Hot Dog

518, I present to you……
The Italian Hot Dog..
You’re welcome.

If you’re from North Jersey you already know what I’m about to say.
But for those of you not blessed with Italian -American Italian-North Jersey heritage I recommend you read on.

This past 4th of July,  Joey “Jaws” Chestnut ate 72 dogs in 10 minutes to win the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
We Americans love us our hotdogs.
After all, what’s more All-American than the hotdog?
That simple tube of sodium nitrite loaded, meat-product has quite a following.
Maybe it’s the dog’s versatility that adds to his popularity. (of course the hotdog is written in the masculine form).
There are a surprising number of ways to dress that simple dog.
Chicago dogs, chili-dogs, sauerkraut, relishes, and of course mustard (and yes, even ketchup).
We’re all familiar with the local favorite, the mini-dog covered in meat-sauce.

But today I change your world with a dog from North Jersey.
The Italian Hot Dog.
According to the internet (and many, many newspaper articles covering their walls),
James “Buff” Racioppi “invented” the Italian Hot Dog back in 1932.
His namesake “restaurant”, Jimmy Buff’s is still putting out these dogs today.

Plus, it’s only a few blocks from Star Tavern.
One of the best pizzas you’ll ever eat.

If you’re in West Orange, NJ it’s worth stopping to get the original, but until then, you can easily make your own.
I’ve been eating these things for over 50 years; as I child or now, if someone said “hotdogs for dinner” it was OK, but if someone said “Italian Hot Dogs” you smiled.

In simple terms the Italian Hot Dog is similar to the Italian sausage sandwich, but instead of an Italian sausage it’s a hotdog, and there are potatoes. Yes, potatoes.
Keep an open mind here. It all works well together.
Like most good food (yes, this is good food), the multiple flavors and textures work together, creating a balanced experience.

Before we make one ourselves it’s worth talking about the original.
Jimmy Buff’s.
Jimmy Buff’s is without pretension.
They know who they are, they know what they do.
They make Italian Hot Dogs, sure they do a few other things, but it’s really all about those dogs.
A very simple place, get in line, order your dogs, watch them assemble, pay, go eat.
There are big vats of hot oil involved, and allot of hotdogs.


Jimmy’s dog

Since we all don’t live near a Jimmy Buff’s let’s talk about making our own.
I may not have 85 years of experience but I still have a good deal of Italian Hot Dog experience.
Here’s what I recommend.

The Players:

sorry, raw potatoes don’t photograph too well

Let’s start with the dog. Not every dog is appropriate. You want a dog with sturdy flavor, it needs to maintain it’s presence against the other players.
Avoid anything of the “Oscar Mayer” or “Ballpark” variety. (actually you should ALWAYS avoid those).
My many years of testing has proven you want a Sabrett’s dog.
Sabrett dogs are usually my dog of choice, but for the Italian Hot Dog in particular, you want the “Skinless beef Frankfurter” .
You want the longer Sabrett, not the “Bun Size”.
There may be a desire to go local for your dog selection (maybe Chester’s or Rolf’s) but trust me here, get the Sabrett’s.

Next you want some fresh green peppers, red peppers, and a sweet onion (Vildalia or white).
You must use green and red peppers, no more colors, no less.

Potatoes should be a creamier, but sturdy spud, like a white or maybe some of those great fingerlings.
(avoid Reds here, Yukons or Russets would work ok)

Surprisingly I don’t think the roll selection is super important.
There are some characteristics that are critical but the bread is not the star here.
The roll is a humble carrier for your meal, it should quietly do it’s job. Keeping your meal together and your hands clean.
Jimmy Buff’s uses what my people of North Jersey call “Pizza Bread”.
It’s like the bastard child of a ciabatta and a pita. A pie-sized roll that is cut in half and opened to form a pocket.
We don’t have those around here.
Find a roll you like, that can hold up to some moisture but doesn’t bring much else to the party.
Not too crunchy, not too chewy, not too much flavor.

Let’s make some Italian Hot Dogs.

Do it:
Clean out your peppers, cut them to size (about 1/2″ – 1″ strips)
Peel and slice your onions (1/2″ rings)
Slowly cook the vegetables until tender but not browned. It’s technically not saute, or frying but here’s what I do.
Add about a cup of water and a few tablespoons of oil in a pan with the peppers and onions.
Slowly cook, adding more water as necessary.
As the veggies soften let the water evaporate.
Season with salt, black pepper, and some garlic powder towards the end.

