While I don’t know how much you need to learn about Italian food if you live in NJ, I do see many restaurant names in this piece that I’m not familiar with, plus others that I’ve heard of/been to are getting some love. I know @seal likes Via45, and @NotJrvedivici introduced many of us to Jimmy’s, and if you haven’t been to the Belmont Tavern, well…don’t get me started! Those shrimp beeps ARE. TO. DIE. FOR.
One thing I did learn–the name of the Sicilian fig cookies that my former landlord made at Xmas every year. I freaking LOVE them and never knew the name, but I’ve shown pictures to many a legit Italian without learning that they’re Cuccidati, so thanks, Pete!
Are there other restaurants in here any HOs approve of? Other places where you prefer the dishes listed?
I had Carduna (Cardoon) for the first time at Viaggio, in Wayne, about a month ago. They had an excellent presentation of fried cardoon, with alfalfa crest, roasted garlic, in an amazing Calabrian chili vinaigrette. The cardoon was braised for several days with garlic, chili, and other ingredients. The cardoon had a celery like texture.
We took over the tradition from Grandma years ago. Ours are made as individual cookies and not a loaf and cut though. Every year is an adventure with dough quality, but we generally do ok. Remind me next December and we can do a handoff somewhere.
The braising might also be for tenderizing—- cardoons, especially larger ones, can be tough and stringy. Combined with the prickly translucent things (thorns?) along the stalks you have to peel off, it’s a wonder anyone thought to eat cardoons.
Yes, the braising was also for tenderizing, as you said. It can be very tough & stringy, if you try to eat it raw. That is also why they cut it into bite size pieces. I don’t think I would trust eating this unless it was made by an experienced chef like Robbie from Viaggio.