As I mentioned on Saturday, it’s the season for the perfect Italian sandwich: basil, tomato, and fresh mozzarella. Our flat in New Haven was about three blocks from Romeo and Giuseppe’s (Romeo and Joe’s, it was called), a little Italian grocery store where they made incredibly yummy sandwiches. (I understand it’s now “Romeo and Caesare’s” and that Joe has opened Nica’s Market down the street—the rumor is that R and J had a falling out). At the old Romeo and Joe’s, you couldn’t go wrong with the chicken and peppers, sausage and peppers, or chicken parmesan sandwiches. But the king of them all was the summer treat: “fresh mozz, basil and tomato.”
While staying with some friends in Tuscany at an agriturismo this June, we had incredible meals in the hill towns around us, but some days were spent just lounging by the pool (With five kids among us, it was necessary to take some vacation days from our vacation). The closest town was Asciano, where we’d pick up our supplies from the small vendors along their narrow streets—an initial stop for vegetables at the alimentari, past the congregating men drinking espresso at the café, into the butcher’s shop for fresh meat, and then to the forno for bread. Gathering all the food for meals was a social event even when one lacked good language skills (or perhaps, especially when one lacked good language skills). When my DH selected anchovies at the alimentary, the cheerful lady who ran the shop put complimentary arugula in the bag simply because it went well with the fishies. My running joke with her was my mispronunciation of “peach” as “fish.” (pesca; pesce)
With some quick coaching from our friend S, who can actually speak Italian, I went on my own shopping adventure to buy the makings for our sandwiches. S also urged me to buy only mozzarella di bufala campana—fresh mozzarella made from buffalo’s milk. At the deli I managed to gesture and vocalize sufficiently for the cheese man to retrieve my mozzarella from a special cooler in the back. “It’s the best?” I said in pigeon Italian. “Si, delizioso.” And so were the sandwiches.
Here in Chapel Hill, it’s possible to make fresh mozzarella sandwiches with entirely local ingredients, as we did today (if you don’t count the olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper). The tomatoes are from the farmer’s market, the bread from Weaver Street Market, the (cow) mozzarella from Chapel Hill Creamery, and the basil from our own backyard.
That’s eatin’ good in the neighborhood.