I was thrilled with the prospect of singing the praises of Di Palo's, my favorite little Italian food shop, located in one of the few remaining remnants of Little Italy. I was excited to tell of the personal attention lavished on each customer, of the resulting ever-present long lines, the generous samples of translucent pink meats and shards of salty cheeses passed down said lines, and the warm, communal feeling engendered by the whole experience.
I was delighted to tell of the wonderful offerings behind the counter. Fresh ricotta for instance. Ricotta that in no way resembles anything you have ever bought at a supermarket. Rich and smooth, the grassy lactic perfume barely nudges against your nose.
It of course would be wonderful in a variety of dishes like the ricotta gnocchi that Delicious Days featured a few weeks ago, baked with some herbs with an egg whisked in, a frittata, the list goes on. But my favorite method of preparation is the simplest...cold, drizzled with fragrant honey, with perhaps a few walnuts scattered about if you are feeling ambitious. It is that good.
Basket cheese, not dissimilar to fresh ricotta, is another of those Di Palo's gems that you don't often see elsewhere. Drizzle it with a bit of vin cotto, I beg you. And then there are the wonderful hard cheeses, many with odd items adhering to the rinds (I saw something that looked like hay the last time I was there), and my god the gorgonzola simply oozes, practically weeps. I may send myself over the edge if I discuss much more, so I will simply say that the selection of meats is just as extensive and high quality as that of the cheese.
And I was over the moon to to mention that the prices are beyond reasonable. I firmly believe that the price of parmesan cheese is the barometer for the price structure of an entire establishment. For instance, Dean & Deluca charges $24.99/lb the last time I checked, Citarella is $17/lb, and Fairway, generally the low price leader, is $13.99/lb. Di Palo's beats the low price leader at $12.99/lb!
And, in addition to all of this, I was relishing the thought of describing the charmingly cramped quarters, how the line snaked around ravioli, anchovies and panetone, providing ample time for browsing, chatting and daydreaming. Sort of the way Murray's Cheese used to be when they were located on the north side of Bleecker.
But I went by the other day and saw this:
An expanded store! It must be four times the size of the original establishment.
When I was there the store was not fully up and running, as half of the space was vacant, barricaded by a large refrigerated case. But it is huge! It will be interesting to see how this new space works for the Di Palo's folks...will it be like a recently widened highway, which fills up just as soon as it opens with expanded gridlock? I have to admit, I secretly hope that it does. I would desperately miss the jovial (and even the not so jovial) crowds.