NR Digital

City Desk

The Staff of Life

by Richard Brookhiser

‘You cut them along the face, like a diamond. Then you have to shake them — shake them until your teeth rattle. Then you cook them in good oil.”

Anthony described making fried zucchini without the slices subsiding into sodden, shapeless messes. The shaking is to get the water out, the good oil is to make sure the freshness comes through. He had done it, or overseen it being done, for decades in his neighborhood restaurant, a red-sauce place with a light hand. Red sauce — and chicken francese and veal milanese — was the genre: familiar, popular, moderately priced. The light hand meant it was that much better than similar places. The kitchen remembered Grandmother, but you did not automatically become a peasant or a child eating there. You went up a staircase, grandfathered in: Today there would need to be a wheelchair-accessible funicular railway. There were white linen tablecloths and a picture of the pope (Polish — what can you do?). Anthony’s sons held divisional commands. The music was Frank and Dino but at levels that permitted conversation.

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