I always think of the Feast of San Gennaro when I smell peppers and onions cooking

Potatoes should be cut into bite-sized little pieces.
Jimmy Buff’s uses large, thick round slices, I disagree with their approach.
Microwave your cut spuds in water for about 10 minutes.
Drain most of the water and add to a pan with a few tablespoons of oil.
Slowly cook in the water/oil mixture until the potatoes are soft.
Let the water evaporate and slightly brown the potatoes.
You want them soft, but with some caramelization .

Grill your dogs until they’re bout to split. No char please.
When cooked, cut your dogs lengthwise into two pieces.

Let everyone assemble their own but make certain they’re following these guidelines rules.

Open up your roll and add spicy brown mustard directly to the roll. Don’t be shy here.
Gulden’s Brown or Kosciusko will do just fine.

Add three halves of a dog.

Add peppers and onions, then jam in/on some potatoes.

Now add some ketchup. Yes ketchup. If you’re palate is to fancy for ketchup I probably lost you a long time ago.
The ketchup completes the balance, it’s needed.
The potatoes will thank you.

Enjoy. (and you’re welcome)

I urge you to put aside that saucy-meat covered mindog for a moment and give this dog a try.
Maybe next time you’ll hear “Italian Hot Dogs for dinner” you’ll smile too.

Troja est ….pizza

Troy is….pizza

I’m fascinated with pizza. (hence this somewhat narcissistic blog)..

I find it incredibly interesting how the simple pizza can be created in so many different ways.
So many different pizza styles, so many different oven types, different pizzaioli, different pizzerias…
All producing what is called PIZZA.

Sometimes these differences are associated with a location. Think “NY-Style”, or “Chicago Deep Dish”, or “Trenton Tomato Pie”.
Sometimes a pizza style is associated with the particular oven type. Gas-deck ovens usually equal “NY-Style” , while wood fired ovens usually equal a “Neapolitan” pie.
Sometimes its a combo of the two, location and oven, that define the pie, like New Haven’s coal fired pizza.
You may not care for some of these pizza adaptations, but they’re all still PIZZA.
(I have another post bubbling-away that will address my view on the “definition” of pizza)

I find these many faces of pizza to be fascinating.

What if there were a place where you could try many different versions of the pizza?
Where you could try different styles of pie, made in different oven types, by different types of pizzaioli, in different types of establishment?
All within walking distance..
Wouldn’t that be grand?

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Little Pecks, the Tavern Bar, and near perfection

Well surprise, surprise, surprise…

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, but sometimes I don’t expect the obvious.
Of course the folks that are super particular about food are going to produce great pizza.

The gang at Clark House Hospitality are very particular about what they serve.
From their fancy-pants Foie Gras, to great wines, cocktails or coffee, right down to the proper selection of mustard to accompany their amazing pretzels, these folks know how to please.
They know hospitality….. Hell, they even make great POPCORN.

You can be confident you’re going to get great food and drink at any of the CHH establishments.
Of course they’re going to put out an amazing pizza.

I’ve been spending the past few months eating my way through the pizza of Troy.
While CHH pizza wasn’t on my initial list, I figured I should give it a try.
I knew they were making square-pan pies. Since this is a fairly easy pie to accomplish, I expected a decent rendition from CHH.

I wasn’t expecting quite what I got.

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For the Love of the Red-Sauce Joint

Perhaps this post doesn’t make sense in light of the recent announcement of the closing of Donna’s Restaurant.
Bear with me, this post is not about Donna’s (well not really).
I believe the closing of Donna’s is an abnormality, but still an unfortunate event nonetheless.
I don’t believe it to be indicative of anything greater. We don’t know the full story, nor do I want anyone to speculate.
Restaurants open, restaurants close., for many, many complicated reasons.
I wish the folks at Clark House Hospitality much good fortune. I’m sure they will continue to succeed elsewhere.
Keep in mind, I’ve been poking away at this post for weeks, regardless of Donna’s status.
This post is about a bigger discussion.. At least I think it is..

So why do we love our Italian-red-sauce restaurants?
I’m certainly not the first to pose that question.

We don’t necessarily have an abundance of Red-Sauce-Joints, great or otherwise.
I think we have some mediocre places, a few bad places, and a few that are pretty decent.
But not necessarily an abundance of greatness.
But we do love them, nonetheless.
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Not enough credit is given to the artist who actually created that giant clay face.
Sculpted in 2008 by Brian McCandless, Artist, Physician, North Troy real estate developer..

