Last year’s impression confirmed

December 18, 2011

Heaven on a plate. That's all I can say.

Dear. Sweet. Baby. Jesus.

That ravioli and meatballs I raved about last year? It’s still there. It’s still marvelous. It may possibly be better than it was last year. Plus I have been to DiBruno’s and bought a significant amount of charcuterie — pepperoni, sopressata, bresaola, and some other cured meat ending in a vowel that I don’t remember. And some cheese that the cute Italian guy behind the counter told me to buy, and who am I to ignore good advice?

"I'll have one of each of these, please."

It’s a very good thing I don’t live in Philadelphia. Between Ninth Street and the Reading Terminal Market and the Austrian Village, I’d weigh a bunch more than I do now.

Oh, yeah. I went to the AV and had lunch — a knockwurst, some red cabbage and some potato salad, with a Yuengling. It met my expectations, which is to say it was eye-rolling marvelous. And then we went and tromped through the Italian market, which is a thing of wonderment. And then we went and had a couple of glasses of wine in a basement bar. And then, and only then, did we go to Villa di Roma where the ravioli and meatballs are Just As Good as they were a year ago.

I may die. But by George, I’ll die happy!

The Italian market was just fun. Lots of produce stands all along the sidewalk on Ninth Street, good looking, cheap produce at that. I bought chestnuts, because while I don’t have an open fire on which to roast them, I’m of a notion I want to roast some chestnuts for Christmas. I never roasted a chestnut before; it will be a New Adventure.

Veggies. Love the veggies. Sure, they're shipped in, but one hopes they're somehow better than their grocery store counterparts.

There’s a kitchen store where I bought a spaghetti scooper — I think you call it a spider. Because I was trying to get linguine out of a pot t’other night, and had hell doing it, so; and I bought some spoon rests because they were pretty. And I damn nearly bought a pasta machine, but I didn’t. (Lynne Rossetto Kasper, in her Splendid Table show yesterday, talked about Renaissance Lasagne; I looked up the recipe, and she contends hand-rolled pasta is better, because the texture imparted by the rolling pin helps the sauce cling to the pasta better. I’m just sayin’.)

Maybe a quarter of the different kinds of Claudio's pasta.

And then we went to Claudio’s, where I just about passed out from the surfeit of wonderful, marvelous stuff. A bajillion different kinds of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Olives, more kinds that you could comprehend. Cheese — oh, dear Sweet Baby Jesus, the cheese, up to and including the wheel that was a foot or better thick and three feet across. Pasta, Claudio’s own brand, every shape and color you could imagine.  Cannelini beans, fava beans, lentils, all in bulk. Pizzelles. Pannetone. And every narrow, tiny aisle crammed full of people edging past each other toward the long line at the meat-and-cheese counter.

Bacalao (salt cod). Wish I'd bought some of this.

Next door there’s a sort of Claudio’s annex, where they do nothing but the fresh cheeses — mozzarella and ricotta. Tiny little balls of mozzarella marinated in a brine with red peppers — I could’ve eaten a pound of ’em.

We wound up at DiBruno’s, which is like Claudio’s only smaller and without as many aisles, but possibly a bigger selection of cheese and charcuterie. I love buying sausages I can’t pronounce — oh, yeah, and the one I couldn’t remember earlier was abruzze, both sweet and hot. Why not? I’m seeing a Christmas Day lasagna with some of this good stuff in it, I am….

Figs and olives. Can you tell I love this place?

There were other shops — one with spices, one with just olive oils, several with fresh sausage, fresh and cured meats, fishmongers, a couple of places that had nothing but poultry. I could have spent the whole day and spent a ton of money. Real easily.

And then the meatballs and the ravioli. Villa di Roma won the “Best Meatballs, professional category” contest in Philly recently; I can well understand why. Dear God. They’re amazing. Just stunningly amazing. I mean, I’ve never had a meatball anywhere close to that good. I don’t know what they do to them, but they need to keep on. The marinara is lush, thick, fragrant, bursting with the taste and smell of tomatos and basil. The ravioli are the size of a drink coaster, full of ricotta and herbs.

I figure I consumed about 4,000 calories yesterday. And I don’t regret a damn one of ’em.

If you and y’mama ‘n ’em visit Philly, be sure you work a visit to the Italian Market in while you’re seeing all the historic sights. It’s worth the trip.

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2 Responses to “Last year’s impression confirmed”

  1. Len Cleavelin Says:

    FWIW, my late first ex-wife (who was a most excellent cook, her other faults notwithstanding) swore by homemade pasta rolled out on a pasta machine. I’m kinda surprised you’ve not invested in one already.

    Then again, I’m not quite sure where you’d put it in your kitchen. 🙂

  2. kayatthekeyboard Says:

    Yeah. That’s why I’ve delayed getting a pasta maker. Not only do I not have a place to store it…I don’t think I have enough counter space to make pasta!


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