New York City has everything you could possibly ever want at any time of the day or night, right? Not exactly. We found ourselves in the middle of the greatest city in the world missing one crucial thing – good Italian bread! How could this be? This is New York City!
This is also Murray Hill. Say what you want about this often scoffed at neighborhood, it’s our home and we’re pretty happy here. Amidst the frat bars of third Avenue and the noise of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, there are some pockets of this neighborhood that are worth discovering. There’s real value in living in a below-the-radar neighborhood, but there are also prices to pay. Not having quick, convenient access to delicious, crusty Italian bread is one of them. Yes, of course we can travel downtown, just outside of Little Italy where we first uncovered the gem that is Parisi Bakery. This place is no joke. Nothing but brown paper bags filled with hot, delicious, perfectly baked rolls and loaves and the smell of fresh baked bread filling the small store front. I give my name to the gentleman behind the counter. He doesn’t enter it into a computer, just hands me my bread. I get the impression that no one even wrote my order down when I called it in days before. The real magic happens beyond the small counter, in the back where machines and staff are baking not just perfect Italian bread, but the most imperative part of any Italian meal. They are baking the stuff that memories are made of – sitting with family, telling stories, sharing a meal and literally breaking bread. This is more than filler on your dinner table. And for it to be missing from our New York lives was unacceptable! The reality is that we don’t get downtown once a week to pick up bread. We needed a plan B.
Who better to teach you how to procure delicious Italian bread, than little old Italian ladies. Mike went right to the source. He scoured the internet for the perfect recipe and found the Simili sisters, two Italian ladies from Bologna . In their mix of grams and cups and nondescript measurements (as is the Italian way), Mike struck gold. He followed the sub-titles, added his analyst eye for detail, a few spreadsheets and an innate knack for all things culinary, and came up with the perfect recipe for Italian bread that you can make right in your very own tiny NYC kitchen. The results were astounding! The picture here does not lie. Unlike Mike, I grew up in an Italian family in Northeast Philadelphia, where good bread bakeries were not hard to find. From the early days of De Palma’s to Nonno Ugo, Gino’s and my favorite, Leonardo’s, it was a luxury I took for granted and expected to find on every street corner when I moved to the center of the universe, New York City. Clearly, I should be the one baking bread. It should be second nature to me. Instead, the Irish guy from the Philly suburbs has completely over shadowed me, and produced some of the best Italian bread I have ever tasted in my entire life. My well versed Italian family was blown away. They fought for the last piece of any loaf he brought to them and asked for more. “Not bad for an Irish guy,” my dad would say to him. He loved the perfectly dense loaves with crisp, crunchy crust almost has much as he loved Mike. Like Parisi bakery, Mike was baking memories.
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