Cicero’s Eggplant Rollatini Pizza

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I venture over the Tappan Zee to Rockland County about every six weeks to get my hair done by Paul De Carlo, owner of De Carlo’s Salon. He has been doing my hair for over 30 years, and our relationship is one of customer and stylist, and one of friendship between two who share a passion for cooking. When I settle comfortably in his chair we always end up talking recipes, entertaining, family, and everything in between.

For as long as I can remember, Paul always has coffee, tea, and baked goods neatly displayed in a welcoming corner of the salon…there for the taking. Surprisingly, there is another generous tradition observed by De Carlo’s Salon on Saturdays; pizza is served to all interested customers around noon! Who does that? Paul orders pizza from Cicero’s which is a few doors down from his shop in the same strip mall in Bardonia. One can always find plain pizza while the more adventurous will find eggplant rollatini pizza. The pies are cut into 10 slices instead of 8, making the eating process a little easier and adding a touch of class to the whole experience. The first time I tried the eggplant rollatini slice, it was heaven. At my home, I’ve tried to duplicate this special pizza, but I can’t manage to recreate those perfect little eggplant rollatini pinwheels like Cicero’s. They really burst with flavor with each bite.

The last time I got my hair done at Paul’s, I ordered an eggplant rollatini pizza pie to go as a special treat for my family. Everyone loved it. Some dishes cannot be reproduced at home, and this is one of them. Just like getting my hair done. I trust no one with my hair except Paul and my daughter-in-law, Christine, who also does hair: Only the best for this gal.

I gave up trying to make this special pizza at home, but I can still get the best ever eggplant rollatini pizza from Cicero’s after I get my hair done at De Carlo’s Salon. Talk about a double feature!

The next time you are in Rockland, venture over to Bardonia and stop in to DeCarlo’s and Cicero’s. You’ll leave with hair to envy and a pizza you will be hooked on for life!

DeCarlo’s
59 Bardonia Road
Bardonia, NY 10954
845-623-1353

Cicero’s
71 Bardonia Road
Bardonia, NY 10954
845-627-3436

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Bentleys Cafe in Tuckahoe – Breakfast Review

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I arrived 20 minutes early to meet my friend, Janet, for breakfast on a pouring rainy Saturday morning in Tuckahoe at Bentley’s Café.
Sitting in a back booth, I was greeted by Dawn Mullen, from Yonkers, my waitress. With her bright smile and blonde hair, she was a little bit of sunshine on really dismal day. I sat quietly sipping the most delicious coffee, really smooth and not a bit bitter, waiting for Janet to arrive, just observing everything around me.

Bentley’s Café gave me that small hometown feel the minute I stepped in the door. There are booths, tables and stools at a counter, with a nostalgic décor. The place reminded me of my own Queens neighborhood soda shop that we used to get egg creams and ice cream sodas. (After browsing the menu, I can confirm they do indeed sell egg creams, ice cream sodas and milk shakes.) At one point, Dawn and the staff behind the counter were having a good laugh together, which is always a good sign. No one wants an unhappy person serving them. As customers started coming in, I noticed Dawn was bringing them there beverages before they even asked for it, obviously regulars, who greeted her like a friend.

After Janet arrived and settled in, her first comments were the same sentiments as mine about feeling nostalgic. We ordered a Swiss, bacon and onion omelet with home fries, one slice of rye and one slice of whole wheat toast. Janet and I ordered buttermilk pancakes. Dawn suggested the blueberry pancakes and we ordered one of each. The omelet was cooked perfectly, the onions were sautéed and the cheese was evenly melted throughout the omelet with delectable home fries on the side. Our pancakes were full of flavor as well as the fresh blueberry pancake.
We were offered coffee refills no less than 3 times. I had to switch to decaf from drinking too much coffee but it was too good to pass up. The cost for breakfast was $22.25, without tip which I felt was more than reasonable.

