The Great Italian Sausages Of New York & New Jersey

January 31st, 2015 § 0 comments

HG must make an admission: Despite the best wife in the world, glorious weather, stirring natural vistas, a beautiful home, interesting neighbors, history, art, culture and an abundance of smoky, lush green chiles HG’s life is incomplete. Why? The great New York/New Jersey Italian fennel sausage is unobtainable in the Land of Enchantment. Yes, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Kaune’s and every supermarket display and purvey “Italian” sausages. “Italian” ? They are as Italian as Mitt Romney. They should be labeled “Mormon” sausages. They lack the fennel seeds and other time honored ingredients that make the New York Italian sausage so juicy, flavorful and memorable. During the opening scenes of the film, “Godfather II”, that wonderful actor/director/playwright/teacher Mike Gazzo (playing Frankie Pietangeli) laments the absence of sausage and peppers in Nevada. Frankie’s woe echoes HG’s. What HG has is memories. Sausage, peppers and onions served on good bread, dispensed from the back of a truck in Greenwich Village. The same dish bought from a cart on Lexington Avenue, eaten while racing to a business appointment. Sausage and peppers at the San Gennaro Festival in Manhattan (years ago when the the Festival was smaller and food was better) and at traditional festivals in the Mott Haven section of The Bronx. Sausage and peppers at old time, cheap restaurants in the Belmont section of The Bronx and in Little Italy (before it became a tourist travesty). There were Italian restaurants in northern New Jersey that made an epic of the dish. Jerry’s in East Rutherford (tragically, closed after many decades of operation) did it best. This is how The New York Times described it in 1998: “Jerry’s combines garlicky, crisp and juicy Chicken Scarpariello (chunks of chicken on the bone) with great fruity rounds of pepper (both hot and sweet), fried onions, crunchy Red Bliss potatoes, and plenty of Jerry’s fennel-scented sausage.” Yes, this expanded plain spoken “sausage and peppers” into a regal feast. This was an enormous platter of food. HG/BSK would dig in, drink a lot of modest Chianti and manage to finish about 60%. Appetizer? Dessert? Fuhgeddabout it !!!

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