Courtesy Paige Lipari, owner, Archestratus Books & Food, Brooklyn, New York
Some of New York City’s best Sicilian food is found in the quaint back café of a shop dedicated to cookbooks.
Paige Lipari, owner of Archestratus Books & Food in Brooklyn, New York, grew up with her Nonna’s traditional Sicilian dishes. But it wasn’t until she visited relatives on the Italian island in 2006 that Lipari “began collecting every book on Sicilian food I could find as a way to bring them home to Brooklyn,” she says.
Sicily has been at the crossroads of Mediterranean trade for centuries, and that diversity of culture shows up in the island’s cuisine. Couscous, pine nuts, cinnamon and golden raisins are just as common as sfincione, the Sicilian version of street pizza. As Lipari researched the island’s traditional dishes, she discovered that many recipes are written in extinct or dying Sicilian dialects. At Archestratus, these dishes find new life on the café’s menu.
One such recipe is a Sicilian version of salsa, amogghio, a staple of the backyard barbecues of Lipari’s childhood in Queens, New York.
Amogghio can dress up about anything that comes off the grill, but it’s especially used as an accompaniment for steak. In Lipari’s store, amogghio shows up in sandwiches like The Boy Giuseppe, a panino comprised of roasted eggplant and primo sale, a sheep’s milk cheese.
Lipari says that amogghio should be very garlicky, creating an intense flavor. To balance this, taste it on a piece of bread or a cracker.
- 1 pound plum tomatoes, scored
- 1 tablespoon water
- 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon oregano, minced
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ⅓ cup, plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
Bring medium pot of water to boil. Drop tomatoes into water with slotted spoon. Boil for 1 minute, or until skins begin to crack. Remove from pot, and place in ice bath. When cool, peel off skins and discard.
Slice tomatoes into quarters and seed. Place tomatoes in food processor, and pulse until mixture has chunky, salsa-like consistency.
In large bowl, add garlic and oregano to tomato mixture. Combine with spoon. Add red pepper flakes, olive oil, salt and black pepper. Mix to combine. Can keep in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 1 cup.
Donnafugata 2016 Floramundi (Cerasuolo di Vittoria); $30, 91 points. Intense aromas of white pepper and crushed strawberry follow over to the fresh savory palate along with juicy raspberry and clove. It’s elegant and fresh, with soft supple tannins. It’s already accessible so enjoy over the next few years.—Kerin O’ Keefe