Bentley’s Café sadly had no real butter, or real maple syrup, but they more than made up for it by being a comfortable, cozy café with good old fashioned home cooking served complete with a smile.

Where do you go to breakfast? Please share the name and town of your favorite breakfast spot in the comment section.

Bentley’s Cafe, 111 Lake Avenue, Tuckahoe, NY 10707
(914) 961-9641

Mont Olympos Diner – Breakfast Review

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I received a great Christmas present this year, an automatic car starter. My old car starter, my husband, thought it was a great gift for him and me. The first appointment that he could schedule for installation after the holidays was the first Sunday in February.

Mela was gracious enough to drive me to PC Richards on Central Avenue in Yonkers, for my appointment and then take me out to breakfast while my car was being worked on. Since I began writing these breakfast reviews for Patch, Mela and I have really enjoyed discovering new places to eat breakfast. Little was discovered on my computer for breakfast in Central Avenue, Yonkers searches. I know there are places out there that possibly are not listed on the internet.
I remembered seeing a diner on top of a hill driving south on Central Avenue. Turns out the Mont (that is the correct spelling) Olympos Diner was literally right before PC Richards.

The parking lot at 9:30 am was pretty filled up already. This is always a good sign. Right off the bat, our waiter, Carlos Ramirez, from Yonkers, was on the ball. We were served good strong coffee and water without having to request it.
There was no Splenda, but Carlos got it ASAP and not just one or two, but about eight packets. Not being stingy on the Splenda says a lot. Another plus was we were offered more coffee no less than four times.

We ordered the Florentine egg white omelet with home fries and toast, a Belgian waffle with a side of bacon. With arms full of dishes Carlos realized he forgot my rye toast. Sometimes you finish your meal and then get the forgotten item, not with Carlos; we had it in a jiffy. As Goldilocks says, the bacon was perfect, light and crispy, but not too hard, just right. The waffle was tasty and cooked just right. Get the picture. Real butter was served and I have the photo to prove it.
The syrup served in those little square containers, Mommas Cabin Syrup, contained as the first ingredient, corn syrup and the second ingredient, high fructose corn syrup. We requested maple syrup and offered to pay extra, but none the less, they don’t have any other syrup. Unfortunately, once you’ve had real maple syrup, it’s hard to go back.

Moving on; when ordering the omelet we specifically asked if the spinach was fresh and we were told yes and it is steamed. But Mela and I had our doubts about this. The spinach in the omelet was soft but didn’t have the color or texture of fresh spinach but that of frozen spinach. The Feta cheese wasn’t overbearing and of good quality. Overall the omelet was good and the combination really served our taste buds.

Lastly were the home fries. On this item, Mela and I agreed to disagree. She likes her potatoes seasoning free, and I like some onions, peppers and some seasoning added. But we both agreed that the season-less home fries tasted fresh and had just the right crunchy topping.

At $22.82, without tip, our breakfast was the most economical so far. Who would have guessed that I could find a really good place for breakfast in Yonkers the old fashioned way, my memory and without using the computer!

Mont Olympos Diner, 1 Fort Hill Road, Yonkers, NY 10710
(914) 961-4677, http://www.montolymposdiner.com

BAY SCALLOPS AND GRITS

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Milk for soaking scallops

1 pound bay scallops

1/ 4 lb of bacon

4 scallion stalks, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh parsley chopped

1/ 4 cup White wine

3/ 4 cup grits

3 cups milk

1/ 2 cup heavy cream

1 1/ 2 tablespoon butter

Kosher salt

1/ 2 teaspoon fresh parsley chopped

1/ 2 teaspoon fresh basil chopped

1. Rinse bay scallops in water 4 hours before serving. Place in a bowl with milk and then refrigerate until needed. When ready to prepare dish. Drain scallops from milk bowl and set aside.

2. Cook bacon till crispy in medium frying pan. Keep the bacon grease in frying pan, but remove bacon to a paper toweled dish to dry and then crumble. Set aside.

