"That's a real grease-ball dish," said the hulking guy next to me at the bar at Il Mulino, where Debbie, one of my favorite bartenders, had just poured my second glass of wine. Louie, a doppelgänger of Tony Soprano with the same vernacular, held a stake in Fulton Street Fish Market (downtown and the Bronx) for 60 years. He was here visiting his 94-year-old aunt. "If you're gonna go with that dish, it must be good." Il Mulino is among his stopovers when he's here in South Florida.
I'm not sure I'd call linguine vongole a grease-ball dish, but
it is lowly. And it's one of my favorite pasta dishes to make, since
clams are delicious, the dish is inexpensive, and it's easy. Fill a big pot
with water that you've salted liberally. As you're waiting for it
to come to a rolling boil, clean your clams, then heat a sauté pan with olive oil over
medium heat. Garlic fiends can brown garlic with diced shallots at this
point, but I use a slice to flavor the oil, then remove it after a few
minutes. Add clams and white wine. As the alcohol burns off, add pours of broth (seafood or shellfish if you
can), red pepper flakes if you'd like, and wait for your clams to open. I chop a ton of Italian flat-leaf parsley and grate a whisper
of parm for a lovely simple meal.
Il Mulino's was satiating but not quite right. They were generous with
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the clams -- and garlic -- but the pasta was overdone and starchy. As these folks do in their pasta experiment, I wish the chef had given the dish more love.