Jorj’s Greatest Hits Inspired by Little Italy + Bakery Recommendation

Jorj’s Greatest Hits Inspired by Little Italy + Bakery Recommendation

There are over fifty Little Italy neighborhoods in the U.S., and today, Columbus Day, is a big deal for all of them. The celebrations marking the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in America over 500 years ago began with weekend parades, and are being sucked up – sometimes in the form of pasta drowning in Italian style gravy  – all day today.

I am familiar with and love quite a few of the big ones: the Little Italy of Cleveland, Ohio (close to where I grew up), Manhattan, The Hill in St. Louis, and handful of Little Italy’s out west where the cannoli and baked lasagna make you happy to be alive…I could spend hours studying old family recipes from these bakeries and romantic restaurants that burn away the hours on a Roman candle…. Here are my greatest Italian hits in pictures.

While I was dunking my favorite Italian cookie into a mug of espresso, I called up a Sicilian chef I met on an historic food tour of Boynton Beach this summer. Here she is in front of some goodies.

Chef Anna is from a village near Sicily. She and her family have managed Palermo’s in Boynton for decades. The bakery draws in all kinds of customers. Once, Charlotte York (actress, Kristin Davis) walked out of Sex & the City’s nearest Little Italy and straight into Palermo’s — celebrity photo on their site.

You can come into this colorful bakery and see a lot of history hanging on the walls. I asked Chef Anna what her favorite Italian dessert is, and she answered with one sweet word and this picture of it:

Cassata. It is a tort cake filled with ricotta cheese that involves a detailed process to cook, then intricately decorate.  In fact, the making of the Cassata is considered a specialty talent done by skilled pastry chefs.

“The essence of Italian sweets goes back our ancestors, our grandmothers in Sicily who made sweets using naturally produced ingredients like honey,” said Chef Anna, adding that she just did a Cassata cake making demo in the culinary department at Macy’s.

Hmm…well, that’s food for thought. I love to bake and teach, so perhaps I will do a pastry inspired lesson with my next cooking class at the Diamond Creek Golf Club in Boone, NC.

Don’t forget, my cookbook, SUNDAY BEST DISHES: A Cookbook for Passionate Cooks has quite a few of Italy’s greatest hits.

My family style recipes, most ideally suited for culinary exploration on a leisurely weekend at home, can be purchased at Dorrance or Amazon, and is also available, with audio by me, at iTunes.  Aaaaand…in my upcoming cookbook, CANVAS & CUISINE, the best culinary stops under the Tuscan sun are featured in chapter after chapter.

Caio – Happy Columbus Day!  I leave you with my recipe for pumpkin risotto!

Pumpkin Risotto with Wild Mushrooms


1 quart home made chicken broth, or low sodium chicken broth

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

8 ounces assorted wild mushrooms, chopped

1 teaspoon ground sage

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 cup Arborio rice

½ cup Marsala wine

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons half and half

4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about 1 cup

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Whisk the chicken broth and pumpkin puree in a pot over low heat.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Season with sage, salt and pepper. Stir in the rice and cook to toast, about 2 to 3 minutes more.  Pour in the wine and cook until the liquid disappears. Stir in a ladleful of warmed broth.  When the liquid is absorbed, add another ladleful of broth.  Continue until all of the broth has been absorbed.  This should take about 20 minutes.  The risotto will be wet, not sticky, chewy on the outside and tender on the inside.  Stir in the butter, half and half and Parmesan cheese.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with fresh parsley.


A Pasta Dish for Bacon Lovers

A Pasta Dish for Bacon Lovers

So…. Is your shopping done? Your holiday menu planned? Your packages wrapped? Well, if you’re like me, the answer is no, no and stop-asking-already no. So, let’s not stress on dinner. Try my simply delicious recipe for Penne Pasta Carbonara.  Yes, it’s a SUNDAY BEST favorite; however, this yummy skillet dish is perfect for a late night supper any day of the week – especially for those bacon lovers in your life.

More than likely, you have everything you need to make this sitting in your fridge and pantry – the recipe calls for under a dozen ingredients, a few of which are just your garden variety Italian herbs. Just look at this DISH OF THE DAY as it gets under way in the pic above. The finished product is even yummier!

As well as learning an indispensable cook’s tip for making pasta perfect, my Penne Pasta Carbonara comes together quickly, and it’s oh, so comforting and calming during the last week before Xmas! You can serve it to family right out of the skillet.

They’ll love everything you dish out of your autographed copy of SUNDAY BEST DISHES: A COOKBOOK FOR PASSIONATE COOKS. Be extraordinarily merry when you click the link and buy today!

Penne Pasta Carbonara


1 pound penne pasta

2 tablespoon olive oil

12 ounces bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large white onion, peeled and diced, about 1 cup

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse ground pepper

3 large eggs

4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, about 1 cup, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until just al dente, about 10 minutes.

While the pasta cooks, heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat.  Cook until the bacon begins to crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the onions and cook in the skillet over medium high heat until soft and just beginning to turn brown.  Season with salt and pepper.

Whisk together the eggs and cheese in a small bowl.

Transfer the pasta to the skillet, reserving the pasta water.  Pour the egg and cheese sauce into the skillet and toss with the bacon, onion and pasta. Ladle 1 to 2 (or more) of the pasta water into the sauce until it’s smooth and creamy. Toss the oregano into the pan.  Sprinkle additional Parmesan over all. Serve the pasta right from the skillet.