3. Sauté chopped scallions in 2 teaspoons of the bacon grease. Set aside when thoroughly cooked and tender.

4. Meanwhile, make your grits. They take 15 to 20 minutes to cook totally.

5. Add grits, milk, butter and a dash of kosher salt to medium pot. Cook and stir continuously for about 10 to 12 minutes under a medium flame. Turn off the stove.Stir in heavy cream along with basil and parsley. Set aside till ready to serve. Just before serving, return pot to stove and cook for 8 minutes until slightly bubbling and hot.

6. Add scallops to frying pan and cook till done. Drain most of the liquid from frying pan out, and then add white wine, fresh parsley chopped along with bacon and scallions. Simmer together until everything is very hot.

7. Serve scallops immediately over creamy grits on a platter.

8. ENJOY – The combination of seafood and grits was a match made in heaven!

This recipe is from my first trip to Newport, Rhode Island over two years ago.

What would I do without my friends, MaryEllen and Mike? Probably, never visit Newport. MaryEllen and Mike invited my husband and me to their place in Newport RI for a weekend. We all arrived on a Friday evening and just settled in, when Mike took us for a spontaneous tour of Newport by car. It looked wonderful in the dark, but I was really curious to see everything in the daylight. That would have to wait for Saturday afternoon.

After a morning of catching up with our friends and rescuing them from a faulty garbage disposal we ventured off for a walk through the cobbled stoned streets of the seaside town of Newport. There were tours through Gilded Age mansions and various museums but our time was limited. So after browsing the shops and having a hearty late lunch on the docks, we settled on taking a sunset ride on a lovely old schooner through Newport harbor. It was mellow and quiet and just right for a late summer outing.

After coming ashore we walked around some more and continued exploring. While walking past an outside restaurant called, “The Pier”, we heard a loud band playing; I also noticed they had a more intimate area inside with just two musicians playing. I convinced everyone to stop in for a drink before continuing on. We sat down and our waitress, Erin, brought us some beverages.

While looking at their menu, Erin told us, that in 25 minutes; mostly everything on the appetizer menu was going to be half price. Well, that is all the guys had to hear and we knew we were here to stay. We decided to order 4 different appetizers and share them. I ordered the Gulf Shrimp and Grits (Lightly sautéed shrimp with bacon, melted leeks and mushrooms served over creamy grits). The seafood over grits intrigued me. I had to try this. All of us loved this appetizer. I’m personally not a huge fan of shrimp; I am more of a scallop gal. I asked Erin how the grits were made and she went back to the kitchen to ask Chef Kevin M. Gaudreau. I was told just grits, butter, milk and cream. No measurements, no recipe was given by the chef, which really intrigued me even more. I knew I would have to somehow recreate this dish my own way at home. So, Bay Scallops and Grits recipe was born and I hope you enjoy this dish as much as my family did when I served it recently for a family dinner.

The rest of our evening at The Pier restaurant could not have gone better if we tried to plan it. Two tables away from us, a large group of men and women came in all dressed in black and looking very professional. I didn’t think anything of it; just assumed they were coming from work, until the music started up again. They all were dancing up a storm, each equally talented. All of us sitting in the vicinity were having our own version of Dancing with the Stars performed right in front of us. Erin was so excited she called her fellow waitress over and shouted, “Look, that’s my table dancing”, like a proud mom. After watching them all evening, I went over to the table to congratulate everyone on their dancing and found out that they all were professional dance instructors. A lady having dinner at another table was brave enough to ask one of the male instructors to dance. It was like a free lesson.

When it was time for us to leave, it felt like we were leaving our long time friends. Erin hugged us. How many times has a waitress hugged you goodbye? For me – practically never. We had such a good time; we came back the next morning for Sunday brunch. Erin was there and we were happy to see each other. The breakfast was just as good as the meal the previous night.
Our time in Newport was something we want to repeat in the near future. MaryEllen and Mike please invite us back to Newport and to The Pier, I promise to make my Bay Scallops and Grits for you!

