Please welcome first-time contributor Ava McAlpin, a New York native freshly returned from culinary school in Italy, to Serious Eats: New York. —The Mgmt.

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[Photos: Ava McAlpin and Robyn Lee]

Best Bets:

D. Coluccio & Sons: 1214-20 60th Street, Brooklyn, NY, 718-436-6700, dcoluccioandsons.com
Buon Italia: 75 9th Avenue, New York, NY, 212-633-9717, buonitalia.com
DiPalo's: 200 Grand Street, New York, NY, 212-226-1033, dipaloselects.com
Faicco's Pork Store: 260 Bleecker Street, New York, NY, 212-243-1974
Salumeria Rosi: 283 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY, 212-877-4800, salumeriarosi.com
Addeo Bakers: 2372 Hughes Avenue, Bronx, NY 10458, 718-367-8316

When trying to follow a recipe for a foreign cuisine, you might find the ingredients are, well, foreign. You might wonder what they are, or what brand to buy—and even when you do know something about the items you'll need, tracking them down can be a chore.

After returning from three months studying Italian cooking in Florence, Italy, I've been scouring New York for several typical Italian ingredients. Here is a quick guide to some of the best sources in the city for a few real Italian groceries. Once you start paying attention, imported Italian goods and domestic versions of these specialties are everywhere.

Breads and Grains

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Fresh pasta: made (and photographed) by Ava McAlpin

Fresh pasta: When you can't make it yourself, the second freshest choice is to get your noodles cut to order at Borgatti's Ravioli & Egg Noodles or Raffetto's Corporation. Bruno Ravioli and Piemonte Ravioli Co. also sell homemade pastas and ravioli in a variety of flavors. Fairway stocks Raffetto's pasta prepackaged, as well as Penne Lane and Fairway brands.

Citarella and Dean and Deluca each also stock their own brand of pre-packaged fresh pasta, with healthier—if less Italian—whole-wheat options.

Borgatti's Ravioli & Egg Noodles, 632 East 187th St., Bronx, NY, 718-367-3799, borgattis.com; Raffetto's Corporation, 144 West Houston Street, New York, 212-777-1261; Bruno Ravioli, multiple locations, brunoravioli.com; Piemonte Ravioli Co., 190 Grand Street, New York, NY, 212-226-0475, piemonteravioli.com; Fairway, multiple locations, fairwaymarket.com; Citarella, multiple locations, citarella.com; Dean and Deluca, multiple locations, deandeluca.com

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Grano de tenero "00": Although you can use normal unbleached flour to make your own pasta fresca (recipe at bottom), grano de tenero tipo "00" imported from Italy yields a much lighter pasta. Barilla, the preferred brand, is sold at Teitel Brothers and Tino's Delicatessen.

In Manhattan, Buon Italia did not have Barilla when I stopped in, but the specialty store stocks a few other brands of "00," as do Alleva and Raffetto's. I recommend buying your eggs at a farmers' market or at Calandra's Cheese ($1.99 for a dozen).

Teitel Brothers, 2372 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, NY, 718-733-9400, www.teitelbros.com; Tino's Delicatessen, 2410 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, 718-733-9879; Buon Italia, 75 9th Avenue, New York, NY, 212-633-9717, buonitalia.com; Alleva, 188 Grand Street, New York, NY, 212-226-7990, allevadairy.com; Calandra's Cheese, 2314 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, NY, 718-365-7572


Pane Toscana: While fantastic Italian bread is easy to find in New York City—and Jim Lahey at Sullivan Street may well pay more attention to his craft than many bakers in Italy—pane toscana is a different story. I never thought I would seek out Tuscany's salt-less bread, which tastes like pasty cardboard, but it is a key ingredient in the thick, delicious traditional soups ribollita and pappa al pomodoro—as well as in the salad panzenella (to make a truly Tuscan version follow this recipe with Tuscan bread, rather than a French baguette).

I'm not surprised that a comparable dry, tasteless loaf is difficult to find in New York. Diet breads lacking salt abound, but most of them, such as those sold at Addeo Bakery, are whole wheat, which would change the composition of these traditional dishes. Several stores market sliced sweet breads as "Tuscan," such as Eli's Tuscan round, but don't be fooled by these; the real thing has no redeeming sweetness.

After searching everywhere from Terranova Bakery on Arthur Avenue to Parisi Bakery in Little Italy, the only place that I could find that sells it is the NYC branch of Firenze's bakery Il Cantuccio—but a fire delayed its September opening, so you can't buy it there yet. I found the closest thing to an authentic Tuscan loaf at Cesare Cassella's Salumeria Rosi, where I visited on a tip from Babbo pastry chef and Serious Eats contributor Gina DePalma—but even this version has too much flavor. The bread they market as Tuscan, but it is baked by Sullivan Street Bakery and does have salt. Until Il Cantuccio opens, this pane di commune is an acceptable substitution, but I prefer to use Eli's semolina bread with the sesame seeds brushed off the crust, as this bread really has no salt; it can be bought at Zabar's.

