The good Gourmet: Best of Italy
The Garavaglias have been regular customers of The Best of Italy for a number of years; in particular my father, who walks an hour both ways for sausages called salumi (€3.99). It's the only place in Ireland he has managed to find them. However, I'm not much of a fan of salumi, a big fat pork sausage that you either steam or boil.
My father is also delighted that they sell baccalà -- salt cod sold by the slab. He tends to go through phases and has all these different ways of cooking it. It looks pretty grim but, cooked slowly in a type of milky garlic and parsley sauce, it is pretty good. But you do need plenty of minced garlic.
I have become a fan of the store for other reasons. I can't believe it's now 10 years since we made the first Yumee programmes for RTE. A lot of the ingredients used in the shows were purchased at Best of Italy. They sell excellent white, dark and milk chocolate for cooking, in either blocks or buttons. They also stock a wide selection of pulses, nuts and other ingredients needed in baking.
There's a good selection of excellent olive oils, Italian biscuits, chocolates, tins of tomatoes and pastas, and they have a good range of fresh vegetables and fruits. The breads are all freshly baked and they will happily cut a loaf to suit your needs, so you don't have to buy the whole loaf. They also carry a variety of freshly made cakes and desserts, and are happy to take orders.
On top of this, the shop has a big range of antipasti -- such as artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, fungi, olives and anchovies -- and various salamis and cured meats. I adore the salami with fennel seeds; it's got a certain kick to it and Best of Italy is the only place I have ever managed to find it.
The deli section has a good variety of cheese. Not all of it is Italian -- there are some Irish and French cheeses, and they have some really good Tomme.
I normally pick up a box or two of De Cecco riso vialone nano (€4.19). Although most risotto recipes call for arborio rice, I prefer to use vialone nano as it makes for a creamy risotto. Younger children seem to be fond of the texture of it too.
Another favourite of the household is the freshly made pasta sauce. It's a really hearty tomato sauce with plenty of juicy freshness. My kids adore this spread on the fresh pizza bases (packet of three, €6.49), topped with some freshly grated Irish mozzarella (€1.79). You can add any other topping you like, but I am particularly fond of a slice or two of Parma ham (€3.34).
I also stock up on De Cecco chicche di patate (€1.99), which are mini gnocchi. Served with fresh tomato sauce and some freshly grated mozzarella, they are my daughter Síofra's favourite. I occasionally add a little grated courgette, fried sausage meat or maybe a little cooked spinach to vary the dish. But if Síofra had her choice, she would eat them all the time.
I always enjoy browsing as I find new little treats, such as mango vinaigrette (€3.29) -- I served it over a grilled tuna steak and salad. A jar of sun-dried tomato pesto made by Genovese Foods (€5.99) was a lifesaver over Christmas. A little dollop on top of small pieces of grilled bread with some melted mozzarella made for delicious canapés for some unexpected visitors.
Best of Italy, 37 Dunville Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin 6. Tel: 01 497 3411