Thursday, 16 February 2012

Un Italiano Vero

I could easily make a strong argument for myself that I am quite possibly the most Italian, non-Italian there is.  

Seriously, growing up in Hamilton my neighbourhood and a good part of the city was predominantly Italian with a long and storied history of Italian immigrants in the area.  I had Italian friend's, girlfriend's (regazza molto dolce), worked in Italian Deli's, learned to cook and eat like an Italian even speak like one, drove a FIAT X1/9 with Onza exhaust, served at Valentino's Restaurant and tended bar in an Italian banquet centre.  If you've ever been to an Italian wedding you know what I was up against.  So you get the picture, this was my adopted culture and a great one it is.

The fact is that once this culture get's into your blood you're stuck with it and that's a good, no it's a very good thing.  You will develop standard's for the food you eat, wine you drink and what you serve your friend's and family that will exceed reason and border on insanity, again a very good thing.  

This standard also applies to where you will and where you will not go to purvey only the finest quality ingredients and prepared foods available in Ottawa.

One of these rare places that you will go to is La Bottega Nicastro, which is a multi location family operated food supplier with it's principal store located at 64 George St. in the Byward market. 

When you go and once you do, be prepared to spend some time because it is an all around feast for the senses.  On arrival you'll see it's a bit chaotic, hey what proper bottega isn't? It's loud, requires F1 maneuvering techniques and has everything your exotic culinary dreams have ever imagined.  

Start properly, shift your way to the back section of the store where the meat, cheese and olives are and order a proper coffee.  By coffee I mean espresso, short and leave the fancy cap's and latte's to the pastry shop tourists.  

Fueled on hi-test, say hello to the meat counter attendee's and take in all they have to offer.  My partner window shops for shoes, for me it's prosciutto, porchetta, and salsiccia. 

The selections are countless and the staff exceptionally knowledgeable. Tell them your intentions and they will guide you down a culinary path of enlightenment. Oh, and they won't mind if you ask to sample a small bite of their offerings. With basket full of carnivore goodness, turn around and be overwhelmed by the cheese mountains.  Nicastro's has product from all over the world, but the specialty of course are the imported cheese's from Italy.  

If you've never sat down at a tiny table with a glass of Chianti, some warm roasted chestnuts (available outside the store on weekends) and a hunk of Pecorino Romano you are missing out on one of life's greatest pleasures. But do share this experience with someone beautiful in your life, the mutual pleasure will reveal wonderful emotion's and really, that's Italian.

A few final words on this Mecca of all things good, Nicastro's have a fantastic reasonably priced and licensed lunch area in the back with daily special's.  They have countless selections of olive oils, vinegar's, dry pasta, anchovies, etc.  They are also available to cater events and will prepare party trays to your specifications.

There can not be a bad experience in this truly special shop which is a home away from home for me.  You will find yourself going in only for fresh made pasta and leave with it plus cheese, meat, passata, oil, olives and probably a fresh Calabrese bread that you've already taken a bite out of.  

There are very few cultures that are as gastro-centric as the Italian's are.  There are heated dinner table debates about who and where the best sugo is made, what's better Romano or Reggiano, egg in fresh past or not, but that my dear friend's is the experience of la dole vita.  Buon Appetito!

64 George Street  Ottawa, ON
(613) 789-7575

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