By SUSAN ERICSON
Shopping at Ferrucci’s Gourmet Delicatessen in the Prospect Plaza strip mall in Little Silver is like stepping into a classic Italian grocery store, according to a customer who stopped in to pick up pizza dough brought in from Brooklyn. It’s as good as Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, he said.
Mixed New York boroughs aside, there is something about New York city tap water that makes pizza dough and bread taste better. And the bread at Ferrucci’s is delivered daily from Brooklyn along with the dough. It’s also a consistent daily sellout, says owner Sandy D’Amico.
In this same business since she was 12 years old, D’Amico treats everyone like family – not surprising, as almost everyone who works here is family. D’Amico’s mother, known to all as Nonna, runs the kitchen, while her sons Michael and Paolo have been working in the store since they were children.
Starting in a little slip of a shop 23 years ago, the family commuted from Brooklyn every day. After moving to New Jersey, the shorter commute led to a to doubling of the store size. No longer a just a deli, Ferrucci’s now has a fresh butcher department, a bakery area, a cappuccino or espresso bar, ready-made takeout, and groceries, many of which are imported from Italy.
D’Amico hand-picks the imports, which include not only the customary buffalo milk mozzarella and prosciutto di Parma but some deliciously elusive items as well. Mortadella with pistachio nuts from the Bologna area of Italy is more than a cut above, and when is the last time you found buffalo milk butter in a market?
Ferrucci’s imports Tuscan olive oil because it tends to be a little fruitier, D’Amico says; a gallon of Jewel of Tuscany is about $30. Sicilian olive oil, “which is lighter, greener with more of an olive assertiveness,” also has a place on the shelves.
Discussing the myriad choices of canned tomatoes, PieHole got a lesson in what to look for on the label. When putting together the traditional components of Italian cooking, San Marzano tomatoes are needed. “The quintessential San Marzano is DOP [Denominazione d’ Origine Protteta] certified,” meaning it was grown and packed in Italy, D’Amico says. You can also purchase American tomato varieties here.
In a hurry to get dinner on the table? There are many fresh in-house-made choices to bring home, from gourmet stuffed artichokes, arancini (fried rice balls) to lasagna and chicken parm. Not only will D’Amico tell you how to heat your meal properly, should you need a hand with a dish you have been trying to make at home, she will offer helpful hints as to how to cook from scratch as well. Which pasta goes best with the sauce you are making? Ask her, and then have a discussion about the recipe. She is a font of Italian culinary information, and should you need a culinary gift basket, she can help with that too.