Sunday, April 1, 2012

Stuffed Peppers - Paradiso Deli & Cafe, Moonachie, New Jersey

There is a small Italian Deli/Cafe occupying part of the ground floor of an office building very close to where my "day job" is. Paradiso is a classic, traditional Italian deli, with a handful of tables crammed into their relatively small space. They have a small deli counter packed with a tempting assortment of cured meats whose names end in vowels, and generally make a nice Sicilian boy from New York, like me, feel right at home. Their location makes them a perfect spot for hungry workers in this mainly industrial/commercial area, so they also feature a selection of high quality hot food specialties. Despite the fact that the food is served in styrofoam take-out containers, they get it right, absolutely, wonderfully right.

The giveaway is that, among the well-dressed professionals that flock to the place, you can usually find a handful of older, obviously Italian men speaking half English, half Italian, when they're not talking "with their hands" as the saying goes- they generally look as if they are fixtures in this little, hard to find, hole-in-the wall with great, authentic home-style Italian food. When you see guys like that haunting a place, eat there. Now. 

Despite the fact that the place hits all the Sicilian and Neopolitan buttons embedded deeply in my very genetic structure, I don't eat there all that often  - I usually brown bag it. But, it's a good place for good food at pretty good prices. For the price of a "super sized value meal" at some of the other local quick lunch joints nearby, you can get a nice plate of something special- be it chicken piccata, or sausage and peppers, or a nice capocollo and fresh mozzarella on a nice crusty hunk of Italian bread. I tend to go for the bargain- $4 will get you a huge stuffed pepper, filled with rich and bits of hot sausage, topped with a little fresh mozzarella- so good, I'm often tempted to grab two and have the second the next day. The sausage gives it a nice kick without being overbearing or too intense.

The peppers are cooked until soft, so soft you won't need a knife. The stuffing is different than the one my mother used to make- hers was more meaty. The stuffing from Paradiso is mostly rice, laced with spicy sausage and a little tomato sauce to help keep the mass together.It's different that what I grew up with, but it's great all the same. This is no side dish- each pepper is easily massive enough to be a decent sized lunch on it's own- especially when paired with a slice or two of Paradiso's complimentary bread.

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