North End Italian Hoagie Pizza

Take me to a sub place, and I never fail to order the Italian hoagie. I can’t resist the salty cured meats, spicy peppers, sharp provolone and vinegar-y bite.

Fresh out of college, I moved to the North End of Boston to work on a campaign. If you’re not familiar with the North End of Boston, it’s their city’s equivalent of “Little Italy” that you’ll find in several major U.S cities.

I’ve visited other Italian neighborhoods on the East coast, and I can tell you the food in Boston’s North End is first-rate. The pastas, prosciutto, olive oil, burrata, bread, wine, calamari, wood-grilled pizzas, arancini, carpaccios and I could go on – are, and I mean it, out-of-this-world.

Things you will see while you’re in the North End – two old men smoking cigars on a bench at dawn arguing tirelessly in Italian, an inebriated bar full of soccer fans screaming at a tiny, black and white TV, loud, pinky ring-wearing large mafiosos sitting on too-small chairs sipping espressos, and tourists carrying blue bags filled with cannolis from the rivalrous Maria’s and Mike’s pastry shops.

My favorite haunt for subs and pizza was always Il Panino’s Express, which appears to have shut down since I lived there. The tortellini with ham from its flagship restaurant, Trattoria Il Panino, was arguably one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.

And then there was the great divider. Just like the Yanny and Laurel debacle, half of the campaign staff favored Ernesto’s Pizza – the other half swore by Regina Pizzeria.

I was team Regina – all the way. They have a lot of grease on their pizza – so what? That’s what makes it good!

For your subs, you walk over to Dino’s or Pauli’s on Salem Street, the “hidden” street that runs parallel to Hanover.

I was partial to Dino’s because their “12-inch subs” were actually 16-inch subs if you measured them. And at the end of the Salem Street, you’ll find Neptune Oyster House.

From my experience, this is the only way to get a table at Neptune Oyster House. You put in your name at 10 or 11AM in the morning. They call you at 9PM to let you know a table has opened up, and you proceed to run, or fuck it, sprint to the restaurant within a 15 minute time-frame to secure your table. If you don’t make it, you’re shit out of luck, because they gave your table to someone else.

This hoagie pizza has all the same flavors that remind me of my time there – you have to go for high-quality meats and cheeses. If you want to splurge sparingly, Italian-imported, very sharp provolone makes a huge difference.

If you’re ever in the Boston area, do yourself a favor. Head over to the North End, grab the first table you see outside, and enjoy a hot, greasy slice of sausage pizza and a Peroni while you people watch.

After a few minutes of sitting there, seeing sweet old Italian grandmothers shuffle down the sidewalk on their way to Sunday Mass, you’ll understand why it was so easy for me to fall in love with the place.

I N G R E D I E N T S

This is a large pizza. Serves 2 to 4.

F o r  t h e  P i z z a  D o u g h  ( A d a p t e d  c / o  t h e  B a r e f o o t  C o n t e s s a )

  • 2 / 3 cups warm water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 1 teaspoons salt

F o r  t h e  V i n a i g r e t t e

  • 1 / 2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 / 4 cup olive oil
  • 1 / 8 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar

F o r   t h e   T o p p i n g s

  • 3 / 4 cup sharp provolone, shredded
  • 4 oz. mortadella, diced
  • 4 oz. capicola, diced
  • 4 oz. salami, diced
  • 4 oz. pepperoni, diced
  • 1 cup lettuce, sliced thinly
  • 1 / 4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 1 / 4 cup cherry pepper spread or jarred minced roasted red peppers

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat oven to 500*.
  2. Combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 1 1 / 2 cups flour, then the salt, and mix.
  3. While mixing, add 1/ 2 more cup of flour.
  4. Knead the dough on low speed for 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl.
  5. Remove the dough and put on a floured board or stone countertop, and knead by hand a dozen times.
  6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil.
  7. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  8. Roll and stretch the ball into a rough 16-inch circle using a rolling pin, and place it on a pizza baking sheet.
  9. Mix the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Pour half the vinaigrette on the dough, spreading so all of the dough is evenly covered with the vinaigrette.
  10. Top evenly with the shredded provolone, followed by the deli meats.
  11. Put the pizza in the oven, baking for about 15 minutes, until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbling hot.
  12. Remove the pizza from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  13. Once cooled, top evenly with the shredded lettuce, then the red onion, roma tomatoes and cherry pepper spread or marinated red peppers. Finally, pour the remaining vinaigrette over the top of the pizza.
  14. Slice into 8 slices with a pizza roller. Enjoy immediately!

