This is Us!

We are here to bring you our life through food. Especially Italian food. You can learn more about us here.


Cooking with Daniela

A new year means new beginnings and fresh starts for many.  We are not immune to this trend.  So, after a few months of this blogging thing, we figured we needed to step it up and try our hand at cooking classes.  No, not us doing the actual cooking - although Elana has threatened me to make this a reality quite soon.  Instead, we are kidnapping someone a tad more qualified at the moment: Daniela del Balzo.

Daniela runs her own cooking school in Rome.  I first met Daniela on one of my mother's culinary excursions throughout Italy, where Daniela took our entire group to the Testaccio Markets to shop for ingredients, and then up into the neighborhoods of Rome into her beautiful home.   Patiently, she spent time with each and every one of us as we prepared the afternoon's meal.  I had done cooking classes previous to this, but Daniela's was different.  She creates the perfect balance between hands on instruction and hands off demonstration, which is somewhat important considering everyone eats what they make: personally, my favorite part of the class.  And the meals, while expertly prepared and presented, are simple to make.  I had no problem replicating these dishes upon arriving back home.

If anyone is curious as to how they can participate in a cooking class with Daniela short of flying to Italy, Elana and I have arranged for Daniela to come to Elana's apartment in Hoboken on the 29th and the 30th of January.  As of now, there are only 3 slots open for the day of the 30th, as the 29th has already been fully booked.  Please contact either Elana or myself if you are interested (john[dot]iaciofano[at]gmail[dot]com or elana[dot]iaciofano[at]gmail[dot]com).  The cost is $150 per person which includes a full meal, dessert and wine for a cooking class of no more than 6 people.  The tentative menu for the 30th is listed below:


Dozzino in Hoboken

John and I have decided to just forget about "Pizza Month" which we began way back in October. The idea that we could limit our intake and subsequent discussion of pizza – a food that we are both clearly obsessed with – to just one month was downright silly and bad judgment on our parts. Our apologies. Going forward, we are going to frequently feature pizza – both the making of it and our maniacal running-around-various-cities to taste it. You can count on us.

Next up on the tasting end of things is Dozzino, a brand-spanking new (as of November 2010) artisanal pizza joint in the 'Boken. To use some lingo I picked up in California, we were pretty stoked about the arrival of this place in Hoboken. Before, the only solid (in our humble opinions) pizza to be had in Hoboken was Grimaldi's, of Brooklyn fame. Now we have our very own. We were all a-tingle.

"Dozzino" in Italian means "dozen." The dozen refers to the amount of ingredients that goes into their pizzas: flour, water, salt, yeast, air, sea salt, tomatoes, fior di latte, extra virgin olive oil, basil, fire, love.

Dozzino is not your typical slice shop, nor does it purport to be. The pizzas can best be described as a combination of Neopolitan and Roman. They are personal in size with that doughy, charred crust characteristic of Neopolitan pies, but much less floppy and soupy in the center of the pie, which gives it a Roman flair. Typical of both areas, the ingredients (and this applies to the toppings as well) are fresh and simple. Pizza is not a complicated food, nor should it be. Keep it simple, stupid.

John and I strolled over to its 6th and Adams location one Saturday night to sample the fare. Upon entering, we were greeted with a well-designed and thoughtful atmosphere. The bar at the back of the front room has a chalkboard wall listing the daily specials in colored chalk. The shiny, chrome espresso maker hangs out back there as well, with a Santa Clause (it was the holidays) Mr. Potato Head keeping close watch over the espresso beans.

The natural wood, farmhouse-style tables have ample room for spreading out your various pizzas, crostini and salads, and the white-washed chairs and walls offer a nice contrast to the wood and chalkboard wall. They have a larger, back room and even a patio with a bocce court.

Since Dozzino is BYO, John skips on over to a local liquor store for a bottle of the Beringer Chenin Blanc shown in the first photo. John insists that I used to make The Box buy this for me with some frequency. I honestly don't recall this at all (maybe because I've drunk too much of it?), but at $8.99, you can't afford not to. We settle in with our sweet, grape-juice wine and order SPESTO!

"Spesto" is a Dozzino speciaty: a pesto made with spinach and walnuts, instead of the usual basil and pine nuts, and served on crostini of housemade bread. The housemade bread is excellent, and perfectly toasted. It is generously loaded with spesto, which is lucky because we really approve of this pesto modification. Chunky walnuts and mild spinach get a boost from an infusion of chopped garlic and drizzle of olive oil. We cleaned our plate.

