Talking SCHOP! Everything’s popping up Italian

Kysha Harris - AmNews Food Editor, @SCHOPgirl | 5/5/2016, midnight
I have an affinity for all things Mediterranean—the places, the culture, the people and most certainly the food.
Gustiamo-first course Kysha Harris photos

I have an affinity for all things Mediterranean—the places, the culture, the people and most certainly the food. Having been to Greece and Italy a couple of times, I find myself trying to recreate those transformative moments in New York City. Recently Italy found me at two unique pop-ups in a warehouse in the Bronx and a rooftop in Manhattan.

The first pop-up came by way of an invite to a warehouse supper club to be held at Gustiamo (@Gustiamo, 1715 West Farms Rd., www.gustiamo.com), a premier importer of authentic artisanal foods for all regions of Italy. The dinner was to celebrate Sicilian chef Stefania Barzini and her teaching tour of America.

We arrived to the mural-lined courtyard of the remote warehouse to meet the Gustiamo team and to a welcome cocktail of Aperol, Zibibbo elixir (a Sicilian jam) and Sicilian raisins as garnish. Some fat olives from Puglia were also passed around before we headed inside.

The spirited team helmed the bar and guided us through the products of Gustiamo and their mission to bring only authentic Italian food products to America. This passion was most evident from the “Gusti Shelf of Horrors,” where fake Italian products are placed as an example and a cautionary tale of what unsuspecting American shoppers are purchasing. Needless to say, the evening’s menu used all ingredients available at Gustiamo!

At the table we were served hummus made with chickpeas from Umbria and Bottarga (salted and cured fish roe) from Sardegna with freshly made bread. The wine, a Sicilian red called Frappato, is one of my favorites! The simplicity of this moment, of the ingredients and the elements, is what captures me most when it comes to Italian food. Cin cin!

Then the meal descended on the table. Primi piatti (first plates) were pasta courses. First was busiate pesto trapanese agli agrumi, organic Sicilian durum wheat pasta with a pesto made of Roman almonds, Sicilian pistachios and tomatoes from Mount Vesuvius. It was hearty, nutty and bright. I could taste every ingredient in that dish. Bravo!

The next pasta course was penne pasta with bluefin tuna, small-scale fished off the island of Favignana, and mint. Another subtle and delicious dish I will try to replicate at home.

For our secondo Barzini prepared polpette in agrodolce, meatballs with Sicilian raisins, capers, almonds and Tuscan pinenuts in a sweet and savory tomato sauce, and insalata di finocchi e arance, fennel and orange salad with anchovies from the Amalfi coast and Sicilian almonds. These dishes were great combinations separately and together.

The dinner at Gustiamo can’t be complete without a little dolce (sweet). Find out what that is and how you can get some authentic Italian olive oil on my blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.

Happy eating (and cooking) and thanks for reading!

Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl or on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc. For even more recipes, tips and food musings subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com. Follow AmNewsFOOD @NYAmNewsFOOD.