Helpful ReplyHot!Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops...

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Ketteract
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2017/04/02 18:06:21 (permalink)

Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops...

When I first started exploring Connecticut grinders, I took note of the fact that the menu of every single grinder shop seemed to include meals other than sandwiches or pizza: pasta, chicken parm, eggplant parm... old-school red-sauce fare.  Small grocers like D&D Market or DiBacco's would also have such dishes available from the counter, ready to either serve or be reheated and served.

Invariably, it was the older customers that I saw eating these things.  I decided that there were three classes of establishments at which one could get Italian / Italian-American foods:

- Upscale/modern, usually newer, attracting younger customers and offering fresh spins on classic dishes
- Traditional/family, skewing older, and probably encompassing the broadest spectrum of customers
- Small grocers/sandwich shops, skewing even older, some known to youngsters for notable sandwiches (like Franklin or Wethersfield), but also offering strictly traditional entrees, and I do mean strictly

By all means, debate or debunk that list - it's honestly just a collection of the perceptions I've had after visiting several different restaurants and observing the clientele.  I think I'm pretty close, though.  Younger folks were simply not going into sandwich shops and sitting down to knife-and-fork meals.  Either they wanted to grab and go, or, if they did stay, it was to eat a sandwich.  I might surmise that the older folks were looking to have a taste of family cooking from relatives who were no longer around to provide it... similar to why, maybe, certain comfort foods stayed on the menus of places like Cypress, Riefe's, and Fernwood for decade after decade.  I don't know.  That's just speculation.  Again, I invite discussion!

At any rate, today, Franklin Giant Grinder was my only option out of the Hartford Big Three (Franklin, Maple, Corner) for beginning this little tour.  Wethersfield Pizza House was also closed.  Elmwood over in West Hartford was open, but my last experience with them was so disappointing that I wasn't in any rush to return, even for this.  

Their ziti with meatballs was $10.  For another $5, I added some sausage, wanting to come closer to what I'd once had at a friend's house.  This was a silly thing to do, however; the price should have been suggetive to me. I had forgotten that I was at Franklin Giant Grinder, and at this place, you get your money's worth in quantity, regardless of whether you're having a sandwich.

Oof.



Yeah, see those two lumps in the upper left, and the long lump in the upper right?  Franklin's enormous meatballs and sausage, respectively.  There's a second sausage link buried underneath the pasta.



The pasta seemed more like penne than ziti to me, but, this being Franklin, I sure as hell wasn't about to go to the counter and complain.

I've had mixed feelings on their meatballs.  They're very finely ground, mild in flavor, and whether I think they really work in grinders may just depend on my mood.  Here, though, their construction worked in their favor.  They're practically the size of tennis balls, and it's easy to hack off a chunk to combine with some pasta and sauce for shoveling in your mouth.



Their Italian sausage is interesting.  It's extremely soft, far softer than the meatballs, and more boldly seasoned.  It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that they either make it themselves or use a supplier that nobody else uses, because I've never had a sausage quite like this at any other grinder shop or Italian restaurant.  



It's distinctive enough that I could see it not being to everybody's taste.  I'm curious to see how it would do on pizza - and Franklin does offer pizza, but I don't know if this specific sausage is available as a topping.



Here you can see the big difference in density and firmness between the two meats.



However, what's the star of any meal like this?  The sauce, of course, and Franklin's is among the tangiest I've had, with not a hint of added sugar.  On the opposite end of this scale would be Wethersfield's.  I can appreciate both types, and those in between, but different strokes for different folks.  Also, I'd say that, unsurprisingly, the sauce didn't have a whole lot of depth or complexity... which is perhaps appropriate for a meal like this from a place like this.  Or I could just be trying to justify it.  Whatever the case, I finished every single bit on my plate, and decided that the idea of dinner later was ridiculous.

I'm intending for Corner Grinder to be my next stop. Their hours are pretty restrictive, 7:30 to 3:00, so it looks like it'll be a lunch visit. 
post edited by Ketteract - 2017/04/02 18:31:48
#1
JRPfeff
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/02 18:19:03 (permalink)
Ketteract,
 
I appreciate your observations. You seem to have put a lot of thought into your categories.
 
I think we have the same thing available at Italian delis/grocers in the Midwest. I had never considered these places for dining, but now they are in my sights.
 
Jim
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leethebard
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/02 19:29:07 (permalink)
Sorry....way too much sauce on that dish of pasta...that plate would be laughed out of Italy. Too much sauce,like that,is American,not Italian!!
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mlm
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/02 19:44:02 (permalink)
I have no experience with this type of cuisine so I can't begin to compare but it looks AWFULLY good! Yum. I prefer a 'less sweet' sauce myself.
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Michael Hoffman
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/02 20:29:32 (permalink)
leethebard
Sorry....way too much sauce on that dish of pasta...that plate would be laughed out of Italy. Too much sauce,like that,is American,not Italian!!