Addeo Bakers, 2372 Hughes Avenue, Bronx, NY 10458, 718-367-8316; Salumeria Rosi, 283 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY, 212-877-4800, salumeriarosi.com; Zabar's, 2245 Broadway, New York, NY, 212-787-2000, zabars.com; hold tight for Il Cantuccio, 91 Christopher Street, 212-647-8787, ilcantuccionyc.com

Vegetables

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Wilted cavolo nero. [Jules:StoneSoup]

Cavolo Nero: This Italian green, often called dinosaur kale or Italian cabbage, has become easier to find in recent years, especially at farmer's markets around the city (although I wasn't able to find it at the Union Square market recently). Bunches are sold at Whole Foods ($2.99) and Gary Null's Uptown Whole Foods ($3.49) under the name Lacinato kale. It is great in ribollita and other Italian minestras. I was surprised that the produce stand in the Arthur Avenue Retail Market did not have cavolo nero when I looked.

Whole Foods, multiple locations; Gary Null's Uptown Whole Foods, 2421 Broadway and 89th St., 212-874-4000

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Porcini mushrooms: You can find dried versions of these creamy, rich mushrooms at most food stores, though the end result in a recipe won't be quite the same. Buon Italia used to import fresh porcini—an act not dared by other purveyors because these mushrooms are notoriously delicate. Although Buon Italia did not get in fresh ones this year, they still sell frozen porcini (as opposed to dried) at $18.00/lb whole, $13.95/lb in cubes and $18.50/lb sliced. D. Coluccio & Sons—which may as well be an Italian supermarket transported to Brooklyn—sells one-pound bags for $21.50.

Dried porcini can be quite pricey as well; at Fairway they are $23.99/100gr or $13.99/50gr and at Dean and Deluca they are $33.00/3.53 oz bag and $20.00/1.76 oz bag. Pay attention, because dried porcini can come in several different gradations of quality; Buon Italia sells big dried ones—which are the highest grade—for $99.50, medium quality ones for $55.00 and smaller sliced ones for $39.00 in large bags.

D. Coluccio & Sons, 1214-20 60th Street, Brooklyn, NY, 718-436-6700, dcoluccioandsons.com; Fairway, multiple locations, fairwaymarket.com; Dean and Deluca, multiple locations, deandeluca.com; Buon Italia, 75 9th Avenue, New York, NY, 212-633-9717, buonitalia.com


Pachino Tomatoes: People swear by San Marzano tomatoes, which you can find canned pretty much anywhere these days. But everyone I cooked with in Italy prefers to use tomatoes from Pachino, Sicily, for their sauces. I've only been able to find Pachino tomatoes jarred at D. Coluccio & Sons ($4.25 for a 19.75 oz jar); they come whole, covered in their own puree and basil.

D. Coluccio & Sons, 1214-20 60th Street, Brooklyn, NY, 718-436-6700, dcoluccioandsons.com

Meats

Cured meats from Salumeria Rosi. [Photo: Robyn Lee]

Bresaola: This cured beef is delicious on top of a bed of arugula with lemon juice or on its own as an antipasti. Citterio meats, based in Pennsylvania, pre-packs sliced Bresaola (as well as many other types of salumi); Citarella sells these packets. Ottomanelli & Sons Prime Meats stocks un-sliced hunks of Citterio's Bresaola. Faicco's Pork Store and Calabria Pork Store sell imported Bresaola ($21.99 and $15.99/lb respectively).

Citarella, multiple locations, citarella.com; Ottomanelli & Sons Prime Meats, 285 Bleecker Street, 212-675-4217; Faicco's Pork Store, 260 Bleecker Street, New York, NY, 212-243-1974; Calabria Pork Store, 2338 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, NY, 718-367-5145


Guanciale: Guanciale, cut from the pork's jowl, is the traditional type of bacon used in the Roman dishes spaghetti alla carbonara or pasta all'amatriciana because it has a more intense flavor than pancetta. Even though guanciale is popping up in more places these days, it can be trickier to find than pancetta. For imported guanciale head to Buon Italia ($23.65/lb). Faicco's Pork Store has organic guanciale ($10.99/lb); Salumeria Biellese, which supplies many restaurants (Mario Batali is a fan) has a domestic, home-cured version. Salumeria Rosi has guanciale from New York ($14.00/lb whole or $21.00/lb sliced).

