HNS Discovered In Local Dig
When my family and I shared a special moment at this neighborhood favorite, with some European friends, we were in for a pleasant surprise. Somewhere between the copious appetizers and the creamy desserts, the menu boasted of traditional Tuscan and Roman entrees which pleased all twelve of my guests. But for me, well…I kind of go for the hot stuff, and that isn’t as ‘typical’ in Italian cuisine as one might think. HNS (hot ‘n spicy) was suspect when my eye dropped down to the center of the menu and fell upon the word Arrabbiata, or in English: Angry. Hmmm, usually being angry conjures up heated discussions, so I figured it must be a Hot dish, no? Maybe I was about to get lucky.
When the waiter had exhausted himself collecting the requests for obscene amounts of clams oreganato, mussels marinara, fried artichokes in francese sauce, and bruschetta (I believe he underestimated the appetites before him), I flagged him down on the way to the kitchen, to ask about the dish. He confirmed, it was “hot ‘n spicy”, with a warning eye roll. Not being one to back down at a challenge, I ordered the dish and further requested that the chef add more heat, some hot sausage chunks, and serve it over gnocchi! That’s right…I like it HNS!!!
We indulged, bulged, and washed down the appetizers with pitchers of refreshingly cold Sangria. While each dish was delicious, the clear favorite was the Fried Artichokes with Francese sauce. Unbelievably light breading and the sauce was so creamy and lightly citric. Everyone at the table gave it a thumbs up!
Next, the waiter, laden with platters up each arm, delivered our entrees. Veal Parmesan to the right, Shrimp Scampi to the left, and an over-sized Steak Palermo that hung over the dinner plate. This was right up my elder son’s alley, a medium rare NY Strip Steak all dressed out in pinwheeled mozzarella and portobella mushrooms, slathered with a healthy ladle of port wine sauce and topped with a nest of onion crisps. The presentation caused us all to stop and heave a sigh of regret that we hadn’t ordered the same.
No worries! The next delivery round was as impressive: homemade Lobster Raviolis, delicate little dough-y pillows, stuffed with sweet lobster meat, and a luscious pink, seafood sauce made with cream and chunks of crab and shrimp. This choice made several at the table very happy.
And then, voila! My choice, my HNS dish. Oh my. Quick, I knew I looked like a tourist, but I flipped open my camera….I needed PICTURES! This is the only way I could prove how beautiful Ciro’s food was, because we were about to devour it all and have nothing left to show you.
How can I write about how it tasted? To put it lightly, I may have actually had one of those “out of body” experiences that only another Foodie would relate to. The heat was perfect, the balance of salt (from the capers and olives), and spicy tomatoes, paired up with the hot sausage, was the perfect foil for the ever compliant gnocchi.
To be honest, I know the rest of the meal was great, desserts and cappuccinos flowing freely, but I was so totally blown away by the exquisite Arrabbiata, that everything else was anticlimactic.
Don’t trust me, go. No, don’t just go, go now…if you would like to find some HNS in a local dig.
Ciro’s Ristorante Italiano
301 Buckelew Ave.
Monroe Twp., NJ 08831
Wayne Galya learned how exciting food could be back in Junior High, when the Wood Shop class elective was completely filled and his guidance counselor encouraged the guys who didn’t make the cut to take Cooking, instead. “Why would I want take a cooking class? Wait a minute…cooking = girls! Heck yeah, sign me up!” And there began his love affair with all things relating to food, making it, serving it, eating it…. Back in those days (the 70s) Culinary Art Careers had not yet become the rage, so I didn’t consider it an option and when I graduated from high school, I began a 39 year career as an Industrial Electrician. But, I never lost my passion for the Art, and even produced my own CIA chef, my son Wayne! One of the greatest joys I have is seeing what other chefs are doing, as it challenges me in my own kitchen. Many friends and family have enjoyed the re-creation of dishes that I have savored in France Italy and the Caribbean, as well as regional dishes from across the US.