That's why when I go to an old fashioned mom and pop red-sauce Italian restaurant. I usually ask for the sauce on the side.
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leethebard
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/02 23:08:43 (permalink)
Pasta should never be swimming in sauce. Too much sauce and you can't taste the delicate pasta....and that photo is way, way,way too much sauce!!
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1bbqboy
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 05:53:05 (permalink)
But you're in America, not Italy.
Bah. Who cares? Ask for less sauce.
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 06:31:23 (permalink)
We come from the land of plenty.
Where tomato gravy drowns our ziti.

It could be an adaptation to the relative supply and cost of tomatoes in the USA vs. Italy when the traditions were established here.
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Ketteract
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 06:37:10 (permalink)
*shrug*  I just used the bread to sop up some of the sauce.  Mmmm.  And I may or may not have improvised a few mini-sandwiches.
 
I'll be curious to see how other places apply their sauce.  With Wethersfield Pizza House, for example, theirs is so sweet that a little of it goes a long way.
post edited by Ketteract - 2017/04/03 06:38:43
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RodBangkok
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 08:04:31 (permalink)
Below is a link to a good guide on how to properly sauce pasta, only in the states do I see a plate of pasta that looks like the above.
 
http://www.seriouseats.com/2016/02/the-right-way-to-sauce-pasta.html
 
 
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Ketteract
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 09:14:28 (permalink)
1bbqboy
But you're in America, not Italy.




JRPfeff
We come from the land of plenty.
Where tomato gravy drowns our ziti.




Honestly... yeah.  For reference, here's how one of my Italian-American friends does it.  This is someone whose dad immigrated directly from Sicily.  Maybe it's not how his dad did it, but it's how he does it.
 

 
I don't think it's especially useful, productive, or correct to hold up Italian-Italian ways as some gold standard to which Italian-Americans must strive.  Don't New Haven or New York pizza, for example, differ substantially from what Italy itself has?  Why do they get a pass?
 
 
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Michael Hoffman
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 09:56:35 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby leethebard 2017/04/03 12:29:22
Sauce is supposed to be a condiment, used sparingly to accent the pasta.
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lleechef
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 11:24:11 (permalink)
Too much sauce for me in both pictures too, but they both look good.  Interesting that the sausage was more tender than the meatballs.  I like to toss my cooked pasta in a very small amount of sauce, then put a bowl of sauce on the table and I add a little more to my dish.  In the north of Italy you get your pasta with a very small dollop of sauce on top and that's it.  My aunt, who was Sicilian, was heavy on the sauce. 
Mine:

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Michael Hoffman
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 11:50:47 (permalink)
Hey, that's what we can have for dinner tonight.
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lleechef
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 11:58:31 (permalink)
Michael Hoffman
Hey, that's what we can have for dinner tonight.


You're in the wrong forum. 
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Michael Hoffman
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 12:03:58 (permalink)
SPAM? C'mon!
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 12:35:00 (permalink)
Hey, Michael, haven't you learned if you don't agree with someone,you get attacked around here. Sorry that as an Italian I stated that that dish wasn't served in the Italian tradition. Oh yeah, and we can have that knowledge even if "living in America" If I went to a Polish Restaurant, and if I were Polish and said  "That's not the way that dish is done, I don't think "Well, your not in Poland", would be an acceptable comment. We share info and learn. 
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 12:41:29 (permalink)
lleechef
Too much sauce for me in both pictures too, but they both look good.  Interesting that the sausage was more tender than the meatballs.  I like to toss my cooked pasta in a very small amount of sauce, then put a bowl of sauce on the table and I add a little more to my dish.  In the north of Italy you get your pasta with a very small dollop of sauce on top and that's it.  My aunt, who was Sicilian, was heavy on the sauce. 
Mine:



My grandma was from Sicily. She never flooded pasta with sauce( and her sauce WASN'T that great). My Neopolitan Grandma also used a small amount of sauce. She often made homemade pasta, and you sure as hell wanted to taste that. NEVER had pasta flooded with sauce anywhere in Italy. And that's not an American thing. Most good Italian restaurants know how to serve pasta. If I were at an Italian place that served that flooded dish alone,that would be the last visit. Just observations of an Italian-American. Don't mean to ruffle any feathers!
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 12:44:02 (permalink)
lleechef Spam-flagged me. She's nasty.
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 12:46:08 (permalink)
Michael Hoffman
lleechef Spam-flagged me. She's nasty.


ooooh, man, there goes dinner tonight!!!
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 12:50:24 (permalink)

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Ketteract
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 13:00:56 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby leethebard 2017/04/03 13:09:33
leethebard
Hey, Michael, haven't you learned if you don't agree with someone,you get attacked around here. Sorry that as an Italian I stated that that dish wasn't served in the Italian tradition. Oh yeah, and we can have that knowledge even if "living in America" If I went to a Polish Restaurant, and if I were Polish and said  "That's not the way that dish is done, I don't think "Well, your not in Poland", would be an acceptable comment. We share info and learn. 


 
I didn't mean to sound nationalist or anything, and I can see how it could have been taken that way. Apologies. I think the point is really that cuisines originating in several different countries have evolved their own styles and traditions here in the States - and developed their own sort of authenticity here as a result of that, so holding up an overseas standard as an ideal is rather meaningless.  
 
