I just made this up….yesterday. I am sure many people do something similar, but this is all me:
Ragu of Pork and Veal
In a large Dutch oven, sauté one large sweet onion and one medium-sized regular onion cut into very thin rings.
Sauté in a few healthy tablespoons of olive oil and include four cloves of garlic
minced (I just pour oil in the bottom of the pan until it looks right, but not an elephant’s foot bath.)
Add oregano, and basil. A little marjoram. And kosher salt to taste.
When almost at the point of caramelization, add 1/3 cup good balsamic vinegar.
Allow vinegar to mostly cook off, leaving a darkish sauce in the bottom.
Add to this two grated carrots, two fresh bay leaves, and 6 ounces of chopped baby Bella mushrooms.
Next add one package of ground veal.
Add one package of ground pork.
(Both should be no more than a pound.)
As the meat cooks down and browns slightly (ground veal and pork do not brown like ground beef), add one-third of a cup of 2% milk or half-and-half.
Allow the milk solids to cook off as if you would with a Bolognese sauce, and when all simmered and brown and delicious, add two 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes. One can should contain purée. (And buy good tomatoes – it does make a difference.)
Add one small can of tomato paste. (6 oz)
Cook on medium low for about 15 minutes or until it starts to gently bubble up from bottom
Adjust salt and pepper, add rough chopped fresh basil and Italian flat leaf parsley to taste. (for me that means a fistful – love both)
Simmer on very low for a couple of hours
Cook spiral pasta, as in the spiral shaped pasta that is called cavatappi. You can also use ziti.
Cook pasta according to directions and drain. Do not rinse
Get out your giant pasta serving bowl and ladle some of the sauce into the bottom. Next add on top of that sauce a third of the pasta you cooked – I cook the whole 16 ounce box.
On top of pasta add a healthy sprinkling of shredded Italian cheese – I like the six cheese Italian blend
Ladle more sauce on top, and repeat the layers twice more.
Top off with a little more sauce and cheese and some more fresh parsley.
I don’t want people to think I am a cranky restaurant reviewer, so I thought I would tell you about where we went Friday night for dinner. It was to sum it up in one word: favoloso!
Favoloso is fabulous in Italian.
I am half Italian and from a family of amazing cooks so I am more than a bit of a snob when it comes to Italian food. Even pizza.
I have longed for a place that had true high-end trattoria Italian specialties. I am sick of places that lob slabs of lasagna or overly doughy and otherwise tasteless salty pizza on a plate enough to feed and army and say “that’s Italian.” You know how people used to rave about Totaro’s in Conshohocken, PA? Or if you were ever in NYC in the late 80s or early 90s, Trattoria Foffe on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights, NY? This place puts the memory of those places to shame, and they have a decent wine list of some interesting Italian wines.
So on Friday evening, my sweet man took me to a place I have literally driven by for years, but had never gone into. We went to Fiorello’s Cafe on Gay Street in West Chester.
The food was fabulous. And fresh. And authentic. None of that half-baked garbage places like Fellini Cafe in Ardmore pass off as Italian trattoria food. The real deal served in a clean restaurant with knowledgable and pleasant wait staff.
We had a lovely waitress and another woman, probably more of a bus person who waited on us. They were cheerful and so nice. One of them brought me a rose at the end of dinner because they were celebrating International Woman’s Day which has been around since the early 20th century but largely ignored here in the United States.
The salads were fresh and crisp and served with an actual and real balsamic vinagarette. Not that overly sweet and gloppy emulsified goop that a lot of places serve, but a fresh dressing made with good olive oil and an an obviously good grade of balsamic.
For dinner I ordered the pasta with a sauce of tomatoes and white wine and calamari. The sauce was light a flavorful and neither weighed down nor overpowered the dish. And the calamari was perfect. Too many places it is served not only when it is not particularly fresh, but it is cooked to death and rubbery. Not Fiorello’s calamari. It was sautéed to perfection. And they even had no problem with adding a dash of capers for me.
My sweet man had another seafood pasta with bay scallops and shrimp. I can’t eat scallops but he said it was delicious.
For dessert I was torn between Nonna’s cake and cannoli. I ended up with the cannoli. One perfect cannoli all homemade. And it had the real cannoli cream that is slightly fluid and not all bound up with extra sugar and gelatin that some places serve. And it was lighter than most cannoli.
They also had real espresso. Not Nespresso which many restaurants now pass off as true espresso – don’t get me wrong I have and enjoy a Nespresso machine but that is for everyday coffee. I love coffee and this espresso was the perfect blend of rich and dark.
I intend to make Fiorello’s more of a habit. And oh yes in true Eurpopean Cafe style they had a delightful man singing Italian and other love songs while we all ate. He was so sweet and the joy of sharing his music with us showed on his face.
The one drawback with Fiorello’s is it is a bit noisy. And it feels even closer than the tables in Cucina di Pesce in New York City in the East Village.
They could rectify the noise if they chose by maybe changing out the ceiling for some sound absorbing tiles, or exploring something similar for some of the walls. They could also do that by taking a few tables out of the restaurant.
They pack them in due to consistant popularity and good food, so I know that is the thought process behind the arrangement and placement of tables, but I think they might benefit by cleaning up their interior space with a simpler look and fewer tables. But by cleaning up I mean interior design – making the walls look less busy because this place is so clean it is amazing.
Anyway, the food is so truly good that it is worth going again and again.
So if you haven’t been there, or haven’t been there in a while, go. We walked in without a reservation, so I do not know their reservation policy but would ask. I have also heard they are delightful for lunch.