Handmade Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu, Welcome to our Menu.

We have just added a delicious, rustic entrée to our menu… the much adored Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu. We previously offered it as a special for our guests and they loved it so much, we decided to make it a permanent fixture on our menu.

Let’s start with the pronunciation and then we can get to the melt in your mouth goodness that is gnocchi. There’s [nok-ee, noh-kee] and then there’s the Italian pronunciation which is [nyawk-kee.] All are perfectly acceptable. Just as there are many ways to prepare gnocchi, there is a lot of flexibility in its pronunciation too.

Gnocchi is Italian for “dumplings” and they can be made from potatoes, flour or farina (which is a flour or meal made from wheat, nuts, or vegetables). Eggs, cheese and, finely chopped spinach can be added to the dough. Ours is made from flour, garlic, ricotta, parmesan, parsley and a few other simple ingredients.

While we hand-cut ours into little pillow shapes, you can also find gnocchi shaped into little balls. Cooking methods also differ, with some preparations calling for simply cooking the gnocchi in boiling water and serving with butter and Parmesan, sage, pesto or a savory sauce.  A variation is that the dough is chilled, sliced and either baked or fried. Ours is first cooked in boiling water, and then browned on the stove delivering a crunchy exterior and a soft, creamy interior.

Gnocchi suffers from the same identity crisis as several other Italian dishes that come from different regions. They all make it their own way, and there are striking variations. For example, in the Tuscan Region, malfatti (literally “poorly made”) are made from flour, ricotta and spinach.  In the Pugliese Region, cavatielli are flour-based. Gnocchi, made from potato is perhaps the most popular in Italian American cooking…it is also the most recent innovation, occurring after the introduction of the potato to Europe in the 16th century.

From ingredients, cooking methods, sauces and even the pronunciation of its name, Gnocchi is a dish that is open to many different interpretations. The bottom line is that there is no wrong way, as we recently featured a Gnocchi made with sweet potato! So go ahead, experiment, but by all means try ours. Will it be your favorite? We’re not sure, but we are sure you’ll taste the love.

At Alpine, we our doing our Gnocchi old school as it is one of our Chef’s favorite nostalgic dishes to prepare…rolling it out, cutting it by hand and cooking just enough for one order at a time. We serve ours with a painstakingly slow cooked, flavor filled Veal Ragu. Making Gnocchi and Veal Ragu translates into a serious time commitment… and what our guests have to come expect from us. Frankly, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Calzone. When it Comes to What’s Inside, The Choice is Yours.

The word Calzone literally means “trouser” or “stocking” in Italian. Interesting… as we know calzone has nothing to do with clothing, but describes a unique, delicious food. So where does the name come from?

In the exhaustive tome, Foods of Italy, Waverly Root says, “calzoni, translated pants legs, represented a sort of “walk-around” form of pizza that could be carried out and eaten without utensils.” While pizza, at the time, could not. Pizzas were messy, damp in the middle and required a knife and fork.

In Naples, where Calzone originated, they were most often made with standard pizza fillings like mozzarella, tomatoes, and anchovies, but also could contain more complex fillings. “One recipe calls for chopped chicory hearts, unsalted anchovy fillets, chopped fine capers, pitted sliced black olives, currants, garlic, and an egg yolk”, says Root.

Another distinguishing feature is Calzone’s half-moon shape. Originally, they are thought to have been made with a single round pizza crust folded over. Also specific to Calzone is how the sauce is served… Marinara, served on the side for dipping.

The Alpine Calzone’s crust is stuffed with mozzarella and ricotta. Then, additional ingredients are chosen by the person ordering the calzone. Topping choices include mushroom, pepperoni, meatball, bacon, eggplant, Italian sausage, ham, feta, fresh basil, anchovies, artichoke hearts, banana peppers, sautéed peppers, spinach, sautéed onion, black olive, green olive, sliced tomato, sundried tomato and pineapple. This wide selection presents a staggering number of possibilities, and often causes the Calzone’s size to grow to colossal proportions. We like to think of creating your own Calzone as an exploration in culinary creativity, and we promise not to judge!

Come in to Alpine and create your own Calzone. We’re pretty sure you’re not going to be “walking around” with it. Let’s just say you may want to bring some friends, pull up some chair and embrace a knife and fork. You’re going to be awhile.

Exploring Cheese

Parmigano-reggiano, mozzarella, provolone, and ricotta cheeses are all staples in our cooking, and are loved and cherished equally at Alpine. Let’s explore some of their attributes, and clarify why each of these cheeses have earned their place in our kitchen and our hearts.

Parmigano-reggiano is often referred to as the King of Cheese. With its bold and biting taste, it is perfect to grate over fresh pasta, vegetables, or, as we do here, shave into a Caesar Salad.

From the Region: Emilia-Romagna

Aged: About 2 years

Fun Fact: Law dictates that Parmigiano-Reggiano can only be made between April and November so that the cows graze on fresh, green grasses rather than dry hay. The thinking is that one starts with good milk, and then, ends up with great cheese and complex flavors.

