Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Bivio. Translation: fork in the road.  A fitting name for the newest pizza spot in the area.  Not only because it sits literally at a fork in the road, but for the play on words.  However, I've been there twice since they opened a week ago and have never once used a fork!  This is pizza that begs you to pick it up - you want to feel the silky dough that wrought this glorious crust. You want to lick your fingers of whatever crumb or topping may have fallen off.

I've written about pizza before (in New Jersey, pizza is almost our national food) but this is different. This is pizza straight from the coast of Naples.  This is the stuff "pizzanistas" dream about. 

Bivio is the dream of Jackie & Tomasso Colao - a small, cozy spot where Tomasso works the dough into little discs of heaven, and Jackie welcomes customers like you are a guest in their home.  
The wood-burning oven, made in Italy, is modeled after the ovens used in the bakeries of Pompeii. When we were in Pompeii, the ruins of the bakery were the most fascinating to me. According to Tomasso, the oven is almost up to the right temperature for him to start baking bread. And what a fine day that will be for those of us longing for real, artisanal bread close by.

The menu is small - a few salads, 5-6 pizzas, and 2-3 desserts. The arugula salad we sampled the first night was delicious, sprinkled with lemon juice and shaved Parmesan, the leaves not at all peppery. The simple dressing of EVOO was lovely but just a tad too light-handed for me. 

Ever since our first trip to Italy about five years ago, we have been hooked on porcini mushrooms.  So when we saw the Porcini pizza on the Bivio menu, we were thrilled. Tomasso rinses the mushrooms before soaking them to bring them back to life. Then he adds San Marzano tomatoes, fior de latte mozzarella, fresh basil, EVOO, and sea salt. The result is divine.

The true test of any pizza maker worth his salt, is the ability to make a fine Margherita pizza because this is as simple as they come -- tomatoes, olive oil, fresh basil, mozzarella, and sea salt. And here Bivio does not disappoint.  But the real star of the show is the crust. Not since Italy have I had crust like this. Working the pizza oven by himself, Tomasso knows just how long to bake it (about 90 seconds to be exact) to get a perfect pie. Some say the secret is in the flour (00 flour from Italy), but true aficionados know it's the combination of quality ingredients with a master's skill. Tomasso told us that this is just the way he grew up.
Going back the second time, we tried the special pizza that evening, which was crumbled sausage with sweet sauteed onions, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella. Again we were bowled over! The simplest ingredients combined to make one of the best pizzas I've ever had.

We saved a little room that night to sample dessert - homemade Tiramisu, homemade cannoli, or fresh berries with house made cream. Such choices! We went with the cannoli and were so happy. The ricotta cream was not cloying, as sometimes is the case. Instead it was light, with just a hint of sweetness, and piped into a crisp shell. It was paired with a delicious, huge strawberry. 
I was a little hesitant to tell anybody about Bivio for fear I wouldn't be able to ever get a table again, but eventually word would leak out anyway. And as they say, when you come to a fork in the road, take it...

7A Paterson Avenue
Little Falls, NJ
Open Tuesday-Thursday: 5-10pm; Friday, Saturday: 5-11pm

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Grilling Season is Upon Us!

With the recent Memorial Day holiday signaling the official outdoor grilling season (at least for those of us north of the Mason Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi), I wanted to share news about a new line of beef at the A & P line of stores (includes Waldbaum's, Pathmark, FoodBasics, The Food Emporium, and SuperFresh).  They are launching an association with Woodson and James Angus Beef. They held a public BBQ at their Woodcliff Lake, NJ store over the weekend and invited The Cook's Tour to a tasting.

All of Woodson and James beef is single-sourced, which provides A & P with quality control and a grain diet produces tender, juicy, delicious meat.

A & P's new Director of Culinary Creations, Chef Michael Grieb, is committed to providing their customers with as many locally produced products as possible (sort of "farm to table" at the supermarket level), including the sweet corn enjoyed by the attendees. 

They offer local ground beef raised in the mid-Atlantic area, and their chicken and turkeys are fed veggie diets and given no antibiotics.  All stores will be promoting "grill ready" options for the summer, meaning meats that are prepped and ready to go on the grill (very convenient!).  In addition, a new line of gourmet burgers will be showcased (bacon cheddar, Vidalia onion, and mushroom Swiss) - these could be a big hit at your next party!

At the BBQ, they offered a delicious brisket that Chef Michael cooked "low and slow" for 10 hours. They also highlighted a new line of hot dogs that I thought were terrific. Pearl Kountry Klub Hot Dogs from the Boston area had great texture and a nice snap (as they say in the frankfurter biz...). What makes these dogs so delicious is the use of brisket for the meat and the  special blend of spices.

If you have one of these stores near you, check out their new offerings for your next BBQ.

To round out your grill menu, I offer one of my favorite summer dishes, Red Cabbage Roquefort Slaw. This is a unique take on the usual BBQ sidekick - creamy and tangy, and sure to wow your guests with its gorgeous presentation. Thanks to Debbie at JerseyBites.com for the lovely photo.

And for dessert, a simple, but tasty Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Walnut cookie (sure to please both children and adults).  The addition of whole wheat flour makes these on the healthier side, not too sweet but very satisfying. Thanks to my friend, Michael, at work for this recipe.

Drop me a note and let me know what's on your grill this summer!

Onward urban grillers - may the grill be with you this season!

Print Slaw Recipe Here

Print Cookie Recipe Here

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cadillac Culinary Challenge

Greetings, CT Readers.

I want to tell you about a great event coming your way!  The Cadillac Culinary Challenge is a series of events throughout the country over the next few weeks, featuring a lively competition between two well-known chefs (think "Iron Chef" local).

In addition to this exciting culinary event, there will also be an opportunity to test drive the latest Cadillac models and compare their performance to its challengers from BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes.  

The series is sponsored by Cadillac, Bon Appetit, Epicurious, and Share our Strength.

The Cook's Tour has been invited to participate as a judge for the Culinary Challenge in the next event, this weekend in Bridgewater, NJ. Jonathan Waxman, chef/owner of Barbuto in NYC vs Juan Cuevas of the Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster, NJ.  

You may know that Chef Waxman is the celebrated chef who worked at the prestigious Chez Panisse in Berkeley in its early years. He then went on to open Jams in NYC, and now focuses his attention on serious rustic Italian at the well-reviewed Barbuto.

Chef Cuevas has worked all over the world and at some of the top restaurants in the US, from Jardiniere and the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, to Lespinasse in New York. Prior to his current position, he was Executive Chef at three-star Blue Hill in Manhattan.

It promises to be quite the culinary battle!

The event is free and makes for a perfect day combining the finest of cuisines and the best of cars. Test drive the vehicles and then take a break to enjoy some great food. Check the web site for a city near you and register to participate.  

If you are in New Jersey, stop by on either June 4 or 5 (I'll be there on Saturday, June 4th).  The culinary demonstrations take place at 11:30am, 2:00pm, and 4:00pm. Hope to see you there and may the best chef win!