Bacchus Wood-Fired Pizza, Troy, NY

I want to love you. I really do.
I just can’t find the spark.

I come back every few years, with a hopeful, open mind.
Hoping to fall in love, hoping to find greatness.
But the passion just isn’t there.

Maybe its just my atrocious long-term memory, maybe it’s my stubborn nature.
In any case, every few years, I find myself repeating this somewhat disappointing discovery.

So here I was, yet again, venturing down those sidewalk steps, hoping for something; something I never quite find.
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I love “old school” pizza joints; there’s something magical about them.
You can feel the history as soon as you walk through the door.
A really great “old school” joint will capture the history of the neighborhood, almost caught in another time and place.
Quite often they’ll even define the pizza for the area.
DeFazio’s is all of that – and more.
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Superbowl Squares

Alternate titles..
size matters -or- it’s ok to be square

When the kids were little,
and I wasn’t paying attention to pizza as much as I am now (read OBSESSING),
and admittedly, the money was tight in our household,
if we were feeding a crowd we would order a giant SQUARE, 24-cut pie.
Kid’s birthday parties, cub/boy/girl scouting events, or larger family gatherings,
they all got a large SQUARE-cut, (or two).
We (my wife) determined we could feed a ton-o-little kids with one of those big square-cuts.
It was all about maximizing our pizza dollar.

Fortunately, my family has been blessed with multiple decent neighborhood pizzerias,
one of which does a pretty good, large square-cut pie. (Chris’ Pizzeria)
They offer a 12-cut square, and a 24-cut square.
That 24-cut was our “go-to” crowd pleaser.
Those 24-cut, pizza-behemoths are 18″x 24″, with each slice measuring about 3″x 6″,
and almost 3/4″ thick.

I don’t remember the value back in the day,
but now-a-days that 24-cuts runs about 19 bucks.
In comparison, a typical large, 18″ round, 8-cut in our neighborhood runs about $13.
That square’s about 80 cents a slice; allowing about 3 slices each, it’s only $2.40 per person.
(Your typical large round pie is about $1.60 a slice.)
So, if you’re feeding 8 people you’ll need 3 large round pies @ $39,
or one large 24-cut square @ $19.

To maximize your pizza dollar and feed the largest crowd for the lowest cost,
the big square-cut is the way to go..

Frugality aside, my Italian mom instilled in me a commitment to always serve more food than needed, especially for guests.
If you run out of food it’s because there wasn’t enough; that shame outweighs any pride in what you served.
Maybe order TWO large square-cuts.
They make some of the best left-overs ever.

Although our choice for the big square-cut was originally rooted in a financial analysis, it’s actually very good pie. Don’t feel too badly for my guests.

So with Superbowl Sunday approaching, I feel it’s appropriate to review this cost effective, crowd pleaser.
Do you get a large square-cut when you’re feeding a crowd?

If you don’t, you should consider it..
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2017…we’ll take a cup of kindness yet..

2016I barely made it online in 2016, with my first post in late November.
But I’m here now..

I may not have a ton of online content to reflect upon, but I still feel obligated to
a “year’s-end” post.

Lets make this a “look ahead”, as well as “a year in review”.

So, what happened here on OCtG?
I took a wonderfully doughy, NJ Pizza Tour (NJPT’16).
I composed an OCtG Manifesto ,
and I think I’m starting to find my voice.

So, what pizza-ness did 2016 bring the 518?
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“there is magic in the night” (NJPT-’16) Pizza Town USA

This post is part of my New Jersey Pizza Tour-2016 (NJPT-’16)
The NJPT-’16 is documented in the style of a “choose your own adventure”.

Click here to jump to the beginning of the journey.
Click here to jump back to Trenton Pie @ Papas
Click here to jump back to Urban Fire
Click here to jump to Star Tavern

Let’s end the trip with a smile.
I spent the day travelling through the great Garden State eating alot of cheesy, doughy pizza.
I still had a few hours of NYS Thruway driving ahead of me. But I knew a trip to
Pizza Town USA was in order.
You can’t help yourself but smile when you go to Pizza Town USA..
Come on…it’s an 8 foot tall illuminated Uncle Sam and a G-I-A-N-T neon red

Everything about Pizza Town USA makes me smile.

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