With the beginning of Lent on February 13, Roman Catholics throughout the world observe the season by forgoing meat. Some say goodbye to red meat altogether while others skip it only on Fridays, but giving something up for Lent is part of a centuries-old tradition. For observant Catholics, vegetarians and lovers of Italian food, many meatless meals may feel more like an indulgence than abstinence.
Salads are an excellent way to start a lunch or dinner at any time of year, and they fit beautifully with Lenten observations or vegetarian dining. The key to a perfect salad is combining the right flavors and textures. The best salads incorporate tangy, rich, crunchy, salty and sweet flavors and textures in the right proportions. Carlino’s fruit salad is a great example; with sweet fruit, crisp mesclun greens, rich and salty Romano cheese and tangy balsamic dressing, it hits all the high points. Without the cheese, the salad goes from vegetarian to vegan.
Pasta is a perfect base for meatless dining. Topped with shrimp or clams, it’s a Lenten classic; with vegetables and a delicate cream sauce, it’s a taste of spring in any season. Meatless marinara sauce rich with garlic, basil and olive oil is all a great plate of pasta needs sometimes. Who says Lenten meals have to be dull? No one who’s ever tried pasta puttanesca, certainly. With its briny capers and pungent anchovies, this luscious dish packs enough flavor to keep anyone from missing meat.
During Lent, consider making vegetables the star of the show instead of a side dish. Eggplant, broccoli rabe and portobello mushrooms get regal treatment from Italian cuisine and deserve their share of the spotlight. Try an eggplant parmigiano sandwich for lunch or an eggplant rollatine bursting with flavorful mozzarella for dinner and discover how versatile the vegetable can be. Carlino’s has a wide variety of sandwiches that are perfect during Lent or at any time of the year.
Pizza, America’s favorite food, is also a great Lenten meal if you choose the right toppings. Skip the sausage and go heavy on the vegetables for a healthy, flavorful pizza. Anchovies and shrimp are also fine for those observing Lent and for pescetarians. All of Carlino’s pizzas are made to order, so let us know if you have special requests for toppings.
Seafood of any sort has long been a staple for Lent. Finding flavorful fish, shrimp and clams may be a challenge in some parts of the country, but New Yorkers don’t have to suffer through their seafood dishes. Clams Posillipo, tender mussels and buttery shrimp scampi are at their best near the coast. Spicy shrimp fra diavolo may have a wicked-sounding name, but the piquant dish is as virtuous as any Lenten meal. Lobster, one of the most luxurious foods you can enjoy, is also welcome on the table for Lent.
The beauty of Italian food is its inclusiveness. No matter what you eat or how you eat it, you’ll find something to please your palate. It’s the perfect solution for large parties because everyone can enjoy something on the menu. With hundreds of years of experience creating phenomenal feasts for Lent, Italian food is excellent for vegetarian and vegan diners as well as observant Catholics. Those who like to indulge in a sausage pizza or spaghetti with meatballs will find all these favorites on the menu, too.
Let our meatless, vegetarian and vegan choices surprise and delight you by dining in with us or ordering for delivery.Tweet read more
Some of the longest-lived people in the world come from the mountains of Sardinia. Just 250 miles off the Italian coast, Sardinia shares much of its culinary heritage with Naples. Its hundreds of miles of shoreline and hilly interior enjoy the same sunny Mediterranean climate that makes southern Italy a favorite vacation destination. It also boasts more people over the age of 100 than almost anywhere else in the world.
Molecular biologist Dr. Gianni Pes of Italy’s University of Sassari noticed this remarkable longevity and decided to identify the places where people lived the longest. These regions became known as blue zones, areas of longevity far beyond the average. Sardinia contains one blue zone, but so do Loma Linda, California; Okinawa, Japan; and another Mediterranean island locale, Ikaria, Greece.
People in Sardinia, Loma Linda and Okinawa eat vastly different diets, but the proportions of what they eat are similar. In all the blue zones, people eat plenty of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables with their meals. Fresh salads and greens dressed with olive oil are popular in the Mediterranean blue zones, but they’re also a favorite in California’s longest-lived population.
