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When we think of authentic Italian chefs, Lidia Bastianich comes immediately to mind. Lidia and her family (including son Joe Bastianich) have built a culinary empire, which includes Eataly (the market she opened with Joe, Mario Batali, and Oscar Farinetti), acclaimed New York City restaurants Felidia, Becco, Esca, and Del Posto, Lidia's in Pittsburgh and Kansas City, and the award-winning Bastianich Winery.
Since emigrating from Italy to the U.S. at age 12, Lidia's family has called Queens home. She has lived all over, from Astoria to Bayside to Douglaston, and shops in the borough nearly every day, after church or on her way into Manhattan. She shops solo for her own mother's favorite loaf of bread, and with her daughter Tanya for ingredients for simple, delicious antipasti to kickstart their frequent family gatherings.
Here's where Lidia seeks out Italian ingredients on her home turf.
When we moved from Astoria to Bayside, I needed a pasta place that was close. Sunday after church, when I don't have time to make pasta, I go to Durso's Pasta & Ravioli Company. It's convenient, and they have all kinds of goodies: peppers, anchovies, olives, etc.
In Astoria, I love the small, family-operated Cassinelli Food Products. They're really nice Italian people. When we had our first restaurant in Forest Hills, we used to commission fresh ravioli from them.
Leo's Latticini is almost in Corona, and it's another enclave of Italian immigrants. It's one of those holes in the wall that does fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and platters for parties. When we were young, we'd stop in for some antipasti and make a sandwich on the spot, to picnic in Astoria Park while the men played soccer.
Fairway opened recently, close to where I live in Douglaston. I have to give credit where it's due: it's refreshing to have a store that cares about organic food and diversity of products. Between this and the Whole Foods, it's great to see this kind of focus in Queens.
Astoria's Parisi Bakery uses natural ingredients and they do great Sicilian bread. We used to use their bread for our restaurants.
Now we get our bread from Pane D'Italia in Whitestone. I go on Sunday after church and buy a loaf of the semolina or whole wheat. My mother lives with me, so I portion the bread and freeze it so that when I'm traveling, it tastes fresh for her. They also have panini here, but I usually like to make my sandwiches from a whole loaf.
I go to Rosario's Deli in Astoria for cold cuts and antipasto like cured olives, artichokes, and snails. When we make a big meal at home, the antipasto isn't elaborate, it's just good product. I also like their dried sardines packed under heavy salt: they're like a cousin of anchovies and are great in salad with onion, vinegar, and oil, or chopped up in pasta. I get their dried chestnuts to make soup in the winter.
Sorriso Italian Pork Store in Astoria is small but consistent. They do good butchering and have great cuts of veal. They make their own sausage as well. I make a lot of sausage myself, but when I'm in the area, I get theirs.
Every Sunday, rain or shine, the Douglaston Greenmarket by the LIRR station has fresh eggs, meat, and all kinds of vegetables. I just love going on my bike to the market.
If I'm shopping in that part of Astoria, I love to go to La Guli for their cannoli. They also have delicious, simple Italian cookies; I like the lemon and anise. They do a great platter of mini pastries as well.
I love the cassata from Terrizzi Pastry Shop. It's a rich Sicilian pastry made with almond sponge, stuffed with ricotta, and topped with candied fruits and marzipan. It's a great fresh, luscious, and fancy dessert for a family gathering.