Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Capone Foods

A place known for its fresh pasta might not be on the top of your list of go-to places, but Capone Foods in Union Square in Somerville, MA should be. Small and narrow, the shop is packed to the gills with homemade and imported foodstuffs to tickle the taste buds. A cheese case, meat case, freezer and fridge filled with fresh pastas and sauces just make up one side of the store. The other is floor-to-ceiling oils, vinegars, olives, mushrooms and beverages - all things you did not know you needed but feel compelled to take home. I made a visit this past weekend, with a goal in mind but came out with something I did not expect--perhaps its a contradiction but perhaps it is the reason I go into small, specialty markets in the first place.

I stopped in Sunday and the owner, Albert, stands behind the counter with a smile beaming through his mustache and urges me to taste a new red wine vinegar. (It is good, surprisingly good. Sweeter and complicated than 89 cent stuff I have at home and it makes me wonder how I have made a salad with anything else. $12.95 a bottle tells me why, and that I won't be bringing it home today, but most certainly will be back.)

I ask if he carries abbrusseze, and an eyebrow goes up. He responds no, but have I tried this salame, and offers me a slice. It is better than it looks, and it looks beautiful. No two are perfectly alike and there is a nice dry, white mold on the outside and it smell cave-aged. Its looks were not deceiving. I gush over its tenderness and he smiles widens. We discuss the shop, the neighborhood and where one does find obscure, dried sausages.

The conversation meanders a bit more about different products -their pasta and why I am not buying any - and I mention I used to work at a specialty food store and he insists I try his sun dried tomatoes in olive oil. I tell him they are not my favorite things, but he picks one up with tongs, out of a long glass vase and holds it out towards me with pride. I gingerly grasp it between two fingers and take a bite. The tomatoes were soft, not leathery and sweet. Before I go, he insists that I try some of their pesto, on the house.

I was so excited to go home and try out new foods and cooking techniques (the pesto warns DO NOT HEAT) and figure out how to make a meal out of these new treats.


I tried there house made sun dried tomato pesto last night; it was better than I anticipated (I had set the bar pretty high). My big gripe with sun dried tomatoes is that they can get bitter; this pesto not taste bitter at all. I place the semi-thawed pesto atop the hot pasta and allowed it to melt gently. It was bright, not too oily and clung nicely to my rice pasta, making for a delicious dinner and left over.
The container says not to heat the pesto - but cold rice pasta is gritty and disgusting, so I gently warmed it in the microwave.

I ate it with a salad and a few slices of the salame. Columbus artisan salames are gluten free and amazing. Not overly salted or seasoned, with a nice mix of fat and meat, but the real treat was the beautiful rind. I tried the smaller, harder cacciatore, that was beautiful. It has the texture of an abbrusseze, but much milder.

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