Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, Julie Robles, executive chef of L.A.’s Tavern called out chef-owner Gabrielle Hamilton’s Fried-Oyster Omelette at Prune in New York. What’s on your plate, Ms. Hamilton?
“George’s has been in the Italian Market since 1935. He only has five things on a painted sign and they’re all on a hero roll. One of them is a stewed tripe that is the best breakfast in the world. It’s a tomato-based stew, delicious and sticky from the tripe; great texture. It has a sweetness to it. I’ll bet the sauce is super simple: Like salt, pepper, tomatoes, tomato paste. I’ve had it early in the morning just because I’ve been at the market early, and it’s awfully fine with a little cappuccino or coffee, light and sweet. I’m from outside Philly so I wonder if I’ve been going there since I was eight. I think as a child I would have been drawn to a meatball sandwich. I don’t even know if there is a George. It’s bare bones, a stand-up place-there’s a ledge-or take it with you. Conveniently, you can go across the street after to Fante’s, that huge, old, sprawling kitchenware store. They have such strange things, like duck-feather pastry brushes.”
Mark Onorato, third generation owner and grandson of the original George, responds:
“Basically, it’s just tripe and a tomato sauce that I buy - I’d rather not tell you what it is, but it’s a commercial brand. I don’t doctor it - it’s just tripe and sauce. Years ago they used to doctor it, they put celery and carrots on it. I was little and I remember people complaining that it was too much of that stuff and too little tripe, so I guess they stopped. The less you do sometimes, the better it is. We stew the tripe for two-and-a-half, three hours maybe. I have a guy that brings me the tripe - he’s brought me my meat for 45 years. It’s basic honeycomb tripe. I sell a lot of it - there’s new people that try it and there’s old people who come for it because they know that I have it all of the time. I sell containers of it too, as well as sandwiches. Sometimes I can’t make it fast enough; some weeks I have enough and some I can’t make enough. My mother Olga helps me out sometimes - she’s 78 - and my cousin does the tripe. If I eat tripe, I eat it with onions, some people get it with cheese or hot and sweet peppers. We serve it on a Sarcone’s hoagie roll.
Check back next Wednesday to see which dish impressed Mark Onorato.