The Pier Restaurant, 10 Howards Wharf, Newport, RI 02840 Phone: (401) 847-3645

RICE BALLS

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3 cups uncooked rice
8 sweet sausages
4 eggs separated
1 box frozen peas
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
8 ounce whole mozzarella
3 onions, chopped
1 cup Romano/Parmesan grated cheese
Flour
Bread Crumbs
Canola oil

1. Cook 3 cups rice (I use Carolina) with 5 cups water. Put NO salt or butter in rice. After rice is cooked. Place into a large bowl to cool
2. In a large frying pan, remove casing from sausages. Break up the sausages into smaller pieces. Cook loose sausage meat until no longer pink in color. Remove sausage meat and all grease except for 2 tablespoons from frying pan. Set meat aside in a bowl.
3. In the frying pan with the 2 tablespoons of sausage grease cook 3 chopped onions until tender. When onions are cooked till tender, add onions to sausage. Remove any liquid from sausage and onions and set aside.
4. Add 1 cup of grated cheese (I use a combination of Romano and Parmesan cheese together) to cooled rice and mix well.
5. Separate 4 eggs, whites and yolks. Mix 4 yolks into rice and cheese until blended well. Add sausage and onion mixture to rice. Mix everything well with a wooden spoon.
6. Lastly, add 1 box of frozen peas, do not defrost, breaking up peas into the rice mixture and 1 can of tomato sauce. Mix everything together until with a wooden spoon.
7. Take mozzarella and make ½ inch cubes. Place on a dish and set aside.
8. Beat egg whites with a fork in a bowl until frothy. Set one dish with flour and another dish with Italian bread crumbs.
9. Heat Canola oil in deep fryer 1/ 2 way.
10. Scoop up a handful of the rice mixture and place a mozzarella cube into the center of rice before packing into a round tight baseball size ball. Gently roll the rice ball in flour and at the same time, packing the flour around the ball. At this point you can place the balls on a tray until you have half of the rice mixture rolled into balls and floured.
11. The floured rice ball then gets dipped into the frothy egg whites and immediately into Italian bread crumbs. Place on a tray until ready to fry.
12. With the heated oil ready, place 2 to 3 balls at a time into the frying basket. Submerge the rice balls into the oil and cook for about 5 minutes. Pull up basket from oil when rice balls are a golden brown color. Place on a tray lined with paper towel for blotting oil.
13. This recipe makes about 2 dozen rice balls. Serve hot with homemade spaghetti sauce.
14. ENJOY! – An appetizer, a side dish or a meal, all rolled into one rice ball!

Call me crazy, but I really enjoy having family and friends come for dinner. Sometimes I entertain large crowds and skip the china in favor of paper plates, or perhaps it’s Sunday dinner and I break out grandma’s china, silverware from my uncle, and wine glasses from my dear friend Saranne. When my table is all set, whether it be with paper plates or the fancy china, I do take pride in what I’ve prepared and in seeing such satisfaction on my guests’ faces! .

Make no bones about it, this rice ball recipe is not for the casual cook. My dear friend Vivian actually came to my house and made rice balls for the first time with me quite a while ago, and it has become a favorite. Yes, it does involve frying – honestly, have you met a fried food you didn’t like? I enlisted my husband for the frying duty. He doesn’t like me using his fryer, so I had no problem relinquishing this step in the recipe. Let me just add that I’ve altered Vivian’s recipe by adding a mozzarella cube in the center. However, this is not an original idea, since most Italian delis will put a piece of mozzarella in the center of their rice balls too. Vivian also uses 3 egg yolks instead of 4. There is a reason I’ve added an extra egg, which you will find out in this story.

