I have an affinity for all things Mediterranean: the places, the culture, the people and most certainly the food. Having been to Greece and Italy a couple of times, I find myself trying to recapture the transformative moments in New York City. Recently Italy found me at a unique pop-up in a warehouse in the Bronx.
I was invited to a warehouse supper club to be held at Gustiamo, a premier importer of authentic artisanal foods for all regions of Italy. The dinner was to celebrate Sicilian Chef Stefania Barzini and her teaching tour of America.
We arrived to the mural-lined courtyard of the remote warehouse to meet the Gustiamo team and to a welcome cocktail of Aperol, Zibibbo elixir (a Sicilian jam) and Sicilian raisins garnish. Some fat olives from Puglia were also passed around before we headed inside.
The spirited team helmed the bar and guided us through the products of Gustiamo and their mission to bring only authentic Italian food products to America. This passion was most evident from “The Gusti Shelf of Horrors” where fake Italian products are placed as an example and a cautionary tale of what unsuspecting American shoppers are purchasing. Needless to say, the evening’s menu used all ingredients available at Gustiamo!
The people at Gustiamo believe so strongly about their mission to bring authentic quality Italian products to the US that they offer drive-up filling station of sorts. You bring a clean wine bottle and they will decant one of their olive oils in it for an affordable price. Call for details.
At the table we were served hummus made with chickpeas from Umbria and bottarga (salted and cured fish roe) from Sardengnia with freshly made bread. The wine, a Sicilian red called Frappato (Tami), is one of my favorites! The simplicity of this moment, the ingredients, the elements, is what captures me most about Italian food. Cin cin!
Then the meal descended on the table. Primi piatti (first plates) were pasta courses. First was Busiate pesto trapanese agli agrumi, organic Sicilian durum wheat pasta with a pesto made of Roman almonds, Sicilian pistachios and tomatoes from Mount Vesuvius. It was hearty, nutty and bright. I could taste every ingredient in that dish. Bravo! The next pasta course was penne pasta with blue fin tuna, small-scale fished off the island of Favignana and mint. Another subtle and delicious dish I will try to replicate at home.
For our secondo Chef Barzini prepared polpette in agrodolce, meatballs with Sicilian raisins, capers and almonds and Tuscan pinenuts in a sweet and savory tomato sauce, and insalata di finocchi e arance, fennel and orange salad with anchovies from the Amalfi coast and Sicilian almonds. These dishes were great combinations separately and together.
And finally la dolce…crostate di marmellate…an almond tart with jam and pistachio nougat. The latter of which I went in on. I need some of that Gustiamo!
Grazie mille i miei amici di Gustiamo e Chef Barzini! What a fun and unique dining experience with my favorite food. Until our next meal. Ciao ciao!