Verace Pizza Napoletana: Neapolitan Pizza Organization Starts New U.S. Culinary Traditions

Verace Pizza Napoletana

If Peppe Miele has his way, the pizza of his childhood may just be the next big food trend to make its way eastward from the West Coast in 2016.

As president of Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN), he runs the North America association that certifies pizzerias make pies upholding Neapolitan traditions: using San Marzano tomatoes, high-quality flours, and dome-shaped wood-burning ovens 850-900 degrees. (Written into law by Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture in 2004, think of it as the pizza equivalent of the official certification for Champagne, prosciutto di Parma, or Chianti Classico.)

“There are a lot more passionate young chefs now, and the job is considered more an artistic profession,” says Miele. “Something I really value over the last 10 years is (chefs) don’t do it because they think it’s good for promotion; they do it because they have the commitment, the passion to make the best using the best ingredients.”

Count culinary director Kevin DeLibero of Papa Razzi Metro in the Boston suburb of Burlington, Massachusetts, among those toques. The restaurant recently completed renovations of both its dining room and kitchen and he and his staff flew to VPN’s pizza training camp in California to get their hands “dirty”— learning about fork mixers, slow dough fermentation, and centuries of Neapolitan culinary traditions. But the real payoff was in the dining room, he said.

Verace Pizza Napoletana

“We had one guy whose son lived in Naples who said he’ll never order a pizza in the U.S. again. I dropped a Margherita pizza on his table and he tells us we ‘nailed it,’” says DeLibero.“It’s so great when people appreciate the ‘wow’ factor to the simplicity of just a few ingredients.”

It’s the same wow factor he used to get at big Italian family dinners cooked by his mom when growing up in New England. “This food is really a labor of love and a science. You’ve got to think with the dough, you’re dealing with something that’s alive — that’s my baby,” DeLibero said.

Verace Pizza Napoletana

While VPN training was helpful, there were challenges for him in dealing with temperature and humidity fluctuations in a region that, unlike California, has four seasons — and, says Miele, a sense of deeply rooted tastes. “American culinary culture is very attached to its own versions of pizza; there are so many different ones attached to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, more connection the further away from the West Coast.”

But despite the Windy City’s reputation for thick, buttery-crusted pies, Parkers’ Restaurant & Bar (the only Chicago-area VPN-certified restaurant) gets rave reviews for its chewy rounds topped with everything from pistachios to roasted cauliflower with mortadella and fontina. “It sounds odd, but it’s an unbelievably good combination. Guests are getting more adventurous — they love Chicago-style, but it has everything that’s bad for you,” says manager Heather Johnson. “You would never think of putting a salad on top of a Chicago-style pizza, but here you can taste the freshness of the arugula, the basil. It’s really a quality statement.”

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Super Bowls: 7 Winning One-Bowl Dishes for Winter + Beyond

In celebration of the Bowl that’s going down in the Bay Area this weekend, let’s dish about bowls — not plates — of oodles of noodles and other well-rounded meals. These 7 spots will bowl you over with one-bowl dishes highlighting warm ramen noodles, chilled spicy noodles, rice, and more. And, if your favorite team didn’t make it to the big game, consider these bowls to be warm culinary consolation hugs, too. 

The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, Grand Rapids, Michigan
A cold-weather hotspot in The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, eight of the 10 appetizers on the menu are served in bowls, as well as all of the pasta dishes and most of the sides. “I personally love to serve dishes in bowls,” says chef Austin Gresham. “If I build a dish in the center of the bowl, the guest is forced to draw the food from the center of the bowl against the wall of the dish. That forces them to enjoy the dish exactly how I want them to. Much better than a ‘decomposed’ plating strategy, where parts of the dish are spread out and guests are able to enjoy components of dishes separately. This could potentially take away from the whole experience of a dish, like a bite of steak without the sauce.” Noodle dishes include Chicken lo Mein — egg noodles, bean sprouts, bok choy, oyster sauce and soy. And there’s Pad Thai on the menu, too — scallops, shrimp, scallions, mint, and peanut sauce. Make a reservation at The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck.

One-bowl dishes

Bubu-Lowry, Denver, Colorado
The Denver Broncos are going to the Super Bowl! You’re not! But … you can to go Bubu-Lowry, where the Chicken Thigh Ramen Bowl with Swiss chard, edamame, pickled fennel, peppers, ginger, and chicken broth is a crowd pleaser. Feeling creative at half time? You can opt to make your own bubu bowl creations. A win-win, for sure. Make a reservation at Bubu-Lowry.

One-bowl dishes

Momofuku CCDC, Washington, D.C.
The mother of all bowls, David Chang’s Momofuku gives a noodle nod to D.C. with its first U.S. capital location in City Center. There are rice and noodle bowls aplenty to cheer for including Momofuku Beef Noodle Soup, which features brisket, baby bok choy, and black pepper. Spice it up with the Chilled Spicy Noodles with Szechuan sausage, spinach, and candied cashews. Or tackle the Ginger Scallion Noodles, rich with pickled shiitake, cucumber, cabbage. Make a reservation at Momofuku CCDC.

