On Balsamic Vinegar, Proscuitto and Why Foodie Friends are Just the Best

Giuseppe Giusti - Il Quarto Centenario

There’s what you think is Balsamic vinegar, and then there’s this stuff.

Quartro Centenario Aceto Basilica, a limited edition, 15 year old Balsamic made by the Giusti family in Modena, Italy to celebrate 4 centuries running the oldest balsamic vinegar house in the world.

OMG. Thick and rich, sweet but still vinegary, full of flavor and well, just heaven.

This balsamic is too special to use in a salad dressing. What you do is drizzle it on something special, in this case an open faced sandwich made with ever so lightly toasted baguette that you’ve brushed with olive oil, then topped with a slice of fresh Mozarella, tomato, basil leaf, and a fast grind of sea salt and pepper.  It’s a lunch of the gods.

Thanks forever to my foodie friend Chris Eden (in his other life an architectural photographer), who gifted me a bottle of this liquid gold that he bought at Di Palo’s food market in Little Italy. DiPalo’s is not just a food store – it’s a portal into Italy, lovingly maintained for four generations by the one special family.

Chris visits DiPalo’s whenever he’s in New York. The store is often very, very crowded (the lines can be up to 45 minutes long). So it was no small feat when one day, Chris managed to get Lou DiPalo’s individual attention when he asked for a half pound of unsliced Prosciutto. Previously on rapid autopilot, filling orders right and left, Lou stopped short.

“You slice the Prosciutto yourself?” he asked Chris.

Yep, he does. Paper thin and just right, using a vintage American slicer that he refurbished himself.

American Slicer VIntage

Pretty sweet, huh? Now look at it slicing the prosciutto

IMG_4869

and the finished product, which Chris served as part of an antipasto spread in April when I visited him and his wife Trish. (Dinner at their house should be a tourist attraction for Seattle…)

Sliced Prosciutto

Yep, you gotta have the right slicer. That’s what DiPalo tells us in his book Di Palo’s Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy: 100 Years of Wisdom and Stories from Behind the Counter, which Chris gave me along with the vinegar of the gods –

You also want to ask for a taste so you can see how it is sliced. You can ruin an excellent prosciutto if you slice it too thick, or use a machine that heats it up or is used to slice other things, even if you don’t start slicing it at the right angle. … More important than the angle is that the slicer be belt-driven or even manual.Prosciutto is raw, remember – an ordinary slicer spins around really fast and creates heat, and that can cook a really thin slice.

That little moment of shared recognition and the discussion that followed between these two prosciutto-slicing aficionados was enough to seal Chris’s reputation with Lou as someone more than just a run of the mill tourist customer. Now, Lou actually recognizes him when Chris visits, though Chris makes a point of doing so only during the weekdays when there’s no line.

On his last visit there, Lou told Chris the back story on how his family chooses and buys olive oils. He even gave Chris an invite for me to attend one of his oil tastings (which one of these days I swear I will do…)

I’m doing my best to savor the vinegar, holding it for special occasions like that Sunday lunch up there. I do admit that sometimes I take the vinegar out of the cabinet and drizzle a little of that liquid heaven onto my fingertip to taste, just because I can. Maybe I’ll head down to Di Palo’s myself one of these days soon, pick me up some sliced Prosciutto and drizzle a little on that. Hmmm…….

Oh yeah. Chris also gave me a Cavitelli maker and taught me how to use it. (He had a spare one lying around the house…)

But that’s a post for another day.

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3 Responses to On Balsamic Vinegar, Proscuitto and Why Foodie Friends are Just the Best

  1. Thank you Peggy. A great post even if I know the secrets behind it. We want you and Paul back in Seattle for round two!!! Just bring the proscuitto from Lou. Hell, just bring Lou!!

  2. Haha! Love this post! I’ve had some AMAZING balsamic vinegar! Though not 15 years old… That is on the bucket list now. I love sharing special food treats with foodie friends. Even something from the everyday market can be special with the friend who knows how to appreciate it 🙂

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