1 Old Italian is Newly Respectable: All those old Italian chestnuts, from meatballs to eggplant parm, are getting new focus. The Meatball Shop in New York (five kinds, four gravies) has endless lines and will generate look-alike startups in 2011. Disney opened a Meatball and Beer Bar (also four kinds). Totonno’s in Georgia is trying to franchise a meatball shop.
Fancy sandwich shops are nostalgically menuing them, along with eggplant parm, as hero sandwiches with social aspirations. Lincoln—Jonathan Benno’s (ex Per Se) new restaurant—has a rarified lasagna in a $20 million facility. Meatball Mondays and all-you-can-eat spaghetti nights are on the rise. The Negroni is being rediscovered by bartenders and while it won’t be the drink of 2011, it bears examining. Also growing: Consumer recognition of ancient and regional Italian grapes: bonarda, aglianico, vermentino, negroarmaro.
Artisan pizza boutiques are spreading everywhere, many adding mozzarella bars to their menus, making the stuff in-house and serving it still warm. Unfamiliar but authentic regional Italian ingredients are jazzing up old favorites: lardo, mostarda (mustard fruit), burrata (this one’s important), salsa verde (not the Mexican kind), speck (smoked prosciutto), tongue, oxtail, pigs’ feet, head cheese, guanciale (pork cheeks), tripe (I’m getting that offal feeling again!). Look for more inventive pesto recipes, too.
Olive Garden, Carrabba’s, Macaroni Grill and their competitors aren’t playing in this ball field, which will widen the gap between Italian for the masses and Italian for the classes who, by the way, appear not to have been humbled by the great recession and possess serious risk money to try these unfamiliar items (see last sentence of Trend #2). (Read More)