Its that time of year again, the Mt. Carmel Feast in Williamsburg, a family tradition of eating zeppoles and catching goldfish to put into my father's fish tank. His heart has been broken many times from sickly carnival fish, but a few have had really long runs, like over 5 years and have grown into huge elaborately tailed coy. I was feeling lucky.
But before we would eat carnival food, we would have to eat dinner. Rocco was starving, so my brother Mike, Rocco and myself went to Don Ferdinando's in Red Hook. Its now called Ferdindando's but the "Don" sounds so regal. I have been dying to go there for years for some of the only panelle to be found in the city.
We got the Don's spot right in front, and Francesco, whom Rocco called Don Cece (pronounced cheech) cordially greeted us at the door. When I gave him a Morta Di Fame business card he said, "Why did you pick this name? This is a very bad word." Did I offend Don Cece? With shrugged shoulders I said, "Its funny?" and he looked at me and laughed to my relief, then proudly showed me all the photos he had taken with celebrity patrons.
The interior of Don Ferdinando's defines the words "old world charm." Its been in that very spot serving up Sicilian favorites since 1904.
I wanted one thing and one thing only: the panelle. It was perfect, great chic pea flavor, perfectly greasy, as panelle should be, and on the thin and crisp side. I was really loving it.
Rocco insisted we order another round but the waitress clearly ignored him on his multiple attempts of screaming across the entire restaurant to her. I don't know if I blame her but she didn't have to make Mike and me suffer by withholding delicious bread and grated cheese from us. Good thing the other waitress was such a peach and took care of us. And Don Cece came over to graciously check on how we were enjoying ourselves.
The food was great and Rocco was being crazily entertaining; it was a wonderful night. You all know how Rocco is prolific on Facebook or what he mistakenly called, "Myface" the other day, and bullies everyone to comment on his blog. Well tonight he was harassing me to send him text messages during dinner. Rocco does not need to be texting unless we want to take the insanity to a whole other level. I texted him, "Hi, Lunatic," and me and my brother really got a kick out of him putting on his $0.99 Duane Reade reading glasses to read it.
I didn't end up with another plate of panelle after I spied the arancini on the menu. I can't say it was bad, but it was really disappointing compared to the insanely amazing rice balls my mother and I made directly from Nonna's arancini recipe. It was unshapely and not very flavorful. The fact that it was a mass of rice stuffed with meat then fried made it palatable, but there was no rice ball transcendence.
Rocco got the Pasta Con Sarde, which is Spaghetti with Sardines and topped with bread crumbs. It was very good, again, nothing compared to Nonna's but then again, what is?
And my brother Mike got Rigatoni with Bolognese sauce, which was something else as far as meat sauces go. Nice meat flavor, good spices and perfectly al dente pasta. I would go back just for that, and of course twelve servings of the panelle.
From the looks of the espresso machine, called the "Mac," I had to try one. Rocco scoffed, "its too watery here," he warned, but Rocco likes his espresso like mud. I agree it was a little long, but it did have a nice crema and a good flavor and its the reason why I am writing this post at 2am.
I had sought out panelle and good panelle I certainly did find and I will be back I am sure in less than a week's time for more panelle, which I can say is on my top ten favorite foods list.
As we left it began to rain, so we didn't make it to the feast. Hopefully we will be get there soon to fulfill our annual zeppole craving.