Feb 07, 2008 ellen leahy Uncategorized
Northside classic market is still cooking after 39 years:
Lombardi’s Italian Imports in Syracuse could possibly be the finest selection of imported Italian foodstuff assembled under one roof in the world for the price.
But there it sits on the corner of Butternut and Lodi in its 39th year, now surrounded by two dollar stores and a couple of pharmacies on Syracuse’s northside, a few blocks down from where the Lombardi boys grew up on the corner of Park and Kirkpatrick.
“Five years ago the neighborhood really went down, but it’s starting to come back,” John Lombardi, a brother and partner said.
The oldest of seven, Dominick, is the brother most often working the delicatessen counter (specialit pronte da mangiare). He said they sell 30 imported Danielli proscuitto to one domestic.
Perhaps the most frequent question is what is the best olive oil?
For the Lombardi brothers there is no such thing, as this is a matter of personal taste and usage. One thing is for sure, have at least two in your cupboard – a lighter one for cooking and a fruity one for salads. They have Greek oil too, which they admit is very good.
Lombardi’s also hosts an array of imported Italian cold cuts, cheeses, olives (40 types), vinegars, tomatoes, macaroni, peppers, artichoke hearts, capers, anchovies, sardines, tuna, grains, condiments, jams, chocolates, spices, dried fruits, produce, cookware, home-goods for the table and the list goes on. But what is more remarkable is that they have an intimate understanding of every product in that, they can describe in abundant detail: what it is and what to do with it – complete with a romantic recipe that will have your mouthwatering.
John said to make his favorite everyday dish:
Start with a good size pan. It’s gotta be low heat, add pure olive oil then put in capers (the ones packed in salt — don’t wash off), then add parsley and basil, maybe chopped red onion for color. Then add pinolli nuts and a small amount of artichoke hearts; obviously add garlic, and melt in a few anchovies.
Italian anchovies are packed in salt; you dig them out; wash the salt off and use.
Next, cook the macaroni you like; when tender, drain it quick then put in the pan with the sauce for a minute so it gets on a bit of the brown side.
Also, if you prefer, put in hot pepper; jarred in oil is the best, but add just a little. Lastly, add grated Romano cheese.
“You have to know your product,” John said, “We make sure we tell our staff, and ask them to read the labels so they know something about it.”
“There’s only one Lombardi’s,” Mary DeSimone said, “don’t know what I’d do without it.”
She lives in Liverpool, but was brought up on the city’s Northside. Her husband of 50 years was with her, Mario. He was originally from Calvi Risorta in Italy, but came to Syracuse when he was 18. They met on a double date, although, Mario said he cheated by stopping into the A&P, where she was working, to take a peak.
“I liked what I saw,” Mario said.
Artisan cheeses are handcrafted and made in a traditional manner. John said, Parmigiano Reggiano is to eat in chunks or to use in cooking, it is not best for grating – that is Romano, which is traditionally a sheep’s milk cheese with a saltier edge. They have many versions including one that is from an area in Italy where Saffron is also harvested. This is golden in color and dotted with peppercorns.
The Lombardi’s said they easily sell 10,000 pounds of Romano, and the same in Provolone a year. Gorgonzola is starting to pick up because of the younger generation traveling; and the food network has really driven people to Lombardi’s for the real thing.
John mentioned he grows fresh figs and likes to split a ripe fig and fill it with Gorgonzola.
Mother and father:
In 1955 Elviro and Rosina Lombardi, sold their food store in Italy and moved to America. John said his father had wanted a change, but also Rosina’s mother lived in Syracuse, as her husband had come to work on the railroad.
“Our father was an amazing man, he was an orphan and when he got out of the orphanage, he went to work and later went back and got his three sisters out of the orphanage and married them off. His store in Italy was big, but when he came here he got a factory job.”
He didn’t open the store here, his offspring did – John and Dominick run Lombardi’s Imports in Syracuse, and their brother Anthony and their sister operate another one in Fairport, near Rochester. That store has a different bent -more cookware and food demos.
And in the end
Classic Italian cooking is driven by fresh ingredients put together in a simple manner to bring out their true goodness. Try this favorite dessert that the Lombardi’s grandmother used to give them: take an orange, and peel it, then slice it horizontally; add together three parts vinegar (can use balsamic vin) to one part olive oil. Toss the orange slices in and then add a bit of dried oregano and toss. Don’t overdo it – this is not to be drenched, but instead seasoned.
Lombardi’s Imports is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. And don’t be shy, these guys like to talk food.
Mother’s mother shops at Lombardi’s:
The Lombardis hail from a town in Italy called Satriano, in the Calabrese region and so did Terry Root’s mother (her father was Sicilian). Root is the mother of Mother’s in Liverpool. She was in Lombardi’s picking up a few items. At 75, mother is still at the range everyday in this one of a kind Liverpool eatery.
“It’s a story alright, you ought to buy my cookbook,” she said. “I’m a poet too.”
She is a petit lady and perhaps firecracker would be the best descriptor. Dressed in high heels, a jet black lambs wool coat, with animal print around her neck and a rain bonnet, she was picking up a few items. When Dominick introduced her, she took off the bonnet to reveal a head of flashing red hair.
“It was the Vikings,” Dominick said.
When asked what she had made that morning:
“Casino, you gotta have everything chopped up – green pepper, mushroom, celery, onion, garlic. Then you cook up some bacon, add all those veggies, soften a little. The secret is our fresh breadcrumbs that are seasoned with grated cheese; stir these in, then the white wine.”
Instead of the usual fresh clam, she was stuffing portobello mushroom caps with the mixture, baking them and then serving these with fried calamari.
“Never put bread crumbs on calamari, toss the cut up squid lightly in flour and fry,” Mother said. “Most people don’t want the anchovy (a common ingredient in casino), you gotta go with the crowd.”
She said she just bought pigs feet for her sauce. Everything at Mother’s is made fresh.
People will question why she has so much fish on her menu thinking pasta is the only thing Italians eat.
“And I tell them, have you ever seen a map of Italy? What is it surrounded by — ‘O-C-E-A-N’.”
The name of her cookbook is “Mother’s Originals.”