After John sends me to the restroom (pics later!) to remove the spinach from my teeth, we receive our two ordered pies: the "La Pizza" and the "Diavola". The La Pizza is topped with fior di latte, tomato and basil - the traditional pie and one which John and I feel obligated to sample every time we try out a new pizza place. For consistency! And science!

The La Pizza is delicately accented by little semi-molten blobs of creamy fior di latte (a mozzarella made from cow's milk),  a fine layer of tomato as to appear almost pink, and sprigs of fresh basil. The crust has a bit of a char to it around the edges and is nicely chewy on the inside, although a bit dry. The toppings and crust work well together, making the La Pizza very easy to eat.

The Diavola is next up – a spicy combination of fior di latte, tomato, red pepper and calabrese salami. Sliced ultra-thin, the salami is like a tissue-thin blanket of fiery cured meat tucking in the other toppings on a mattress of pillowy dough. Wow, I just wandered off into a pizza-induced descriptive simile. Apologies. Clearly, this pie was my favorite of the two.

John and I decided to finish things off with two cups of Dozzino's espresso, which is advertised (on their menu) to be the best in Hoboken and quite possibly in the USA. I do know a good cup of espresso when I have one, and this was definitely a good one. Their ultra-fancy espresso machine churned out two dark, rich cups for us that we threw back like frat boys doing shots at a bar. Minus the fist pumping and hooting.

Let's not forget the bathrooms! While I was performing some dental-spesto removal, I snapped the following photos:

In addition to being clean and uncluttered, the Dozzino bathroom is well-lit with an ample-sized mirror. White subway tiles, accented by a stripe of red and gold (Roma's colors) carry the modern and thoughtful interior design of the restaurant right into the bathroom. I would have appreciated some spesto-removing toothpicks, though.

We will definitely be back to Dozzino (John has already returned on his own). The well designed and spacious atmosphere and fresh ingredient pizzas combine to create a unique neighborhood restaurant that is a welcome addition to Hoboken.

Overall Experience: Napolean Dynamite - The Offbeat Success

* Note: The Specials chalk board photo and photo of the oven with espresso cup, courtesy of Dozzino.


Favorites in 2010 - A Look Back and Forward!

It's been a big year for us. Back in August we decided to start this blog and now we are on the other side of 2010 - meaning 2011.

Here are a few things we did in 2010, followed by a list of our favorites.

I ran some races. And drank some wine directly afterward.

I went to London with my friend Kaz and had my own cheese plate at Fortnum and Mason. Then I went to Scotland and had some coffee at The Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter. That was pretty cool for me.

I made some paella with CHORIZO for The Box for Father's Day. Thanks, Tyler Florence!

We gave you some questionably recorded, but tasty recipes for Chicken Dip.

John rode a pink bicycle.

I became obsessed with a ginger mint slushie. Thanks, Kelvin Slush!

I got a fancy camera and started taking glamor shots of cookies (the above is from Brooklyn Larder).

Marmo and I went to Italy and ate everything we could.

We made a stop-motion animation about roasting a turkey.

We made fun of ourselves. Quite a bit. Here, here and here.

We made and ate A LOT of pizza. We even made a video about it in which John shows off his mad-crazy pizza skills.

And now our favorites from 2010. We don't want to say "best of" because we feel that might be a bit heavy-handed. And we like to keep things light around here. Not that we have commitment issues or anything...In fact, quite the opposite. We feel that our favorites from 2010 will carry over into 2011, and maybe you'd like to try some of them in the New Year.

So, with that introduction and without further a-do, here is a non-comprehensive and non-exhaustive list of our favorite stuff. Grouped into non-sensical categories.

Favorite place to grab a drink on a Tuesday night:
Anfora Wine Bar: I'm (meaning Elana) here every Tuesday night for their "Producer Night" - a special night dedicated to one wine producer. Glasses are usually about $10-$12 for wines that aren't normally poured by the glass. It's a great way to learn about new wines, wine producers, and have some amazing Ricotta cheese. And lamb sliders. Joe Campanale, a partner at Anfora and sommelier is always in attendance to give you helpful information on the featured wines.

Favorite Coffee in Hoboken:
Maroon: Their French Pressed coffees are so delicious. Smooth, dark and rich, this is coffee at its most indulgent. And the flavors are amazing. I'm not usually a big flavored-coffee drinker, but I can't help myself with these. The Macadamia flavor might be my favorite of the bunch. They also stock Brioche from Balthazar Bakery on Fridays and make their own delicious scones (love the oat variety with jam). I've been trying to become the mayor of Maroon on Foursquare, and as of January 1st, I finally achieved it! I'm not sure I'm cut out for politics...

