Sunday, January 1, 2012

Things I am Thankful for - Part 3

When I graduated from Michigan I came back to New York as fast as humanly possible. My girlfriend (now my wife) moved here as well and ended up in an apartment in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I was soon to follow (8 months living with mom and dad was enough).

This was the early 90s and Carroll Gardens was still an Italian neighborhood with three generations of families living together in the neighborhood. There were no hipsters, just a few interlopers like us. It was a beautiful, safe and cheap place to live. And there was some great Italian food. Nino's Restaurant and pizzeria (name changed). Amici Brothers (the best Italian heroes, gone). Cammareri's Bakery (featured in Moonstruck, gone, but I hear they moved to Jersey). Still standing though, on the corner of Union and Henry, is the great Mazzola Bakery.

In the summer we would come home from a night out in "The City", as our neighbors called Manhattan, to find the wonderful old ladies from the building hanging on the stoop, enjoying the night air. Without fail the wonderful Grace Romano would ask us if we were hungry. Regardless of the answer, she would walk to the corner and bang on the metal door to the kitchen at Mazzola. The door would open, the guys would yell "Hey Grace, what do you need?" and she would come back with two piping hot loaves of bread fresh out of the oven. She would disappear into her apartment for a few minutes and the emerge with the loaves cut, drizzled with olive oil and covered in grated Parmesan for us to devour. I promise you, it does not get better than that.

Mazzola is still going strong. It still makes great bread. It is the first place I ever had pepper biscuits and they are still my gold standard. They make cookies, regina biscuits, pastries etc. We swung by today on our way back from the Coney Island Polar Bear Swim (more on that later) and had some of their Rugelach for the first time. It was the best we have ever had. All this would make Mazzola Bakery something I am thankful for. But there is one more thing Mazzola makes that makes it one of New York's true treasures. Their Lard Bread.

The few places that still make Lard Bread call it pepperoni bread or something more appetising. Not Mazzola. They call it Lard Bread. Maybe that is why it is not only the best of its kind but also one of the greatest thing on this earth that you can eat. I am sure there are a lot of people who have been in Mazzola and passed on it due to the name. What a loss. This in one of those heavenly substances I am not afraid of over hyping.

Lard bread is a loaf of delicious, dense and flaky bread stuffed with chunks or incredible pepperoni and Italian spices. It is chewy, hearty and savory. It is a meal. It is impossible to stop yourself from eating an entire loaf. Mazzola's Lard Bread should have a parade in it's honor. A key to the city. A street named after it. I hope they are still here making it 100 years from now.

Go try it and tell me if I am wrong. I'm not.


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