BYLINE: By Bonnie Cavanaugh
WOODLAND PARK – Tommy Smeragliuolo had been a fixture around the Paterson area long before opening this namesake Italian Pork Store, deli and pizzeria to McBride Avenue a decade ago. Originally based in Paterson, he moved to the borough to expand his business while maintaining his loyal area following.
“This was already here,” he says, shrugging his shoulders to indicate the shop around him. “I bought a closed pizzeria and added a deli.”
Tommy’s Taste of Italy is a true Italian deli and meat shop, specializing in hero sandwiches and Italian pasta dishes, prepared to eat in the tidy dining area (outdoor dining is available in good weather) or to take out. The store aisles are lined with fine imported Italian foods and cooking ingredients, the showcases are filled with a myriad of meats, cheeses and freshly prepared salads, and the ceiling hangs dreamily with a large assortment of hams, cheeses and cured meats.
It’s the neighborhood Italian market that my Italian grandmother used to dream about.
A butcher by trade, Smeragliuolo cures his own deli meats in a basement meat locker that he refers to as “heaven.” On a recent weeknight, the chef/owner carefully opened the locker door to reveal the wafting aroma of weeks’ worth of hanging prosciutto in various stages of readiness. Heaven indeed.
Tommy’s menu starts off with his famous heros, with Italian subs named for famous (and infamous) Italians from Hollywood and history, while the American sandwiches opt for names like Betsy Ross, which, incidentally, contains roast beef, Swiss cheese and horseradish. All heros are priced at $8 to $9 for an 8-inch sandwich, or $16 to $18 for a whole 16-inch.
The Godfather tops the Italian hero list, made with ham, prosciutto, capicola (a whole-muscle salami made from pork shoulder or neck), and fresh mozzarella. The Guido features ham, sopressata (an Italian dried salami), fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers. The Goodfella boasts mortadella (a sausage native to Bologna, Italy made with ground pork and cubes of pork fat), and fresh mozzarella.
The Leo DaVinci features grilled chicken, arugula and honey mustard. The Rocky Balboa has hot ham, prosciutto, sopressata and imported provolone, not to be confused with the Italian Stallion, which has ham, salami, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, and oil and vinegar. And The Soprano comes loaded with hot (spicy) capicola, hot sopressata, imported provolone and roasted peppers.
Tommy’s most popular heros are pretty much anything made with his signature breaded chicken cutlets, like the Psycho Chicken, featuring chicken cutlets, bacon and melted cheese; the Mona Lisa, with chicken cutlets, fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers; The M.V.P., with chicken cutlets, fresh mozzarella, arugula, bruschetta; The Cowboys, with chicken cutlets, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo; and the Marco Polo, with breaded chicken, melted fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce.
Not to be outdone, the Tommy Special includes imported prosciutto, bel paese cheese (a semi-soft cheese whose name means “beautiful country”), arugula and dry tomato. Tommy’s also serves an assortment of Paninis and wraps.
Tommy’s does a variety of regular pizza flavors along with a long list of its specialty pizzas, 18-inch pies that range from $15.95 to $21.95. They include Quattro Stagione, a classic Italian pie that is traditionally prepared with four sections, each with different ingredients: ham, fresh mozzarella, mushrooms, artichoke and plum tomato sauce, at $17.95; Ala Carrettierre, a hearty traditional pie with plumy tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, sausage and broccoli rabe, also at $17.95; Capricciose, with plum tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, arugula and prosciutto, at $19.95; Alla Amore, with plum tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, grilled artichokes and oil-cured olives, also at $19.95t; Alla Tartuffo, with mozzarella, mushrooms, prosciutto, truffle spread and olive oil, at $19.91; and Il Diavolo, with plum tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, hot capicola, hot sopressata, and hot peppers, at $19.95.
The Taste of Italy Special is the signature pie, with sausage, pepperoni, meatballs, peppers, onions, mushrooms and olives, also at $19.95.
The Vitello (veal) and Melenzane (eggplant) entrees include Vitello Parmigiana, with plum tomato sauce and melted mozzarella over linguine, ,at $13.95; Vitello Marsala, with mushrooms, onion and Marsala wine over linguine, at $14.95; Vitello alla Saltimbocca, with spinach, prosciutto and fresh mozzarella layered over sautéed medallions of veal an herbs in a brown Marsala sauce over linguine, at $14.95; Eggplant Parmigiana, battered eggplant with tomato sauce and mozzarella over spaghetti, at $10.95; and Eggplant Rollatini, eggplant rolled and stuffed with ricotta, and topped with mozzarella and tomato sauce, at $11.95.
Frutti de Mare, or seafood entrees, include mussels or calamari done either Marinara (sweet) or Fra Diavolo (spicy), at $12.95 each; Alla Mala Femmina, featuring shrimp, mussels, calamari, clams and scungilli in a cherry tomato sauce over linguine, at $17.95; Linguine con Vongole, fresh clams in a white or red sauce over linguine, at $12.95; and Gamberi Piaciare, shrimp served linguine and made one of five ways: Scampi, Française, Fra Diavolo, Parmiagiana, or Marina, at $14.95.
Smeragliuolo is offering special holiday catering menus for Christmas and New Year’s. Orders for the Christmas catering menu must be made by December 21.
The generous Christmas menu serves two party sizes: 8 to 10 people, at $289.99, and 12 to 18 people, at $459.99. They include a mixed antipasto platter; a choice of seafood entrée among Shrimp Française, Shrimp Oreganata, or Stuffed Flounder with mixed seafood; a choice of pasta: Penne Vodka, Rigatoni Siciliana, Lasagna, Baked Ziti or Stuffed Shells; a choice of entrée: Loin of Pork Roast, Eye Round Roast, Chicken Française, Chicken Marsala, Sausage, Peppers & Onions, or Chicken Parmigiana; a choice of sides: Eggplant Rollatini, Eggplant Parmigiana, or Roasted Potatoes; and includes three Italian breads and homemade seafood salad.
The New Year’s menu is more laid back and features a 3-foot hero that feeds 10 to 12 people, at $129.99, or a 6-foot hero that feeds 20 to 25 people, at $249.99. Customers may choose from Italian or American varieties, or Chicken Cutlet, Mozzarella and Roasted Peppers. Each sub order comes with a choice of two sides: hot wings, sweet wings, sausage and peppers, meatballs, baked ziti or stuffed shells. All orders include potato salad, macaroni salad, Cole slaw and pickles.
Tommy’s is open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.; and Sundays from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
Whatever the choice, a meal from Tommy’s Taste of Italy is truly a little slice of Italian heaven.