25 September 2010

New York: Gastro-genealogy, eating Jewish

Hey, if we can have "geneabloggers," we can have "gastrogenealogy," right?

Love Sephardic food from Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa, South America and other parts, but don't want to cook it at home?

According to the New York Times, chef Nikki Cascone's new restaurant, Octavia's Porch, will offer Jewish dishes from those places and more. Named for the Via del Portico d’Ottavia, in Rome’s Jewish ghetto, he opening is planned for November at 40 Avenue B (Fourth Street).

Info in other articles and blogs indicate the theme is "global Jewish cuisine." See the Village Voice blog - Fork in the Road - for an interview with Cascone on September 16. Here's a bit of it:


What's the status of your new restaurant?
The restaurant's name is Octavia's Porch. It's named after the Roman Jewish ghetto. There's a pizza there called Porta Octavia. We really wanted a story behind our name and that was one of the first places I realized that there were Jews all over the world -- even places like Italy -- doing unbelievable food that had an influence on the cuisine in the countries they resided in. I didn't know that before then and felt pretty naive being that I had a Jewish mom and an Italian dad.

Are you working on menu items yet?
We started recipe testing this week and tasting. There's Eastern European influences, Egyptian, Ukrainian, Hungarian ... you name it. It is global Jewish cuisine. I wanted to emphasize that Jewish food is more than just deli, which really was invented here in New York City. I'm trying to do classic dishes with a modern "Nikki" twist and expose people to less traditional dishes that they may not have seen from some other parts of the world. You eat it and think, "Oh, that's Jewish?" Things like eggplant caponata that the Arabics and Jews introduced to Italians, then Italians got all the credit for it. Jewish really was the first fusion cuisine.
Will the food be kosher?
The restaurant is Jewish by culture and not by religion. So, although we're not going to be kosher, we are not going to serve shellfish and pork.
The second part of the interview is here; learn what the chef ate at her post-Yom Kippur break-fast.

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