One-Bowl Dishes

Il Palio, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Chef Teddy Diggs will serve his pasta “super bowls” as a nod to football’s biggest day. He’s teamed his authentic Italian recipes with playful ingredients to produce winning dishes, such as duck egg carbonara and hay-smoked potato gnocchi infused with wood smoke (the smoky flavors of the grill are infused into the pasta). Andiamo! Make a reservation at Il Palio.

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8 Delicious Days + Nights: Top Restaurants for Hanukkah 2015

From jelly donuts and savory brisket to crispy potato pancakes and crunchy fried artichokes, the culinary traditions behind Hanukkah are tempting enough to please any palate, whether you’re Jewish or not. Though not the best for those watching their waistlines (it’s customary to eat foods fried in oil or made with cheese), what else is a holiday but the chance to indulge? In anticipation of more than a week of delicious ways to celebrate the Festival of Lights December 6-14, here 8 top restaurants for Hanukkah 2015.

Oceana, New York, New York
Savory and sweet meet at Oceana, where the seafood palace will serve a special latke menu this year created by Executive Chef Ben Pollinger and Executive Pastry Chef Colleen Grapes. Pollinger’s take features an Oceana staple, smoked sablefish, with American caviar atop a sunchoke latke (otherwise known as the Jerusalem artichoke). Grapes’s turn is a sweet potato pancake with quince, concord jam, and crème fraiche. Each is paired with an appropriate spirit — Duval Leroy, Brut, NV, Champagne France for the sunchoke, and Dunham Cellars, Late Harvest Riesling Lewis Vineyard, Washington, to complement the sweet. Offered at the bar, the tasting menu is $22, with an additional $16 for the half-glass wine pairing. Book a table.

Oceana Top Restaurants for Hanukkah

Shaya, New Orleans, Louisiana
It’s no surprise that Shaya’s Hanukkah menu will be served family-style. “I love cooking every winter during Hanukkah because I get to celebrate the traditions of the holiday,” said chef Alon Shaya, “and all of the great winter produce Louisiana has to offer.” He’s brought Middle Eastern flavors to the gumbo capital of the world while paying homage to the modern evolution of food from his native Israel. Think apple salad, veal brisket schnitzel with Persian cherries, and sufganiyot donuts served with black-tahini gelato. No Hanukkah meal would be complete without latkes, of course, and Shaya’s trio is accompanied by smoked salmon, caramelized oxtail, and whipped feta. If you’re a strict traditionalist, fear not – although he “decided to get fancy with the latkes,” if you want applesauce or sour cream, don’t be afraid to ask your server! Book a table.

Shaya Top Restaurants for Hanukkah

AKASHA, Culver City, California
AKASHA is known for its fresh-juice cocktails, so it’s no surprise that chef Akasha Richmond’s Hanukkah menu features two: the Citrus, with vodka, grapefruit, lemon, tangerine, and agave; and the Vanilla Pear, with vanilla vodka, Asian pear, pear/rosemary elixir, and lemon. Vodka and latke pairings are all the rage at trendy Hanukkah parties, and potato pancakes also take the spotlight here, served alongside Akasha’s brisket entrée, and on a small-plate trio with trimmed with apple, salmon, and braised duck. Earthy and unctuous chicken liver, a Jewish staple (the Kosher version of French pate) rounds out the meal with crisp crostini and buttery challah. Book a table.

AKASHA top restaurants for hanukkah

Paola’s, New York, New York
New Yorkers can forgo the deli for delicacies at chef Paola Bottero’s trattoria, where the rich traditions of Roman Jews are honored in one of the Hanukkah dishes she serves annually: Carciofi alla Giudia. These twice-crisped baby artichokes take a bit of patience and time to prepare, but it’s well worth it. Many Jewish cooks believe the art of frying was perfected in the Roman ghetto where Jews were confined from the 16th through 19th centuries. No matter what customers order at Paola’s during Hanukkah, everyone is served complimentary sufganiyot jelly donuts, either at the table or to go. Book a table.

Paola's top restaurants for hanukkah

La Morra, Brookline, Massachusetts
All year long, La Morra regulars anticipate the Passover prezzo fisso, and this year owners Jennifer and Josh Ziskin have Hanukkah covered, too, with a $38.50 four-course meal featuring latkes, matzo ball soup, and executive chef Josh’s savory brisket. The husband and wife team (she’s the wine director) say their connection to the holiday shines through in the dining room. “Josh and I are both Jewish, so Hanukkah has always been important for us. Josh’s brisket, which has served many memories, came to him from his Nana, who is still with us at 101!,” said Jennifer. “Nana and Josh’s mom are both amazing cooks, and Josh definitely inherited his talent from them.” Even the year someone besides Josh cooked the brisket and created a fire in the kitchen’s hood — causing a short closure for repairs – can’t stop the Ziskins from serving this crowd favorite. “You would think the brisket would never appear on the menu again, but it is requested too often to keep it from our guests,” said Jennifer. “We just take extra safety measures!” Beyond the food, she is excited to offer an optional beverage pairing this year for Hanukkah, too. Book a table.

