The First Dish: Authentic Peasant Recipes from Little Italy
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Born and raised in Manhattan's Little Italy section of New York City, Angel Marinaccio shares some of her favorite traditional
Italian dishes inspired by her friends and family and passed down through generations. Her family consists of Sicilian, Neapolitan,
Calabrese and Barese, and they prepare proudly their old-world dishes with different touches.
Angel's cookbook highlights eight distinct categories of peasant foods: appetizers, soups, pastas, omelets, meat, fish, house
specials, and dessert. Whether you're looking for a delicious pasta recipe one night or a dessert recipe another, The First Dish
provides a treasure of unique ideas for delicious meals.
With step-by-step instructions and beautiful pictures, Angel's cookbook makes Italian cooking easy, simple, and exciting. All
that you need is a great piece of Italian bread. Mangia!--eat, eat!
Growing up in Little Italy with all its wonderful stores to shop in was a plus. It was and still is a great place to live.
Mott Street back then is today's Union Square market with all the fresh fruit and vegetables. We had butcher shops, pork stores,
and fish stores. Bakeries like Parisi's and, of course, our famous Di Palo's Cheese Store, are still there and going strong to
this day. What more did we need? They were all at our doorstep.
The smells when you walked down the street were amazing. In the summertime, the Greek on the corner of Mott and Grand Street would have olives in baskets outside his store, along with babaluge (snails) that were crawling out of the baskets. He also sold spices, dried beans, chestnuts, and olive oil. The watermelon truck would come by, and the man would yell out, "watermelon." You could buy half a melon for 50 cents. The Sicilian pizza was in a glass case outside Dino Maggiore's bread store. Oh boy! I loved to shop for my mom, grandma, or any family member. I ate my way down the street.
In the winter, an old man with his chestnut cart passed by. Every time I smell chestnuts roasting it brings me back to those days and reminds me of that old man. I love that smell to this day. There was even a knish man who also sold out of a cart. He was dressed with a long coat, scarf, hat, and gloves that were cut so his fingers could be out to count the money you handed him. I guess he was the first to start that trend. He handed you the knish in a brown bag after he salted and shook the bag.
It was great.
Thinking back when I was a kid, at dinnertime, whatever our parents or grandma put on the table for dinner we ate with no question. We didn't have a choice in the matter back then. I must say we all survived. In the morning when I woke up for breakfast, the ladies in my building would be talking to each other in the hallways or through their windows in the courtyard of my building. I would hear them say, "What are you cooking tonight?" and they would ask each other, "When I go shopping, do you need anything?" That's how it was back then. They didn't even finish their coffee or swallow their breakfast before they got started. The menu was done for the day and these dishes were prepared in every household. The family would fill up on the first dish (primo piatto) because it was an inexpensive meal to make.
The first dish consisted of an antipasta (hot or cold appetizer), a vegetable, brodo (soup), pasta dishes, omelet (frittata), meat, or fish. Oh, how I love them all! There were times in my house we would only eat the first dish, but what great meals they were. I love all those old-world recipes, and I still make them today.
In my neighborhood, people enjoy dishes from all over Italy. We are Sicilian, Neapolitan, Calabrese, and Barese. We live in Little Italy and cook our traditional regional dishes. We are one, but we are different in our cooking.
My family and friends are great cooks. They can whip up a first dish in no time. These are their recipes. Enjoy them.
After reading and making all these fabulous recipes, the only thing you will need is a great piece of Italian bread. Mangia!