Undoubtedly, there are plenty of restaurants here that strive to meet the actual Italian standard; more power to them.  That's how they've chosen to define themselves.  And, again, I would bring up the examples of New Haven and New York pizza.  They've earned their own identities, the latter to the point where NYC tap water is sometimes mentioned as a required ingredient in the crust.  I mean, how can you get more non-Italian than that?
 
What I'm saying, in the end, is that Italian food can coexist with Italian-American food.  That's part of why I started this thread.  As I go around to old groceries and grinder shops, I don't think I'll run into a single example of an entree that would be by-the-letters Italian.  I don't want to.  I want to see how all these different places do it.  
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Michael Hoffman
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 13:07:52 (permalink)
leethebard
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lleechef Spam-flagged me. She's nasty.


ooooh, man, there goes dinner tonight!!!


I just got word that it's going to be pennoni and hot Italian sausage tonight.
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 13:09:22 (permalink)
Ketteract
leethebard
Hey, Michael, haven't you learned if you don't agree with someone,you get attacked around here. Sorry that as an Italian I stated that that dish wasn't served in the Italian tradition. Oh yeah, and we can have that knowledge even if "living in America" If I went to a Polish Restaurant, and if I were Polish and said  "That's not the way that dish is done, I don't think "Well, your not in Poland", would be an acceptable comment. We share info and learn. 


 
I didn't mean to sound nationalist or anything, and I can see how it could have been taken that way. Apologies. I think the point is really that cuisines originating in several different countries have evolved their own styles and traditions here in the States - and developed their own sort of authenticity here as a result of that, so holding up an overseas standard as an ideal is rather meaningless.  
 
Undoubtedly, there are plenty of restaurants here that strive to meet the actual Italian standard; more power to them.  That's how they've chosen to define themselves.  And, again, I would bring up the examples of New Haven and New York pizza.  They've earned their own identities, the latter to the point where NYC tap water is sometimes mentioned as a required ingredient in the crust.  I mean, how can you get more non-Italian than that?
 
What I'm saying, in the end, is that Italian food can coexist with Italian-American food.  That's part of why I started this thread.  As I go around to old groceries and grinder shops, I don't think I'll run into a single example of an entree that would be by-the-letters Italian.  I don't want to.  I want to see how all these different places do it.  


Well said. Apology accepted, friend. I believe in eat what you enjoy......Thanks for this post!!
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 13:26:05 (permalink)
I love our Italian grocery stores around Milwaukee. I have never found anything bad there. Lots of sauce-pass me more bread! Ketteract, I think your pasta dish looks fine-especially with the meatballs and sausage. Keep up your research!
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 13:37:02 (permalink)
Maybe I was eating at the wrong places, but the pasta I was served on my trip to Italy was all disappointing. Kind of like the food I had in Japan, too.

I have Anerican tastes and prefer the Americanized versions of ethnic foods.
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 13:39:34 (permalink)
Ketteract
leethebard
Hey, Michael, haven't you learned if you don't agree with someone,you get attacked around here. Sorry that as an Italian I stated that that dish wasn't served in the Italian tradition. Oh yeah, and we can have that knowledge even if "living in America" If I went to a Polish Restaurant, and if I were Polish and said  "That's not the way that dish is done, I don't think "Well, your not in Poland", would be an acceptable comment. We share info and learn. 


 
I didn't mean to sound nationalist or anything, and I can see how it could have been taken that way. Apologies. I think the point is really that cuisines originating in several different countries have evolved their own styles and traditions here in the States - and developed their own sort of authenticity here as a result of that, so holding up an overseas standard as an ideal is rather meaningless.  
 
Undoubtedly, there are plenty of restaurants here that strive to meet the actual Italian standard; more power to them.  That's how they've chosen to define themselves.  And, again, I would bring up the examples of New Haven and New York pizza.  They've earned their own identities, the latter to the point where NYC tap water is sometimes mentioned as a required ingredient in the crust.  I mean, how can you get more non-Italian than that?
 
What I'm saying, in the end, is that Italian food can coexist with Italian-American food.  That's part of why I started this thread.  As I go around to old groceries and grinder shops, I don't think I'll run into a single example of an entree that would be by-the-letters Italian.  I don't want to.  I want to see how all these different places do it.  


Nicely said.  Thanks. 
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TJ Jackson
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 13:50:56 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby Ahi Mpls. 2017/04/03 14:04:43
I like extra sauce, especially if I have some nice garlic bread to scoop it up with
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 14:04:32 (permalink)
Dear Ketteract, 
    Thank you. Truly...Thank you.
The (all too infrequent, yet wonderful) posts like this is (are?) what keeps me lurking. 
  Thank you. 
Peace.  
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Re: Italian entrees at old grocers / sandwich shops... 2017/04/03 14:14:21 (permalink)
Ketteract, Thank again for your in depth research showing us the sub-cultures of food and dining traditions...especially from the Hartford area. I love the old world traditions that are area indigenous and unfortunately waning. For example...a Mom and Pop Fish Fry/mini Hot Dog Spots on every corner in the Troy/Albany NY area...etc. I appreciate the eating sacrifice. 
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