Anyway, I had one of these formal dinners a few weeks ago. My menu consisted of 2 hot appetizers (black bean dip with chips and homemade chicken nuggets with honey mustard dip) served on the coffee table in the living room. Moving on to my dining room table, Rice Balls served as the first course, followed by Osso Buco (veal shanks), roasted potatoes, green beans and spinach. This was capped by desserts and fruit. The process proved to be quite an undertaking. When I created this menu, I assumed I would prepare the rice balls the day before considering the amount of cooking to be done. Well, that didn’t happen because my grandson, Jared, had a basketball game the night before my dinner. For me, anytime I can see my grandkids is a good enough reason not to stay home and cook. Needless to say, everything had to be prepared in one day. On top of the rice balls, my Osso Buco proved to be a time sucker as well. Here I am in the kitchen with pots and pans on every burner. I am now at the point of rolling the rice balls with my hands and yeah, you guessed it….the rice wouldn’t stick together and the balls were falling apart. If you could have seen me with this huge restaurant size bowl filled with sausage, onions, peas and rice. I was only a couple of hours away from my guests’ arrival and I had no back up 1st course to serve. I tried again to roll the rice into balls and struggled to get them to stick together. Time for a meltdown anyone? That was when my husband told me not to panic and to try adding another egg. Remember that one extra egg yolk I mentioned? Well, it did the trick. I couldn’t believe that in this huge bowl of rice, one little egg yolk could make that much difference. The rice balls came out great, and I received many compliments. Of course, only after my husband told everyone how he saved the rice balls with an egg yolk. Guess I’ll never live this one down!

When cooking actually becomes a labor of love, accept the praise you get in the end – you deserve it!

Lina’s – Breakfast Review

Lina’s Buttermilk Pancakes/DSC07730 Lina’s Homefries/DSC07734 Lina’s Broccoli, Tomato and Mozzarella Omelet/DSC07738 The Famous LinaDSC07728

I love to cook, I love to eat. I love to talk to cooks whose food I love to eat. And as a cook, I am very particular about where and what I eat. So, I am happy to dedicate this column to Lina, the cook whose food I love to eat!

My friend, Mela, and I have been going to breakfast for years. It started with four friends, Sandy, Jeannie, Mela and I. Sandy and Jeannie moved away a few years ago, and Mela and I continued the breakfast tradition. Once a week, on a Saturday or Sunday morning, Mela and I will try to have breakfast together.

I am an early bird, so early; the birds are not even up yet! My husband is not. He loves when I go to breakfast because he can be left alone with his coffee and his crossword puzzle for a few morning hours. By the time I get back home it’s after 11:30 in the morning and he can handle my hyper ness better.

Mela and I love to try different places to eat breakfast and critique them like food experts. We are very high maintenance when it comes to ordering our breakfast. The best thing about Mela is she will share breakfast with me. I always like to share everything, so, I get more variety that way. She likes wheat toast, I like rye. I like waffles, she likes French toast. We both like omelets, but different kinds. After years of sharing breakfast we have it down to a science. I am like Sally, from the movie, “When Harry met Sally”, when I order. I want to make sure that I get my butter from the little, individual plastic pats that actually say butter and not the fake butter in huge metal containers that looks way too yellow and smooth to be butter. It never is. My omelets have to be well done. I hate a runny omelet with uncooked egg. Enough said. I think you get the picture now, how I can traumatize a waitress. Rest assured, I always try to be polite and friendly to the waiter and waitress, after all this person is handling my food.

Which brings me back to Lina’s breakfast. Mela’s cousin Ray told her to try Lina’s Caffe Del Monte this past summer. We have been spoiled. Mela and I only want to go there for breakfast now. Lina is like a friend besides being a wonderful cook. Her buttermilk pancakes are the highest I’ve seen and so light and fluffy. We split the 3 pancakes in half and then sometimes Mela and I take half of our halves home, they are so large. The home fries are perfect. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, seasoned just right with oregano and cooked in a frying pan. But the most delicious of the three is Lina’s omelets. She cooks her fresh broccoli and tomatoes in olive oil just right.

