supper club: springtime italian

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

After spicing things up in February with a Mexican supper club, March seemed a time for returning to the familiar. For me, that means Italian food and, in this case, an opportunity to put an innovative spin on the flavors of my youth.

For this back-to-basics occasion, it seemed fitting to invite the "family", a rambunctious group of New York friends who have grown closer than most blood relatives. Silly, selfless and as indiscreet as they come, I knew we were in for a delicious and rowdy evening.

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First came the friselles, little pepper biscuits that have become one of my signature dishes. I often give these savory, crumbly cookies as housewarming gifts, so they seemed the perfect greeting for my guests.

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Next came crostini, sesame toasts layered with homemade ricotta and oven dried tomatoes. The tomatoes, simple as they come, were instant hits, which guests used to garnish everything from salad to savory dishes.

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Then came a simple escarole salad, dressed with garlic, oil and anchovy dressing. My favorite briny fish served double duty, tying the salad to my grandmother's signature pasta dish: linguine with anchovy, walnuts and parsley.

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After pasta came the main course, Sicilian meatballs (ground pork with pine nuts, parsley and currants) baked over a bed of radicchio. Alongside it, I served spicy broccoli rabe with bread crumbs and thinly sliced, roasted-going-on-blackened winter white vegetables (cauliflower, celery root, fennel).

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Relaxing on the couch before dessert.

Relaxing on the couch before dessert.

Then came dessert, a blood orange olive oil cake topped with blood orange/honey compote and home-whipped cream. It was the perfect, bittersweet end to this especially nostalgic supper club.

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A last round of drinks, and it was nearly midnight. That didn't stop the stragglers however, who challenged me to highly competitive game of Connect-4, the most intense (I'm sure) that my local dive bar has ever seen.

Thanks again to all who made this such a special night. You truly all are family to me, and I look forward to hosting you again and again.