces.” Interesting choice.

Graffeo Coffee Roasting Co. is one of the country’s oldest artisan coffee roasters. The’ve roasted beans on Columbus every day since 1935. That’s all they do. Only go there if you want to buy some of their world-renowed coffee.

While you’re at Graffeo’s, if caffeine isn’t enough and you need a chocolate fix too, stop by XOX Truffles across the street for some of the best chocolate anywhere.

Here’s the Square 5 article.

 

Victoria Pastry Is Back

Victoria Pastry Company’s New Home on Filbert

Victoria Pastry Company has reopened in its new digs near Washington Square Park, on Filbert just down the street from Saints Peter & Paul Church. Victoria moved after almost 100 years on the corner of Stockton & Vallejo, across the street from Little City Meats.

You can get the famous St. Honore and other cakes, cannoli, lemon polenta pound cake, Italian cookies and all your other favorites once again. They make a good espresso too.

Everyone is stopping by to welcome them back to the Village. Why don’t you? Let’s support our local businesses so they stick around for all of us to enjoy.

Sicilian pastries and a whole lot more. Take a look at what could be yours.  Victoria Pastry Company