Buon Italia, 75 9th Avenue, New York, NY, 212-633-9717, buonitalia.com; Faicco's Pork Store, 260 Bleecker Street, New York, NY, 212-243-1974; Salumeria Biellese, 376-3378 8th Avenue, New York, NY, 212-736-7376, salumeriabiellese.com; Salumeria Rosi, 283 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY, 212-877-4800, salumeriarosi.com

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Mortadella crostini from Luzzo. [Photo: Robyn Lee]

Mortadella: A distant relative and much higher-class version of American bologna, mortadella is great for panini and antipasto platters. It can also be used in ragù or Bolognese to enhance the flavor of these sauces. Here is a recipe from Mario Batali for fresh robiola (a type of cheese that can be found at most of the stores listed under the cheese section) wrapped in mortadella.

These days you can find mortadella at most deli counters. It is difficult, however, to find a version without pistachio nuts. Both Alleva and Buon Italia supply an imported nut-free version, which works better in sauces. D. Coluccio & Sons sells prepackaged hunks of domestic Mastro mortadella free from pistachios.

Alleva, 188 Grand Street, New York, NY, 212-226-7990, allevadairy.com; Buon Italia, 75 9th Avenue, New York, NY, 212-633-9717, buonitalia.com; D. Coluccio & Sons, 1214-20 60th Street, Brooklyn, NY, 718-436-6700, dcoluccioandsons.com

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Trippa alla Parmigiana from Babbo. [Photo: Robyn Lee]

Trippa: Tripe may not be as popular in the United States as it is in Florence and Rome, but as far as Italian markets go, you can still buy it at Biancardi Meats and Peter's Meat Market. You can also find cuts such as pig's feet there. Down in Manhattan, head to Faicco's Pork Store. Not sure what to do with it? Try trippa alla romana or trippa alla fiorentina.

Biancardi Meats, 2350 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, NY, 718-733-4058, Peter's Meat Market, 2344 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, NY, 718-367-3136; Faicco's Pork Store, 260 Bleecker Street, New York, NY, 212-243-1974

Cheeses

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Ricotta with truffle honey from Locanda Verde. [Photo: Robyn Lee]

Fresh Ricotta: My favorite breakfast while living in Italy was fresh ricotta spread over toast and drizzled with honey. Buon Italia imports three different fresh: sheep's milk ($9.95/lb), cow's milk ($8.75/lb) and a mixture of cow and goat's milk ($8.95/lb). Fairway has imported sheep's milk ricotta, which I prefer to their domestic cow's milk that has curds too loose for my taste. My favorite finds are homemade ricottas from local cow's milk sold at the specialty stores DiPalo's ($4.49/lb) and Calandra's Cheese ($3.49/lb), which have the advantage of being fresher than the imported ones—even if the milk comes from cows fed on New York State grass—while still having the tightly packed quality of imported curds. (You can't talk about Italian cheeses without talking about DiPalo's—worth a stop for the formaggio knowledge of owner Louis DiPalo, as well as the cheeses themselves.)

Down the block from DiPalo's, the ricotta at Alleva, the oldest Italian cheese store in America, is renowned. Skip Torrisi Italian Specialties' domestic ricotta, which is way too salty and is drenched in olive oil and thyme. Also, at $3.00 per quarter-pound, Torrisi's is pricier than the other local options.

Buon Italia, 75 9th Avenue, New York, NY, 212-633-9717, buonitalia.com; Fairway, multiple locations, fairwaymarket.com; DiPalo's, 200 Grand Street, New York, NY, 212-226-1033, dipaloselects.com; Calandra's Cheese, 2314 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, NY, 718-365-7572; Alleva, 188 Grand Street, New York, NY, 212-226-7990, allevadairy.com; Torrisi Italian Specialties, 250 Mulberry Street, New York, NY, 212-965-0955


Pecorino fresco: Whereas pecorino Romano has become almost as easy to find as parmigiano regiano, pecorino fresco and Tuscan pecorino, which are much milder and softer version of a sheep cheese, are still relatively scarce. Murray's Cheese sells pecorino Toscano fresco for $15.99 a pound, and also has small rounds of pecorino tartufello—a fresh pecorino with black truffle shavings—for $17.00 each. D. Coluccio & Sons has a pecorino from Calabria called pecorino crotonese ($8.95/lb) that is a little sharper than their Tuscan pecorino ($9.50/lb). Alleva has another imported fresh pecorino Toscano ($10.00/lb).

