SUFFERN, N.Y. -- Suffern chef/owner Marcello Russodivito says cooks are at a disadvantage when cooking their regional Italian dishes without using quality ingredients.
So a natural progression for the affable chef/owner of Marcello's Ristorante was to launch a gourmet food line, Chef Marcello Gourmet Imports.
The web store features pastas, gluten-free pastas, Olea extra virgin olive oil, tomato sauce, bakery items, aged balsamic vinegar and specialty Items such as, polenta, pearled farro, and lady fingers, among items. The olive oil is also sold in many Inserra ShopRites in New Jersey.
Russodivito was at the grand opening of the Foodtown of Valley Cottage offering samples and recently spoke to Daily Voice about his product line and how selections were made.
But first, there was a lesson on the differences between Italian cooking and American-Italian cooking.
Russodivito, whose storied career includes numerous awards, television appearances--he's been filmed for a cooking segment for Ornella Fado’s TV special “Brindiamo!”--teamed up with partners, Giulia Tanghetti and Nella Cicchino to form Chef Marcello Gourmet Imports.
Every Italian cook knows what a good marinara is, right? Is there vodka in penne vodka? How did Fettuccine Alfredo morph into the American cuisine, without an actual basis in Italy, or not fully?
"If you eat in Italy and say, 'I want spaghetti marinara,' the waiter will bring you something with seafood. They add some garlic to tomatoes, basil on the pasta for mussels marinara. In Italy they add anchovies, some seafood, otherwise it is not marinara. They should call it, 'tomato sauce.' And if it is with meat, some sausage, it is (called) ragu. The marinara in America is simple tomato sauce," he said.
"Do you know what vodka sauce is?" Russodivito continues, pausing for a response, then answering the question.
"No heavy cream is in the Italian version," he said, adding that's strictly American.
"In the restaurant they loosen up the pasta from the water. Vodka sauce is not an Italian thing, but now you have it in Italy. It was brought from Russian people. Russia produces salmon and vodka. In Italy you put a little butter, but a very good butter, with smoked salmon. Cook penne or other pasta actually put vodka. The pink comes from the salmon, not tomatoes and cream. That's what Americans do."
Alfredo sauce does exist in Italy but not the creamy, rich, velvety one you'll find in many restaurants, according to Russodivito.
"It was invented for a restaurant in Rome. The way they make it is by using a very nice butter, a rich butter that they take and melt on top of the boiling pasta. You cook pasta into the water and soon the pasta is cooked, then drop the pasta in the butter, put parmesan and ground paper, no heavy cream. In American it becomes (a dish) with heavy cream for the simple reason that the kitchen is (often) in he basement and (cooks) make it when people arrive in the restaurant. The customer will not eat fast then the butter gets cold quickly and gets hard. So, they add cream or the customer will complain."
Other Russodivito tips include the use of sweet, never acidic tomatoes to make sauces and ragus.
"In Calabria near the volcano, ash has created a very fertilized ground, and the tomatoes that grow there are like soup," he said. Tomatoes that are sweet require few added ingredients to make sauce, Russodivito insists. "You peel them, add some basil," he said.
Marcello's Ristorante is located at 21 Lafayette Ave, Suffern, N.Y.