It’s the summer, and I’ve been heading south in recent weeks. Not the Deep South or even Cape Cod, but the South Shore. On my way down to Nantasket Beach in Hull, I’ve made two extraordinary food finds.
The first is Cucina Mia on Washington Street in Quincy. From the outside, Cucina Mia resembles any one of a number of sub and pizza shops that line Washington Street and Route 3A. Inside, it is a lively Italian café and salumeria with a focus on fresh ingredients.
The signature sandwich is the muffaletta. A muffaletta is a traditional Sicillian sandwich with genoa salami, prosciutto, mortadella, provolone, capicola and olive spread. I first encountered the muffaletta at the Central Grocery in New Orleans. Cucina Mia breaks from the Central Grocery orthodoxy in an important way. The co-owner Debbie Mignosa presses the sandwich. When I visited she told me that pressing the sandwich like a panini allowed the oils to properly accent the meats and the bread. As for differences with the vaunted Central Grocery, Mignosa says her recipe comes directly from Sicily, by way of her grandparents, not from New Orleans.
“If you give a good product, people will enjoy it, come back and tell somebody else,” says Mignosa, whose family once owned “The Egg and I” in Quincy.
I am also very excited about Windy City Eats in Weymouth. I was checking out the crowd at Donut King on Middle Street one recent Saturday when I happened to spy a sandwich board hawking a Chicago-style hot dog nearby. I made my way into a hole-in-the-wall. To my delight, I discovered native Midwesterner Grady Carlson selling authentic Chicago dogs.
I ordered his Chicago dog special. Carlson services it in the traditional fashion: poppy seed bun, mustard, bright green relish, onions, tomato, pickle, celery salt and jardinière, sortof a hot pepper relish.
While not an aficionado of the Chicago Dog – I love Pearl hot dogs and Speed – I do remember the foray the Chicago dog made into two locations back in the early 1990s, both of which I frequented – Harvard Square next to Charlie’s and Wollaston near the Clam Box. I also make sure to visit Superdog in Chicago with my brother-in-law who quizzed me on the authenticity of Windy City Eats when I told him about it. “Do they use a poppy roll? Do they have jardinière?”
To my amazement, Carlson was very knowledgeable about his craft. He was in close contact with Vienna, the Chicago-company that makes his all beef hot dogs, and knew everything about his predecessors.
I didn’t get a chance to try his Italian Beef, a roast beef sandwich dipped in juice, but I’m eager to sample it next time. He also has tasty, lightly fried french fries.