For me, there's not much else I'd rather eat on Valentine's Day than a homemade dinner, and what better than a delicious Italian meal to make you smile?
There are plenty of place you can buy Italian ingredients these days. One of my favorites is Mona Lisa Italian Foods in Little Italy. It's across the street from what may be the best pasta source in the state, Assenti's Pasta (which I'll review at a later date). Mona Lisa's is split into two places, really...A great Italian Deli & shoppe, and a restaurant. This post will concentrate on the Deli portion, because that is where I went to shop for our Italian dinner of Chicken Saltimbocca, with cappellini and roasted artichokes.
Drive down India Street in Little Italy to the north end, and you'll easily spot Mona Lisa's, with it's big red and green lettering and painting of Mona Lisa's facial features. The traditional Italian color combination of red, green, and white carries on throughout the entire face of the store. There are two sets of red doors, and the one on the left leads you into the Deli side of the establishment, where you'll usually find a crowd gathered in front of the display case.
You can order any one of a number of sandwiches, all made on fresh crusty bread with great ingredients straight out of the deli case. Everything from a simple, but wonderful, Caprese sandwich with it's beautifully soft and delicious mozzarella, to the Deluxe with all it's fabulous, authentic Italian meats and cheeses. Your sandwich is made as you wait, with bread from the well-known Solunto's bakery down the street and the finest ingredients both from here and Italy. The line may seem overwhelming sometimes, but the service is surprisingly quick!
The deli case itself is filled with meats and cheese, each one more delicious looking than the next, as well as ravioli and other fresh pastas. On the right is a selection of olives that would rival any other place in town, along with marinated artichokes, mushrooms, and giardinieri.
Around the left side, you'll find cheeses, salamis, cured meats, and their delicious house-made marinara and meat sauces all packaged up and ready to take home for your own feast. Looking for mascarpone cheese to make your honey some tiramisu tonight? It's here. Some Parmesano Reggiano for that Al fredo? Got it. How about a nice soppressata for that antipasto?
The store itself is small, and often crowded, but everyone is delightfully friendly and polite, so it doesn't seem as small when you're inside! There's a nice selection of Italian liqueurs, spirits, and espresso to the right as you walk in the door. Beyond that is nearly everything you could hope to find in an Italian market. Imported beverages, tomatoes, oils, vinegars. Anyone who's ever made Sunday Gravy knows that you can't find a more flavorful tomato than the San Marzano romas...and here you'll find them in abundance! There is also a large selection of dried pastas, which I do so enjoy, even if I do love the fresh ravioli in the deli case the best!
My purchases for tonight's dinner included a wonderful imported prosciutto, a hunk of Asiago cheese, some cappellini (angel hair) pasta, and marinated artichokes that will be so delicious when they've been roasted to perfection and served with aioli! Recipes and photos to come later!
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. May yours be filled with happiness, sunshine, and love!