Old Italian food is “new again”

“ALL THOSE old Italian chestnuts, from meatballs to eggplant parm, are getting new focus,” observes Baum & Whiteman in Brooklyn N.Y., the preeminent food and restaurant consultant. “Fancy sandwich shops are nostalgically meaning them as hero sandwiches with social aspirations. Also growing: Consumer recognition of ancient and regional Italian grapes: bonarda, aglianico and negroarmaro.”

We can’t bring up old-school Italian food in our region without mentioning star chef Mark Estes, creator of Burger Me! and Moody’s Bistro in Truckee and Campo in downtown Reno. At Campo, Mark offers a meatball to remember: soft, juicy, fresh, well seasoned and the perfect size. Reno Provisions offers the “Italian Meat Grinder” sandwich (provolone, arugula, vinaigrette, hot peppers, ciabatta roll).

The old Italian influence spreads throughout the region, where restaurateurs, chefs, deli owners and others are creating authentic Italian dishes, and importing renowned Italian meats and cheeses. Winemakers are making Tuscan-inspired wines, such as Montoliva Vineyard and Winery in Chicago Park.

In Grass Valley, Rita and Frankie Molin, who are from Venice, Italy, recently opened La Gastronomia, a slow-food Italian deli in the historic downtown. It is a delight, redolent of some iconic San Francisco delis in North Beach.
La Gastronomia features homemade lasagna, meatballs, eggplant parmigiana and meatloaf (including a vegan version); fresh pasta (organic semolina flour) and gorgonzola and walnuts ravioli and Venetian tea sandwiches.

Other items include San Daniele prosciutto and bresaola; cheeses including Provolone, Pecorino Romano and Montasio; Castelvetrano olives; cantuccini (biscotti with almonds and pistachios); and tiramisù.

For restaurants, Italian comfort food is found at Tofanelli’s Gold Country Bistro in Grass Valley (the homemade lasagna and eggplant parmigiana are delicious); Kane’s Family Restaurant in Grass Valley (sample the chicken parmigiana and minestrone soup); and Trattoria Milano, which offers authentic cuisine from an Italian-trained chef. In Nevada City, savor the wood-fired pizzas at Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co.

(Photo: Sasha Coben)

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