Change is afoot in Little Italy. Di Palo has slowly been inching toward 100 percent refurbishment — some time ago, the original sliver of a store broke down the wall that divided it from an annex and is now fully expanded and open for business. Owner and Italian-food statesman Lou Di Palo is still waiting for lamps, display racks, and the like, but he’s 95 percent there. All very good, but what’s this? Today, workers took the shop’s iconic sign down! Di Palo assures us a new sign will be up Monday or Tuesday, reflecting the conversion to a full-fledged gastronomia. Seems like a good time to check in and find out what’s new — besides the gleaming, disconcertingly spacious interior.
As mentioned before, Di Palo is expanding his program of “piatti pronti,” or prepared plates — he’s currently serving the Umbria-style porchetta almost every day rather than just a few days a week, and there are now new dishes like staccionata with fried Senise peppers (the recipe is taken from Spoleto’s Osteria del Matto, whose cook occasionally visits). The peppers used in that dish are from Basilicata, where Di Palo’s family is from, and he hopes to add more product from that region as well as from other underrepresented areas in Italy. For instance, in a couple of weeks he’ll introduce a line of hand-raked sea salt from a salina in Trapani, Sicily, that he says is the “crème de la crème of salt.” The shop has also hired a second cheesemaker, so that besides making its signature ricotta and mozzarella, it can more regularly churn out caciotta, whose taste falls somewhere in between the two.
If all this change is making the preservationist in you nervous, don’t worry. “The shop might have gotten a little larger, but we’re not going to change,” says Di Palo. “We haven’t changed in 100 years, other than giving more to the people.”