Utah may not have a signature pizza style—or a real stake in the endless sauce vs. gravy debate that rages on back East—but that doesn’t mean there aren’t places to get mouthwatering Italian-American cuisine. Salt Lake has its share of Italian fine dining, from acclaimed favorites like Valter’s to new kids on the block like La Trattoria di Francesco, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. These are the “red-sauce” establishments: think red-checkered tablecloths set with simple, classic dishes. The term can be pejorative, but it doesn’t have to be. Done right, these mom-and-pop eateries serve the best versions of the basics in a friendly setting—comfort food in every sense of the word.
Plenty of Utah neighborhoods have long-running favorite spots, like Siragusa’s in Taylorsville. More recent openings confirm that red-sauce is rising in Utah.
224 S. 1300 East, SLC
4536 S. Highland Dr., SLC
5468 S. 900 East, Murray
It turns out there’s no such thing as Italian cuisine—not with 20 diverse regions in the country and a population of almost 60 million. Northern Italy has a whole different set of influences than Southern Italy, and Sunday gravy is simply not the national dish. Here’s a look at some of Italy’s most prominent regions— and a typical dish from each.— MBM
WHERE IT IS: North central
WHAT IT IS KNOWN FOR: Known as “Italy’s food basket,” this is foodie heaven, with bragging rights for prosciutto, mortadella, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Balsamic vinegar. Many consider this region to offer “classic Italian” dishes.
TYPICAL DISH: Bolognese sauce, tortellini
WHERE IT IS: Southeast coast WHAT IT IS KNOWN FOR: This ancient land was settled by the Greeks and is the site of Mount Vesuvius and Pompei; its fertile volcanic soil produces bountiful vegetables like the famous San Marzano tomatoes, figs and lemons. This is where Naples is, the hallowed birthplace of pizza.
TYPICAL DISH: Pizza, buffalo mozzarella
WHERE IT IS: North central
WHAT IT IS KNOWN FOR: Italy’s industrial region and its fashion capital, Milan favors risottos and polenta, veal, beef, butter, cow’s milk cheese and freshwater fish.
TYPICAL DISH: Risotto, osso bucco
WHERE IT IS: Northwest corner WHAT IT IS KNOWN FOR: This region—and its white truffles—has somewhat elegant cuisine, lovely wines like Barolo and Barbaresco, and makes great chocolate desserts.
TYPICAL DISH: “Warm dip” (Bagna caôda) made by slowly cooking chopped garlic with oil and butter, anchovies, peeled walnuts and served with Jerusalem artichoke, endive, sweet pepper and onion in a terracotta pot.
WHERE IT IS: Island off the southwest coast
WHAT IT IS KNOWN FOR: The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily hearkens back 10,000 years before Don Corleone lived there. Its food has Greek, Arab, Spanish and
French influences and favors antipasti, pasta and rice dishes, and stuffed and skewered meat. It is also known for its candied fruits and marzipan.
TYPICAL DISH: Caponata, veal Marsala, pasta with sardines
WHERE IT IS: North central coast WHAT IT IS KNOWN FOR: This is one of Italy’s art and cultural treasures, highlighted by Florence, home of Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, the Medicis. Its food has been described as the “art of understatement” with spices like thyme and fennel, and is well known for its ravioli, tortellini and fish and seafood. Not to mention Chianti, Dr. Lecter’s favorite.
TYPICAL DISH: Pecorino cheese, steak alla fiorentina, panzanella (bread salad to you)
Marcella Hazan’S Red Sauce Recipe
Marcella Hazan, who changed the way we cook Italian food, published The Classic Italian Cook Book (1973), More Classic Italian Cooking (1978) and, collected in one volume, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, in 1992. Her 1997 book Marcella Cucina won the James Beard Foundation Book Award for Best Mediterranean Cookbook and the Julia Child Award for Best International Cookbook the following year. Craig Claiborne once said of Hazan’s work: “No one has ever done more to spread the gospel of pure Italian cookery in America.”—MBM
2 cups tomatoes, in addition to their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of
San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
5 tablespoons butter
1 onion, peeled and cut in half Salt
Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.
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