Wednesday, August 19, 2015
285 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014
Ottomanelli’s was opened in the 1940’s by Onofrio Ottomanelli. Hailing from Bari, in the Pugliese region of Italy, Onofrio learned the craft of butchery from his mother. He first worked in his uncles’ butcher shop before venturing out on his own. He had 8 children and taught his 4 sons the butchery business, with Frank eventually taking it over after Onofrio passed away in 2000.
Ottomanelli’s has been awarded Slow Food’s Snail of Approval for “their practice and maintenance of what has become a severely endangered set of skills, of artistry really, that bridges the wide gap between the animal in the field and the food in the pan.”
Ottomanelli’s is known for their excellent game. In fact, their glass window is emblazoned with “Specialty Wild Game” and a sign below on the wood paneling says “The World’s Finest Lamb and Venison”.
-With this in mind, the lamb merguez sausage came highly recommended - $6.99/lb
-Hot and sweet pork sausage - $4.99/lb
-Hand cut bacon
-Buffalo, ostrich, squab, venison, duck, boar, quail eggs
My trip to Ottomanelli’s:
Upon entering Ottomanelli’s, I felt like I was being greeted by 5 of my grandfathers. Each butcher has their own personality. Some are curmudgeonly; some are smiling and eager to please. And almost all sent a sweet wink my way. The store itself is no-frills in the best sense of the phrase. My eye was immediately drawn to the meat cases and some basic signage. There is nothing extra here to buy on shelves; the focus is on the meat. It seems as if not much has changed since the 1940’s, which is the way it should be when one is looking for a glimpse into the quality and taste of a bygone era.
I asked for the basic sausages and also some specialty items. I was directed to the hot and sweet pork, the good old staples of an old-school pork store.
And because I’m a sucker for bacon, now having been enlightened by my experience at Faicco’s, I ordered some hand-cut pork bacon. I was then directed by my butcher to try some lamb sausage and bacon. Since they’re known for game, I was certainly game (hardy har) to try it.
And lastly, when I asked if there was anything else I just HAD to try, my butcher pointed me in the direction of the boneless ribeye. Hand cut to perfection, he told me to lightly coat in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic, and either cook on a grill or in the oven.
The BEST part was that he wrote the cooking times on the butcher paper which wrapped up each item. This was great because it’s easy to get confused when buying a variety of items with different cooking times.
They asked me to come back and report on how everything went over and seemed genuinely interested in whether I had enough. I was pretty sure I had MORE than enough!
First on the list to try was the variety of sausages and the lamb bacon. I was really excited to try the lamb sausage and lamb bacon. I got the pan hot with olive oil and added the sausages and bacon.
|Lamb bacon, sweet pork, hot pork|
The lamb bacon had a great combo of fat and meat and the slightly gamey texture was a great new taste (for me) for bacon. They cooked up small and were WAY too easy to eat before they even made it onto the plate. Meat candy for sure. The hot and sweet sausages were delicious as well. They retained much of their juice and were dense. Again, no fillers, nitrates, or extra stuff. The hot sausages are definitely for people who have a spicy palate (not me). My husband, who does, really enjoyed the variety of flavors in the hot.
Now onto the lamb sausage. Thinner than the standard pork sausages, these had a shorter cooking time. While the pork takes about 8 minutes on each side, these take about 5 minutes on each side (as I was able to reference from what the butcher wrote on the paper!).
The verdict on the lamb sausage is two thumbs way up. Very unique, distinct flavors. Not very chewy, as people sometimes worry about with game. Definitely a different sensation than the pork sausage – more like the texture of a meatball.
We paired our meal with zucchini (cooked in the pork/bacon fat, natch). Delightful!
And after last week’s lamentations about mountains of dishes, paper plates are now in rotation. Hurrah! More time to eat and blog.
Breakfast the next day was a great opportunity to cook up the regular pork bacon. Last week I cooked it on the stovetop. This week, I decided to try the oven, which works well for me with packaged bacon. I found out the hard way that this method does not work as well with the hand-cut bacon. There isn’t as much fat to render so the oven dried it out a bit (which actually means its healthier than the packaged stuff!). Oh well, live and learn. And it’s certainly not as if we didn’t eat it. It was still delicious, paired with my zucchini/carrot/sausage egg frittata. I threw in a few extra pieces of the lamb bacon and this time, they did not make it to the plate before I just had to taste-test. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.
|Pork bacon and Lamb bacon|
Last stop on the Ottomanelli’s food journey (for now!) was the next night when I cooked up the boneless ribeye. The special pricing on this was $20.99/lb. I followed the butcher’s recommendation to lightly rub olive oil in on each side, along with salt and pepper and garlic. A million times yes to the garlic. I seared the meat on both sides in a pan that had been getting very hot on the stovetop and then finished it off in the oven. The searing seals in the juices.
Several keys to steak that we’ve learned over many years of trial and error:
• Taking it out of the fridge and letting it come up to room temperature before cooking
• Searing in the juices in a hot pan on the stovetop
• After cooking, tenting it in foil and letting it stand for a bit before slicing.
• Depending on the size of the steak, it can either continue cooking on the stovetop, or if thicker, can be finished in the oven.
• A cast iron skillet is your best friend with steaks.
This steak is a little over for my liking but I was striking a happy ‘medium’ for the family. Ah the art of compromise!
I fully believe that going to a fabulous steakhouse like Peter Luger, Old Homestead (near our Chelsea Market tour!), or Keen’s is an experience not-to-be missed, but I now also fully believe that it is possible to cook delicious steak at home and not spend an arm and a leg at a restaurant. When the budget (or a baby at home) doesn’t allow for a night out, cooking steak at home can be a truly mouth-watering and satisfying experience. A combo of great sides (creamed spinach omg), a glass of red, and a perfectly cooked steak makes for a truly delightful evening. And if you ‘forget’ the veggie side, it’s ok, I won’t tell.
I can’t wait to stop back in to Ottomanelli’s and share how good everything was. I know they’ll appreciate the feedback and direct me to new meat wonders, with a wink and a smile!
Hungry for more? Our Original Greenwich Village Food Tour meets on Bleecker Street, just down the block from Ottomanelli’s.
Visit Ottomanelli’s at 285 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014
Check out the rest of "The Sausage Series" Blogs:
Faicco's Italian Specialties
SPOTLIGHT ON ALBANESE MEATS AND POULTRY aka Moe the Butcher