Steve Dolinsky is on vacation this week. We are re-publishing some of his past posts to keep you company! Steve will return on August 24th.
When I first started eating at The Purple Pig in the true depths of our miserable winter, I felt like I was somewhere in Italy, or at the very least, tucked into a Mediterranean taverna, stuffing bits of fried pig's ear, braised tail and all manner of yummy offal into my pie hole. ‚ Jimmy Bannos Jr. has learned well from his pork-infused Master's Degree, also known as the school of Mario Batali. Rather than come home immediately after culinary school, and start working for his father at Heaven on Seven, Bannos instead went to New York and worked for a number of Batali's restaurants, where the art of curing meat and making the most of the odd bits was all part of a day's training.
In his relatively new surroundings, Bannos also pays homage to his father's Greek heritage (chicken thighs with salt-roasted potatoes and tzatziki sauce) as well as his mother's Italian roots. In the case of today's recommendation, it's his Italian grandmother we're thankful for. Because tucked away on this menu full of charcuterie and cuttlefish and pig's ears is a small section called simply, "smears." There are a half-dozen or so options on it, including one dish that I've found myself eating for lunch over the past few weeks. It's a peasant lunch at best, but one that somehow fills me with pleasure each time I eat it. Into a shallow pool of pork neck bone gravy, Bannos drops a healthy, golfball-sized dollop of Calabro ricotta; here's the best part of all: surrounding the cazuela, a half-dozen thick slices of Pamela Fitzpatrick's dense, chewy bread, lightly oiled and griddled until they're barely blistered. I couldn't think of a finer vehicle for smearing. The price for this lusty Mediterranean escape? All of $6.