Murray's Cheese, 254 Bleecker Street, New York, NY, murrayscheese.com; D. Coluccio & Sons, 1214-20 60th Street, Brooklyn, NY, 718-436-6700, dcoluccioandsons.com; Alleva, 188 Grand Street, New York, NY, 212-226-7990, www.allevadairy.com


Burrata: For my last lunch in Italy, I stuffed myself with burrata, convinced I would not be able to taste the creamy, oozy, buttery version of mozzarella again until my next trip to Italy. I was thrilled, however to find it in several stores throughout the city. For domestic burrata head to Joe's Italian Deli ($10.99/lb). Casa della Mozzarella ($9.99/lb) also has homemade burrata, which you have to pre-order, thus guaranteeing its freshness. Murray's Cheese and D. Coluccio & Sons both sell imported burrata for $10.99 and $9.95 respectively. As with ricotta, domestic versions may taste better since freshness is everything with this cheese.

Joe's Italian Deli, 685 East 187th Street, Bronx, NY, 718-367-7979; Casa della Mozzarella, 604 East 187th Street, Bronx, NY, 718-364-3867; Murray's Cheese, multiple locations, murrayscheese.com; D. Coluccio & Sons, 1214-20 60th Street, Brooklyn, NY, 718-436-6700, dcoluccioandsons.com

Pantry Goods

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Savoiardi (Ladyfingers): Savoiardi imported from Italy are easy to find. Garden of Eden and Barzini's sell Balocco's or Bonomi ladyfingers. My favorite brand, however, is Pavesini, which are less easy to find. I like them because they yield a less spongy, cakey tiramisu since they are thinner. DiPalo's sells Pavesini for $4.99. Next door at Piemonte Ravioli Co., they go for $5.99. Almost every store on Arthur Avenue has multiple brands of savoiardi. Shop around, though, because prices vary from $3.49 for Pavesini at Teitel Brothers to $5.99 at Tino's Delicatessen.

Garden of Eden, multiple locations, edengourmet.com; Barzini's, 2451 Broadway, New York, NY, 212-874-4992; DiPalo's, 200 Grand Street, New York, NY, 212-226-1033, dipaloselects.com; Piemonte Ravioli Co., 190 Grand Street, New York, NY, 212-226-0475, piemonteravioli.com; Teitel Brothers, 2372 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, NY, 718-733-9400, teitelbros.com; Tino's Delicatessen, 2410 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, 718-733-9879

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Lievito (baking powder): Baking powder comes in measured packets in Italy and is often perfumed with vanilla. Since Italian recipes tend to call for baking powder in terms of these packets, if you ever find yourself using an Italian cookbook, it may come in handy to know that Buon Italia and D. Coluccio & Sons sell these. Although you can do a conversion to find out how much baking powder to add, it is easier to use these. I also think the chemical composition is slightly different. Borgatti's Ravioli & Egg Noodles sells plain vanilla powder packets by the same brand, Pane Angeli.

Buon Italia, 75 9th Avenue, New York, NY, 212-633-9717, buonitalia.com; D. Coluccio & Sons, 1214-20 60th Street, Brooklyn, NY, 718-436-6700, dcoluccioandsons.com; Borgatti's Ravioli & Egg Noodles, 632 East 187th St., Bronx, NY, 718-367-3799, borgattis.com


Jarred Truffle Salsas: Although I find jarred whole truffles gummy, I enjoy truffle salsas and patés. They make a great a sauce for fresh tagliatelle and they are also delicious on crackers. This fall I ran around the San Miniato truffle festival stocking up on as many jarred truffle products as I could stuff into my suitcase, thinking that these items would be impossible to find in New York—and that if I could find them they would break the bank. As it turns out, I could have avoided my overweight luggage charges. Barzini's sells a jar of black truffle paté for $6.99—not bad considering similar products were going for 5.00-7.00 euro in Italy. Citarella has Urbani truffle butter for $7.99 and a black truffle salsa for $8.99. Casa della Mozzarella and Buon Italia have an array of truffle products as well.

Barzini's, 2451 Broadway, New York, NY, 212-874-4992; Citarella, multiple locations, citarella.com; Casa della Mozzarella, 604 East 187th Street, Bronx, NY, 718-364-3867; Buon Italia, 75 9th Avenue, New York, NY, 212-633-9717, buonitalia.com

And More...

If you're looking for something not on this list and your local Whole Foods, Fairway or Garden of Eden doesn't have what you need, I would recommend stopping by Buon Italia or D. Coluccio & Sons—two different but equally impressive Italian superstores—as well as checking in the shops on Arthur Avenue, or going to Gustiamo.com, a wholesale warehouse in the Bronx that sells to the public online.

To eat like a true Italian, however—going the locally sourced route—you should stop by Torrisi Italian Specialties. Their stock is limited, but it is worth thinking about their philosophy that Italian cuisine is about eating only what is in season and what is local. If Torrisi doesn't have what you want, you can check local farmers' markets, salumeri, and stores for the domestic equivalents.

Torrisi Italian Specialties, 250 Mulberry Street, New York, NY, 212-965-0955

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