With several regions in Italy, pasta, pizza and tomato sauce are more of a former American style of cuisine as I learned from savoring a tasting by Executive Chef Michael DeGeorgio, of Vetro Restaurant and Lounge in Howard Beach. The menu explains the course, what area it relates to and why as well as my take on these items.
Cannellini and broccoli rabe puree and burrata, from the region of Puglia. White beans, broccoli rabe, garlic and oil cooked into a rich puree with toasted bread and tomato salad. It is plated with Burrata mozzarella, as well as an apricot and pear salad. “Puglia is noted for having the best olive oils, vegetables, beans and seafood. A heavy soup was made in the home. Burrata, was created in this area.” This course is to be eaten with a combined taste of each to savor the creaminess of the burrata, bitter and salty broccoli rabe, and sweetness of the fruit.
Ciuppin, from the region of Liguria. Halibut, shrimp, clams and calamari cooked with tomatoes, chili pepper, garlic, and olive oil on toasted bread. “This is a more northern area with small but fruity olive crops. Seafood comes from off of the Northern coast. Cioppino, as it is most known, was actually created here.” I consider this to be a “seafood stew” rather than a “seafood soup”. This dish is served with a whole red chili pepper, which I quickly removed.
Spaghetti Calabrese from the region of Calabria. Spaghetti sautéed with roasted eggplant, artichokes, peppers, chili, sundried tomato, anchovies, garlic and oil. “The area is known for seafood, and a variety of peppers that include the short red chili pepper, green finger bell pepper, and cabernet. Many vegetables are grown here. With a location near Sicily, spicy stews are prominent.”
“I keep a huge pot of boiling water on the stove and scoop out a small potful for each pasta dish that I cook. This way the cooking method begins with boiling water to which I add the portion of pasta. I prepare the sauce beforehand using only fresh vegetables. When the pasta is cooked to the customer’s order, al dente to just about fully soft, I place the sauce in a pan, add the pasta and sauté until the pasta is totally coated. Pasta should always be cooked this way rather than plating the sauce over the pasta”.
I was invited into the kitchen to watch the master watch and explain the preparations, requesting to eliminate the chili pepper and garlic, opting for some shallots instead.
Sogliola di Sassari from the region of Sardegna. Pan roasted halibut with lemon, tarragon, olive oil and bread crumbs. “Tarragon is an herb that is much used in Sardinia, a small island, where seafood is also prominent. They don’t actually have halibut, but a similar smaller fish.” The dish is served with water cress, “netted” lemon half, and fresh tarragon. It is a perfect way to make use of the tarragon.
Lombata di Vitello from the region of Velle di Aosti. Rib veal chop grilled and stuffed with lump crab meat and wild mushrooms. Served with Fingerling potatoes and broccoli rabe. “This is one of my signature dishes sometimes offered on the menu. Velle di Aosti is known for having finer meats and wild mushrooms.”
That's Chef Michael on the left and owner Frank Russo, Jr. on the right.
These courses are not offered on Vetro’s menu. I did try one of Chef Michael’s signature dishes, Lobster Cappuccino made with Maine lobster, tomatoes, cognac and foamed milk that is served with a pastry stick.
Vetro, owned by the Russo family, is located at 164-49 Cross Bay Blvd., a few blocks from their catering Russo’s on the Bay. Expect high quality food and fine dining at Vetro. www.vetronyc.com