Beef Bourguignon-Inspired Risotto

Cold weather food. There must be something instinctive about craving it. Even two hundred years ago, if you wanted fresh produce in the winter, you were probably shit out of luck.

Instead, you were most likely consigned to eat some stew with tough cuts of meat from the animal you slaughtered last season, and cooked it for hours or days with a bunch of vegetables and dried herbs.

Speaking of, have you ever heard of perpetual stew?

My appetite has recently led me to cook stewed beef and warm, tomato-y pasta dishes. Things that cook low-and-slow, and have little bit more oomph than yet another “30-minute meal.” Although, I know those recipes have their time and their place. No judgement here.

As I’ve been doing lately, I frankensteined two of my favorite dishes together – this one satisfies the craving for both beef bourguignon and risotto.

I basically drew out the elements of beef bourguignon – the traditional vegetables, herbs and beef – and put them into a red-wine and beef stock infused Arborio rice, cooked in the same style as traditional Italian risotto.

Let the vegetable sautee meld flavors together!

This of course can and should be tweaked according to your own favorite, passed-down beef bourguignon recipe, if you have one. I’m using a variation of Ina Garten’s beef bourguignon here, which if I remember correctly she adapted from Julia Child.

Trust me, when you serve this dish at the right time in the right place, it will hit the spot.

I N G R E D I E N T S

This recipe serves 2, double the recipe to serve 4, and so on. 

The only caveat is the more rice you add, the longer it takes for the risotto to cook, so adjust accordingly.

  • 2 high-quality beef filets
  • 4 oz. good quality bacon, diced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 lb. porcini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and medium diced
  • 1 / 4 cup water
  • 1 / 2 bag frozen pearl onions (or fresh pearl onions, if you can find them)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 cup dry red wine (Cote du Rhone is best for this dish)
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1 / 2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for vegetable sautee
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon black pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 375*.
  2. Remove the filets from the fridge and allow to sit until they are room temperature. Pat the filets dry and season liberally with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  3. Brown the bacon on medium low heat until crispy in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the butter. Once melted, stir in the rice, and cook for 2 – 3 minutes or so until the rice has had a chance to warm through and toast.
  4. In the meantime, pour the beef stock into a small saucepan and heat until just simmering. Keep it at this temperature throughout the cooking process.
  5. Next, add the red wine, thyme and minced garlic to the pot with the rice. Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until most of the wine has been absorbed.
  6. Start ladling in the warmed beef stock, one ladle at a time, waiting until the rice gets slightly dry to add the next ladle of stock.
  7. In the meantime, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a small sauté pan. Add the water, and sautee the carrots on medium heat until they’ve tenderized, stirring often, for about 20 minutes or so. This is where, if you have fresh pearl onions as opposed to frozen pearl onions, you would add them as well to give them a chance to cook through. Salt the vegetables liberally.
  8. Add the mushrooms after 20 minutes of cooking the carrots and onions, and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. Set aside the vegetables and juices to a separate plate.
  9. Heat a cast iron pan until searing hot. Add the vegetable oil to the pan. Just before the oil begins to smoke, add the filets and cook on each side for approximately 1 to 2 minutes, so that the filets achieve a dark crust on all sides. Make sure you turn your overhead vent on, it will be smoky!
  10. Finish the filets in the oven and cook until desired doneness – for medium rare, this will take about 7 to 8 minutes.
  11. Once all the beef stock has been incorporated into the risotto, start to test the rice to make sure it’s achieved al dente consistency. This entire process should take anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes.
  12. Once the rice is done, add the carrots, mushrooms, 1 / 2 bag frozen pearl onions (if using), all but 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano Reggiano, stirring lightly until everything is heated through, about 10 minutes.
  13. Remove the filets from the oven and let sit on a plate covered in foil. Once the steaks have set for 5 to 10 minutes, slice thickly against the grain.
  14. Serve the dishes hot topped with the sliced filets, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and a sprinkle of fresh minced parsley.