There will be no recipes this time, because great cooks like Lina are reluctant – and rightly so – to share all of their cooking secrets. Instead, I decided to take pictures of the delicious breakfast we were about to devour so I could share this visual delight with my readers. Sometimes it’s just not polite to ask for someone’s recipes. Lina volunteered that she uses oregano in the potatoes, because I tasted it and I figured out the olive oil too. Lina was born in Italy and moved to United States years ago. She serves only breakfast and lunch 7 days a week but no dinner. Dinner should be eaten at home with the family. I love her. The people that come to her caffe will sometimes stand at the counter and drink their espresso, just like in Italy. If they sit down to eat, and Lina is not too busy, she sits down and has a conversation with you. Caffe Del Monte is a family affair and has been in business for 21 years. Lina’s son, John, is there with her, working side by side, serving, talking and doing whatever needs to be done. But Lina is definitely the cook. We talk food every time I visit. When I leave, I usually buy the biscotti from the big glass cookie jar on the counter. Biscotti baked by Lina. My biggest compliment to this day, is from Lina. She baked my biscotti recipe from this website and gave me some when I came in for breakfast. They were great. Caffe Del Monte is the place to get home cooking from a wonderful cook and mom, Lina!

Caffe Del Monte, 321 N. Main Street, Port Chester, NY (914) 937-0108 – Tell Lina, Somebody’s Mom sent you!

TOMATO RISOTTO


4 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb box uncooked Arborio rice
8 ounces white wine
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped Parsley
salt and pepper to taste
14.5oz can petite cut tomatoes in juice

1. Melt the butter and add olive oil in a large casserole or skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and the rice, stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add the white wine and stir until completely absorbed.
2. Add the chicken broth 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next. When the rice has cooked for 15 minutes and most of the liquid has been incorporated, add the tomatoes along with the end of the broth. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender but still slightly chewy.
3. The risotto should take 18 to 20 minutes of cooking all together. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, most of the basil, parsley and salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto immediately onto plates, top with the remaining basil and serve.
4. ENJOY – Big and long grained rice, risottO tastes so nice!

Life is short; that much we know. In the year 2007, I turned 50 years old. For myself and many other people is a turning point in life. There are certain things we would like to accomplish in our lifetimes before we pass away. I have a dream; two dreams actually. I would like to take two trips; one to Japan and one to Italy.

At the beginning of 2006, I started to plan a trip to Italy for my husband, my younger daughter and myself with friends of ours. Our friends have been to Italy a few times before, and we have been saying for years that when our daughters are in their last year of high school, we should go to Italy together. Their daughter Katie and our daughter Mia have been friends since they were about three years old. As we started to put together the trip, airfares, hotels and expenses, we realized this trip was too expensive for the three of us. I didn’t want to take this opportunity from my daughter, and my friends really wanted Mia to go with them as company for their daughter. At the end of June through the beginning of July, Mia spent ten days in Italy on the trip of a lifetime. Our friends took such good care of her, and I knew our friend, Eddie, Katie’s dad, would not let the girls out of his sight. Mia called almost every night. I think she felt bad that we couldn’t all go together. Her phone calls home every day were minute-by-minute details of her trip as related to us. My husband would get on the extension and she would narrate everything she did and saw that day. Rome, Florence, Milan and Stresa were seen by Mia and shared with us. What I was most interested in was the food. Where did she eat, what was she eating and so on. The food in Italy is fantastic from what I heard. Mia took it one step further and started to photograph her meals and the markets for me. She came home with over 400 photos and a love of Italy. After all her name is Italian, Mia Dominique.

At most of the dinners, Mia didn’t get past the appetizer of risotto or pasta. That was enough for her. So, when she returned, I wanted to continue to give her the flavor of Italy here in her home in New York. She loved this risotto dish and so did we, and this risotto dish will now become a family favorite.

Maybe I didn’t get to Italy yet, but I got the next best thing, my daughter got to live my dream for me. I couldn’t be happier than if I went myself.

Note: I did finally get to Italy, but that is another story!