Whether you are entertaining inside or out, offering your guests something to nibble on when they arrive is always appreciated. And if what you offer happens to rise to the occasion, then you know your event is off to a good start.
The trick with cocktail food is to provide tidbits that are tasty, compatible with drinks, and not too filling. After all, you want your guests to enjoy the main event. We happened upon the perfect combination one evening when our stroll in the West Village found us at Il Cantuccio, an Italian bakery on Christopher Street. Martina Kenworthy and Stefano Noceti of Gustiamo, importers of fine Italian foods, were inside hosting an olive tasting. The plump black and green olives were being served with light, airy focaccia from Il Cantuccio’s ovens. We were on our way to dinner but decided that these appetizers looked too good to pass up.
Martina explained that we were nibbling on Bella di Cerignola olives by Fratepietro’s Farm. These olives, originally from Spain, were brought to Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot, in the 1500s. The name comes from the town of Cerignola and Fratepietro Farms has been producing the olives since 1890.
The olives are picked when they are really ripe, washed a few times to lose their bitterness, and then placed in a salt water solution. The salt is the pure one from the Natural Preserve Margherita di Savoia Salt Planes, also in Puglia. “These are very meaty table olives,” Martin explained. The olives are never mushy, have a rich taste, and the meat separates easily from the pits. The green and black colors are natural. Stay away from red olives, Martina advised, because these are artificially colored.
Along with the olives, we enjoyed Il Cantuccio’s focaccia, light, yeasty, chewy, well-seasoned pieces of bread cut from a larger sheet. While we chatted with others who had wandered into the Village eatery, we took time to look over Il Cantuccio’s other offerings. There are many variations on focaccia, with ingredients including prosciutto, mortadella, tomatoes, onions, and olives. Pizza is topped with tomatoes, cheese, and oregano. There are also many Italian sandwiches, even one with chocolate.
Il Cantuccio’s biscotti and cookies are not to be overlooked. Since we weren’t ready for dessert, we bought some biscotti with figs to enjoy later on. (Truth be told, the cookies didn’t last that long).
91 Christopher Street