Claudio Specialty Foods
by tenaya darlington, madamefromage.blogspot.com
If you’ve never had fresh mozzarella—I’m talking one-hour-old—do yourself a favor and stroll down to Claudio’s in the Italian Market. It’s one of the few places in the city where you can still observe a food tradition in action. Like Nan Zhou (927 Race St.), the noodle bar in Chinatown where you can observe skilled technicians pulling dough into ribbons, at Claudio’s you can see people in shower caps making mozzarella by hand, Tuesday through Saturday. It all happens behind the counter of a small storefront, right next door to the family-owned shop, Claudio Specialty Foods.
When you buy mozzarella balls from the grocery store, they’re often chewy and dense, but when you purchase them from the maker, they’re pillowy and light. The difference is time—that grocery-store mozz has been sitting around. When it comes to fresh cheese, the younger the better. (If you want to test this theory, try eating a cheese curd. A day-old curd is rubbery and tough, while an hour-old curd “squeaks” with freshness.)
Claudio’s specializes in house-made fresh cheeses, including ricotta and Burrata—a geode-like orb of mozzarella with a cream-filled center. Ricotta can be mixed with fresh herbs and a little lemon zest for an easy spread, and Burrata makes an impressive appetizer. Just serve it at room temperature, and wait until everyone is gathered before cutting it open. The oozy center is stunning. On a summer evening, these fresh cheeses are the perfect start to a light meal, and a great accompaniment to local tomatoes. Claudio’s also sells wonderful pesto and gorgeous sun-dried tomatoes.
For a quick appetizer, cut a baguette into rounds and top with pesto, tomato slices and a slab of fresh mozzarella. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, and you’ll have a dreamy, gooey snack that will make people drool. If you want to test this theory, well, you know what to do.
Claudio Specialty Foods, 924-26 S. 9th St., 215-627-1873, claudiofood.com