Favorite Pizza in NYC (so far):

Elana: Kesté: The del Re. And when they have the Burrata (Thursdays - Sundays), I want to cry real tears of joy. Plus, that silver dome of pizza cookery is pretty wild.

John: Di Fara:  Minus the wait - this pizza joint is my favorite. The pie is a work of art, a labor of love. Watching Dom cook them up is a special thing; you know you are never going to get cheated out of an absolute masterpiece.

Favorite Place for Elana to Get Lunch When at Work:
Spoon: I'm addicted to their salads. I usually get either the Chicken Spinach or the Tuscan White Bean. And if it's cold outside I order a large Orchid Oolong tea, grab a seat at one of the distressed farmhouse-style tables at the back and pretend I am a lady who lunches. Then I go back to work.

Favorite place to get the Largest, Ripest, Most Amazing Avocado this side of Wherever they Grow:
(which would be Brazil, California and Mexico, for example)
Sobseys Produce in Hoboken: Some of the best produce in the land. Mac and Michael hand-pick each piece.

Favorite Expensive British Cereal
Dorset Cereals: The berries and cherries flavor in the purple box is my favorite. They have a contest going right now on their home page: you can nominate a blog and the winner receives a case of cereal! A CASE! You wanna nominate us?

Favorite Meal I've Had This Year

Elana: Lunch of Pasta Cacio e Pepe with Fried Zucchini Blossoms at Roma Sparita in Rome.
John: Pumpkin Cappellacci with Brown Butter and Sweet Potato filling at Del Posto.

Most surprisingly good store bought pasta despite the cheesy label:

John: When home for the holidays recently, I was jonesin' for some pasta and stumbled across a package of Giovanni Rana tortellini in my Mom's pantry.  So I boiled some up, and made some sauce.  The pasta quality was pretty darn good!

Best ice cream condiment:

John: The homemade caramel sauce at Van Leeuwen's Ice Cream in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  The ice cream is also of top flight caliber - smooth, creamy and rich - but the sauce was outrageous. It has a bitter, tastily burnt characteristic to it which really compliments the sweetness of the ice cream.  The espresso, as seen above, was also wonderful.

Best Bathroom I've hung out in:

John: Del Posto's bathroom.  Can we give these lavatories any more hype?  Ah, who cares.

Dress Yourself (or someone else) for New Year's Eve by Inspired Buy

As I mentioned before, I have two friends named Meg. Meg H has some serious fashion skills. In addition to being employed in the fashion industry, she has her own blog, Inspired Buy where she posts her own take on emerging and existing fashion trends. I check it often, as I have trouble dressing myself (to no one's surprise, I'm sure). Anyway, she was kind enough to put together some New Year's Eve do's and don't's for the ladies. I've posted her advice below, but you can also check out her post here. So while you are tasting all those fabulous appetizers and sipping some delicious bubbly, you might want to consider wearing the following:

From Meg:

Can you believe it's almost 2011?!  New year's eve is an exciting holiday filled with friends, loved ones, food and dancing juice. However, for many, choosing an outfit for the event can cause some anxiety.  I compiled this photo "list" of do's and don'ts to help you all choose an outfit for the occasion.

I hope this helps, and if you still need help choosing an outfit/putting things together feel free to post any questions in the comments section.

DO: go for winter white

Most people (especially in the nyc area) tend to wear black when they're going out and getting dressed up.  If you want to stand out from the crowd and still look classy, go for winter white.  It's the color of the season so you shouldn't have trouble finding a winter white top or dress when you go shopping.

1. topshop dress 2. free people dress 3.  loft corduroys 4.  steve madden pumps 5. topshop lace dress 6. jeffrey campbell pumps (nordstrom)

DO: wear black with a twist
If you do decide to wear black, make it interesting.  Try a leather skirt or pants, or a dress with leather piecing.  As you know from some of my earlier posts, sequin shorts are one of my new favorite things.  So to me, they're a definite "do".  Jcrew also makes a wonderful sequin tank that would look great with a skirt or a pair of jeans.  Instead of regular black pumps, go for black wedges.  Go with a shift style dress that has a little character to it to get a classy but unique look.  If your outfit is somewhat simple, carry a fun sequin bag or clutch.


Thanks, Meg!

Bathroom of the Month December 2010 - L'Artusi

I'm sure you knew the writing was on the wall (sorry, couldn't resist) when you saw the photos of L'Artusi's restroom. This bathroom was not only clean and well-kept, but imaginative! I was pretty impressed with their black and white spray paint decor that somehow looks like a field of flowers. And I also loved how they wrote the "must wash hands" message directly on the wall. All this combined with the subway tiles, Xlerator, and candlelit shelving push L'Artusi's restroom to the favorite spot for December. Congratulations!