In Ikaria and Sardinia, tomatoes are a staple and appear with every meal of the day. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants such as lycopene and high in vitamins A and C, but that isn’t why they’re so beloved in Sardinia; they’re a favorite because they taste delicious fresh or simmered into a savory marinara sauce. Red wine is a perfect foil for tangy sauces and is almost always on the table for dinner. Sardinians also accompany their meals with pecorino cheese from the sheep that graze in the hill country.
People in blue zones also enjoyed seafood. It’s no accident that so many blue zones are in or near coastal communities; seafood’s typically high in omega-3 fatty acids and protein but low in fat. Just as important, though, is that it’s high in flavor, which is why blue-zoners eat it five times a week or more. Mussels, clams, squid and whitefish keep the menu varied for people in blue zones.
For people who’d spent a century or more living in these blue zones, it wasn’t just what was on the plate that mattered. They shared another common bond: They enjoy life with family and friends. Meals are occasions to celebrate and connect with loved ones. Their community sustains them as much as the food they eat and laughter is as important a part of a meal as the wine served with it.
No one can promise that great Italian food, lively company and laughter will help you live longer, but it’s a great way to make sure you enjoy life more. Spend an evening with friends, a bottle of good red wine and a plate of clams Posillipo; and perhaps you too will live for 100 years!
Carlo, Wali and your friends at Carlino’sTweet read more
The summer has been scorching already, and forecasters predict more of the same for weeks. When it’s this hot, let someone else do the cooking and keep your kitchen cool. Italian food is a natural choice for keeping cool on the sultriest of summer days because the cuisine evolved under the powerful Mediterranean sun. Italian cooks didn’t want to heat their kitchens either, so they devised plenty of light recipes that taste as refreshing as that first crisp day of fall.
The quintessential light summer dish is the antipasto course. The term literally means “before the meal,” but this selection of cured meats, cheeses, relishes and pickled delicacies easily fills in as a light, refreshing lunch by itself. Served hot or cold, antipasto plates satisfy you without leaving you feeling stuffed. Briny olives, cured salami and marinated artichoke hearts pack plenty of flavor into small packages. Antipasti are also a good choice if you’re not quite sure what you want; with so much variety on the plate, you’ll always find something to love.
Steamy weather can leave you feeling a little wilted, but eating a salad with crisp, cool leaves and chilled dressing is a good way to beat back summer’s heat. Salads can take center stage rather than playing a supporting role to your entree, especially when they’re big and loaded with toppings. If you love the classics, go for iceberg lettuce and slices of fresh tomato in a light Italian dressing. For a more adventurous plate, mix sweet and savory flavors by topping your salad with diced apples and orange sections, then tossing it with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Carlino’s house special fruit salad also includes slivered pears and curls of Romano cheese to add piquancy to the dish.
You may not think of a slice of pizza as summer fare, but it’s commonly served for easy summer dinners in Italy. Because its thin crust cooks so quickly, pizza doesn’t heat a home the way a slow-cooking dish like lasagna or a slow-simmered Bolognese sauce might. Italian cooks also love to take advantage of what’s fresh in the market, and the tomatoes that go into freshly made sauce are at their best in the summer. Another trick to beat the heat: Sprinkle a few red pepper flakes on your pizza. The spiciness of the pepper actually helps you cool off, which is one reason that spicy foods are so popular in hot climates.
Anything you eat instantly becomes more refreshing with the right drink beside it. Italian white wines are typically more bracing and crisp than their French counterparts, so they’re an excellent choice to pair with a slice of cheese pizza or a salad. Lemonade’s blend of tartness and sweetness makes it especially good on a hot summer day. Get the same lip-puckering effect with a little bit of a kick from a lemon drop cocktail made with the Italian liqueur limoncello.
Don’t let summer win; keep your cool with dishes and drinks that grew up under hot Mediterranean skies. Enjoy the lighter side of Italian cooking and beat the heat.
Sincerely, Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’sTweet read more