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Thanksgiving 2015 Dining: 24 1/2 Uniquely Delicious Options

It should be quite obvious that Thanksgiving, the most food-centric holiday of them all, is our favorite here at OpenTable. There is no other day on which we love what happens around (and on) the table more than this one. Happily, there are thousands of restaurants ready to host you and yours in a special way on November 26th. We can’t round them all up (because thousands!), but here a few uniquely delicious Thanksgiving 2015 dining options. Look and book for a meal you’ll be thankful for!

ALDEA, New York, New York
As per tradition, chef George Mendes will be celebrating Thanksgiving at his Michelin-starred ALDEA with a Portuguese-influenced three-course dinner for $85 per person. Selections include savory Autumn Squash Soup, Roast Turkey with Chestnut, and Goat Cheese Parfait. Wine pairings include three vintages hand-picked by sommelier Doreen Winkler and one glass of celebratory Champagne.

Thanksgiving 2015 Dining

Brennan’s of Houston, Houston, Texas
If you live in the Lone Star State, you can still enjoy the flavors of the Big Easy at Brennan’s. Sister restaurant to the NOLA stalwart, chef Trace puts a Texas spin on Creole-inspired holiday dishes, such as Texas Creole Roasted American Turkey with Jalapeño and Crushed Corn Pudding and all the trimmings, Hunter’s Honey Roasted Duck with Braised Rabbit Fried Rice, a Lobster Stuffed Texas Flounder, and the decadent Just Duckin’ Around, which features duck prosciutto, Calvados foie gras mousse, duck dirty rice calas, duck cracklin’, Mayhaw pepper jelly, and duck “quackers.” Save room for Cinnamon Spiced Pumpkin Pie or the Crispy Louisiana Apple Empanada, and let the good times roll as you roll out of the restaurant.

Thanksgiving Dining 2015

Bowery Meat Company, New York, New York
Calling all carnivores: Get thee to the Bowery Meat Company for a carnivorlicious Thanksgiving. Featuring five festive courses for $65, chef/partner Josh Capon and executive chef Paul DiBari are serving Apple Chestnut Soup, Butter Lettuce with Anjou pears and walnuts, Pumpkin Ravioli with Mascarpone and toasted almonds, Pennsylvania Turkey with traditional sides, and Pumpkin Pie for dessert. A la carte items are also available.

Thanksgiving 2015 Dining

The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, New York, New York
April Bloomfield’s stylish The Breslin Bar & Dining Room is beloved for its high-end pub fare. Grab a pint to wash back the $90 three-course menu featuring dishes such as Wild Mushroom & Chicory Salad with creamy shallot, Jerusalem artichoke and mistu apple, and a Cornish Rock Hen with sourdough stuffing, cranberry, roasted Brussels sprout, and pan jus. For dessert, stick a fork in Bourbon Pecan Pie or Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta with espresso crumble will be available.

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The Cecil, New York, New York
New York City’s first Afro-Asian-American brasserie in Harlem is offering a special Thanksgiving dinners. For just $55, diners can enjoy unique cuisine inspired by the African diaspora, and featured dishes include Spiced Pumpkin Soup, Pan Roasted Skuna Bay Salmon with Tomato Gravy, Potato Salad, and Braised Greens. End things on a sweet note with Pecan Praline Pie with Cane Syrup Chantilly.

Thanksgiving 2015 Dining

Craft, New York, New York
Chef Tom Colicchio is a champion of contemporary American cuisine, so what better place to celebrate a most American holiday? Dig into a three-course, customizable family-style menu. Dishes include Country Duck Pâté, Roasted All Natural Free-Range Turkey, Spiced Venison Strip Loin, Roasted Autumn Vegetables, and Sausage, Raisin & Fennel Stuffing. For desserts, guests can dig into pastry chef Abby Swain’s seasonal sweets, from Honeycrisp Apple Crisp and Sugar Pumpkin Pie to Sugar & Spice Doughnuts. It’s $145 per person, and worth every penny for his signature Parker House rolls (for real!).

Thanksgiving 2015 Dining

Crossroads, Los Angeles, California
Chef and owner Tal Ronnen has forest-to-table meal awaiting veg-forward diners. Inspired by favorites and signatures off of the menu such as his Artichoke Oysters and Crab Cakes to the decadent pastas made in-house by executive chef Scot Jones, you’ll partake of an elaborate spread of indulgent Thanksgiving holiday dishes from Squash Bisque and Sweet Potato Biscuits, Rosemary and Hazelnut Scaloppini, and mashed potatoes with porcini gravy to a classic veggie spin on stuffing and Brussels sprouts with a maple mustard glaze to name a few. Crossroads make it easy to eat green this holiday.

Thanksgiving 2015 Dining

Fish Out of Water, WaterColor Inn & Resort, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
Overlooking the shimmering Gulf of Mexico, Fish Out of Water has a four-course surf-meets-turf menu from chef Todd Rogers. From a Maine lobster amuse to Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Winter Truffle Butternut Squash Soup and turkey with refined trimmings, including Roasted Root Vegetables and Corn Bread Stuffing, this meal has a decidedly Southern twist. Adults dine for $70 and kids for $30 at this award-winning restaurant.

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