The ingredients in southern Italian food are straightforward; you won’t find many things in the Neapolitan kitchen that you couldn’t pronounce. Many of them are so universally beloved that you’ll find them in Mexican, Indian and Greek dishes too. What distinguishes the tangy tomatoes in a luscious marinara sauce and makes them uniquely Italian? The secret’s in the spices.
Mediterranean basil finds its way into everything from pizza sauce to pesto. Slightly sweet with overtones of anise and pepper, the plant’s fresh leaves can also enliven a salad or top a pizza. In its dried state, basil’s perfect for adding to soups and sauces. Basil takes its name from an old word for “king.” It’s certainly the king of the kitchen for Italian chefs, and you’ll find it gracing much of Carlino’s menu.
If basil is the king of the kitchen, then oregano is its queen. Its spicy scent and hint of bitterness is the perfect foil for basil’s sweetness. Oregano also complements creamy mozzarella cheese beautifully, so it’s a primary component in a good pizza sauce. You’ll also note its distinctive warm flavor in our house-made Italian sausage and in our lasagna.
If green had a flavor, it might taste just like parsley. The bright green herb is so pretty that you’ll often see it garnishing a plate, but it’s far more than just a garnish to Italian chefs. Flat-leaf parsley has a more robust flavor than the curly kind that’s become synonymous with garnishes. Chopped parsley imparts a fresh, bright flavor to tomato-based sauces where it balances basil and oregano in a three-part harmony.
The subtlety of marjoram sometimes gets lost behind the big flavors of basil and oregano, but in more delicate dishes, you’ll definitely notice its almost flowery flavor. It’s a southern Italian staple in vegetable dishes and with broiled fish. Marjoram thrives in a warm Mediterranean climate; when it grows in cooler climates, it loses much of its flavor, but in southern Italy, it’s deliciously bold.
Italian sausage just wouldn’t be the same without these aromatic seeds. Somewhere between anise and celery in taste, fennel is the predominant flavor in sweet Italian sausage. Fennel root tastes faintly of the seeds, but it’s eaten as a vegetable rather than used as a spice. Its popularity in Italian cooking dates back to the early Renaissance when dishes with sweet and savory overtones were popular among the Italian nobility. The fennel-laden Italian sausage you enjoy today hasn’t changed much from what the Medici family might have served.
Herbs and spices transform the simple, fresh ingredients of southern Italy into the magnificent cuisine it’s become. Taste a plate of sausage and peppers or a slice of pizza and see how many Italian herbs your palate can find.
Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’sTweet read more
When Rob Petrone, the Emmy award-winning host of FiOS1′s “Restaurant Hunter,” got a letter proclaiming Carlino’s food “the best Italian food in the world,” he took it as a challenge that he had to taste for himself. After sampling our veal pizzaiola and house-made sausage with broccoli rabe as chef and owner Carlo Corteo looked on, the food critic certainly looked convinced. We’d like to invite you to find out what makes Carlino’s so special too. If you missed it during its original airing, get a glimpse behind the scenes in Carlino’s kitchen on this episode of “Restaurant Hunter” on our Gallery page.
Carlo spent the first fourteen years of his life in Monte di Procida, a town just outside of Naples, Italy. He’s designed Carlino’s menu to reflect the skills he learned and the tastes he loved from his boyhood. “I try to remember the taste that my mother put into every one of her dishes,” he told Rob Petrone.
The bold, bright flavors of the Neapolitan coast come from simple, but exquisitely fresh ingredients. Watch Carlino’s chefs prepare tangy veal pizzaiola from fresh, ripe tomatoes and sweet, spicy basil. Thin-sliced veal gets a light coating of flour, salt and pepper before nestling in the pan next to the tomatoes until it’s crisp and redolent of all the rich flavors in the sauce. As Carlo notes, “It’s all in how you put it together,” and in the right hands, these simple ingredients become a savory memory of home.
You’ll also learn about another Italian classic that distinguishes Carlino’s: homemade sausage. The perfect Italian sausage requires balance between aromatic fennel seeds, black pepper and succulent meat. Carlino’s take on sausage adds a fourth flavor note that brings all the others into harmony: a dry white wine. The sausage rests in the refrigerator for 24 hours after making it to let all the flavors blend; then it’s sliced and cooked to order. Our rustic presentation of sausage with broccoli rabe and rigatoni tastes as good as it looks on “Restaurant Hunter,” but you’ll also find our sausage makes a perfect pairing with peppers or adorning a pizza.
With or without our homemade sausage, pizza is another one of our specialties. Naples invented pizza, so it’s no wonder that Carlo wants to do justice to one of the world’s most popular foods. For two decades, Long Island residents have loved Carlino’s grandma pizza with its crisp, thin crust and its light marinara sauce; watch it come out of the oven on our “Restaurant Hunter” segment, and you’ll see why it’s so beloved. It tastes even better than it looks, but don’t take our word for it – try it for yourself.
Come to Carlino’s and find out why the “Restaurant Hunter” found just what he wanted!Tweet read more