By Rebecca Cahilly
For me, narrowing a list of places for authentic Italian food in South Florida is almost impossible. My Italian/American husband and I are always looking for a canoli that could pass for Nonna’s, an Italian deli where the sopressata is sliced just so, or a frutti di mare that tastes as if it was pulled that morning from the shimmering Ligurian Sea. In short, places that offer food and ambience that could, with minimal imagination, transport us back to one of the magical meals we enjoyed on our honeymoon in Tuscany.
I could go on and on (and on), but I was asked to keep my suggestions short and to the point. So, here are some good reasons not to check out the standby seating availability this afternoon on Alitalia. Three recipes to try at home – and our favorite restaurants, delis and bakeries to visit when you’d rather let somebody else do the cooking.
CHEF ANGELO ELIA’S SARDINIA TUNA TARTARE, FROM CASA D’ANGELO
1 lb. of sushi-grade tuna
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tiny capers
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon wedge
2 whole-wheat crostini
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chop the tuna into very small dices, about 1/4 inch. Use a very sharp knife. Mix with the olive oil, capers, red onions, fresh parsley, half of the lemon juice and then season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the baby arugula with the remainder of the lemon juice and drizzle with a touch of extra virgin olive oil.
Arrange the tuna on a cold plate and garnish with the baby arugula and the lemon wedge. Serve with the whole-wheat crostini.
CHEF ELIA’S RISOTTO AL NERO DI SEPPIA E FRUTTI DI MARE FROM CASA D’ANGELO
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
4 chopped garlic gloves
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups seafood stock
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 pound (2 cups) Arborio rice
2 pounds assorted Mediterranean shellfish and seafood (mussels-clams- shrimp-squid-cuttlefish)
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon of squid ink
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan, over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the onions and garlic are slightly soft (about three minutes). Add the rice, fish stock and squid ink. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 12 minutes, stirring constantly.
Clean, trim and dice the shellfish and seafood. Add the seafood to the risotto. Continue to cook for six minutes. Remove from heat. Spoon the risotto in the center of each shallow bowl. Garnish with parsley.
MUSSELS MARINARA FROM SERAFINA BY THE WATER, FORT LAUDERDALE
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon shallots
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 dozen fresh mussels
¼ cup white wine
½ cup fish stock
½ cup homemade tomato sauce
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Oregano to taste
Fresh basil chopped
In a large pan, heat the oil and toss the garlic, shallots and spices. Add in the mussels and toss over medium heat for 1 minute. Pour in the wine and simmer until it is reduced by half. Pour in the fish stock and tomato sauce and add the salt and pepper at this time. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until all the mussels have opened. Discard any that do not open.
Pour into a warm serving bowl and garnish with basil and parsley. Enjoy with a nice loaf of crusty Italian bread! (Serafina recommends the fresh-baked bread from Gran Forno on Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale).
GRILLED BREAD WITH LIME AIOLI TO BE SERVED WITH CLAMS FROM VIA LUNA AT THE RITZ-CARLTON, FORT LAUDERDALE
4 each grilled bread (sliced thick)
4 oz lime aioli
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 limes (juiced)
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 whole egg
2 cups grapeseed oil or as needed to thicken
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend well until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the oil. Continue adding the oil until aioli consistency.
Oil and season bread, lightly grill (or toast in hot oven); smear with lime aioli and serve with clams.
WHITE WATER CLAMS IN A BLUE MOON AND ORANGE BROTH FROM VIA LUNA AT THE RITZ-CARLTON, FORT LAUDERDALE
4 dozen clams, rinsed well
½ cup shallots (sliced)
8 each garlic cloves (smashed)
1 cup Blue Moon beer (or another Hefeweizen-style beer)
2 cups fish stock
2 tablespoons crème fraiche
8 oz European style butter, diced
2 each oranges (peeled, cut into rounds)
4 tablespoons parsley leaves, picked
4 tablespoons olive oil
In a large pan, sauté the garlic and shallots with the clams. Deglaze with Blue Moon and fish stock. Cook over medium-high heat until all of the clams are open. Stir in the crème fraiche and butter. Season to taste with salt and finish by folding in the orange wheels and parsley leaves.