Ricotta is for drizzling with good olive oil and scooping up with crusty bread, or baking into lasagna, or cheesecake. Soft and sweet, ricotta is made from whey—that is, the watery liquid that remains after cow, sheep or goat cheese is made. Typically ricotta is highly perishable, but it also comes in aged varieties which can be preserved much longer.

Fun Fact: Ricotta is technically not a cheese, but a dairy by-product…made from what is left over after making other cheeses.

Mozzarella is incredibly versatile, and fabulous served fresh with tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, or served baked into a ziti or ravioli. Of course mozzarella can also be piled high on a pizza or stuffed into a calzone.

From the Region: The area south and west of Naples

Aged: As little as possible. Best the same day it’s made, or a day or two after.

Fun Fact: This cheese is not from cows but from water buffalo. Possessing an exceptional depth of flavor and sweetness, Mozzarealla di Bufala is unique among all cheeses. It’s moist, sweet, tender, soft, buttery, and creamy… all in one bite.

Provolone A great sandwich cheese, it’s a cornerstone of our Club.

From the Region: Basilicata, in Southern Italy, but now provolone is made and enjoyed throughout the country, in different shapes and styles.

Aged: Varies greatly from a few months to over a year. More age means sharper, more intense flavor.

Fun Fact: Provolone is made by rubbing down mozzarella in brine and oil, wrapping it in rope, and hanging it to dry, harden, and transform. Provolone is flavorful, salty and slightly oily. Note: What you purchase in supermarkets is not authentic provolone and pales in comparison.

Please join us for lunch or dinner and taste what we can do with any and all these delicious cheeses.

Orzo: Yes It’s Pasta and It Can Sing!

Orzo is a type of pasta that bears such a striking resemblance to rice that it’s often mistaken for rice. The confusion comes not only from the physical resemblance, but also because people equate pasta with more traditional, hearty shapes like the long skinny ribbon shapes of linguini, fettuccini, and spaghetti. Orzo, however, has been around a long time… and confidently stands on its own as a versatile and tasty pasta that can really sing – in a supporting role as a side dish, or as an outright star in a main dish.

While orzo may look like rice, it turns out it wasn’t named for rice at all. The word orzo literally means “barley” in Italian and therefore, inspiration for orzo’s shape and size came directly from that grain.

In other countries, orzo is more widely used and can also be referred to as kritharaki, manestra, rosa marina, reiskorn pasta, or pasta gallo pion. This small, rice shaped pasta is very popular in Greece especially, although it is used in other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern nations, and in some parts of Germany too.

The small sized orzo lends itself to dozens of culinary possibilities in a wide range of recipes… one of the most common being soups like minestrone. It can also be used in pilafs. Typically, we think of pilafs as made with rice, but in Greece, there are a number of pilaf recipes that call specifically for orzo pasta. Because of its size, and ability to absorb flavors very well, orzo can be combined with other ingredients and become a perfect filler for things like stuffed peppers and squash.

Not all orzo is created equal. The best orzo comes from durum semolina wheat… a particularly hard variety of wheat. It holds up perfectly during the cooking process and has a very pleasant clear flavor and chewy “mouthfeel.”

Orzo pasta also comes colored, and flavored with vegetables. Spinach is common, but it can also be mixed with beets, carrots and other vegetables. Rainbow orzo pasta combines several different vegetables to create a highly colorful take on this wonderful, and versatile pasta.

Craving orzo yet? Please come in to Alpine and see what we can do with orzo. Try our grilled salmon with  orzo and spinach and red peppers.

Live from Alpine: A Look Inside

If picture is worth a thousand words, then our new video is the equivalent of a massive, heroic, epic novel. We think it’s a love story.


The Demands and Rewards of Risotto

Sweet Pea and Onion Risotto

Recently, we served a delicious summer sweet pea and onion risotto…incredible!

Fussy, high-maintenance, temperamental, stubborn, hard to control, attention hog…these are but a few of the descriptors for Risotto. We here at Alpine Bakery, however, prefer to call it DELICIOUS.

Let’s start at the beginning. The dictionary defines risotto as: a dish of short-grained rice and other ingredients cooked in stock. Risotto is also synonymous with Italy, and Italian cooking. The irony is it’s made with rice, not pasta…so how did that happen? Easy. Like a lot of good food and ideas, it migrated.  Rice was introduced to Sicily and parts of the Southern Mainland in the late middle ages by the Arabs.  In Italy today, Risotto is thought of as comfort food…which is also somewhat ironic, since the idea of preparing it in this country makes even seasoned cooks slightly uncomfortable.

Now let’s look at the specifics of why that’s the case.

Arborio rice is the rice. There are other types of rice used occasionally, but Arborio is widely considered the staple of risotto. Stock is most often chicken stock.

Now here comes the real improvisational part… you can add whatever. Added ingredients run the gamut, and often include fresh vegetables like peas, mushrooms, and asparagus as well as proteins like pancetta, and fresh seafood to name a handful.

Onions are necessary in almost everyone’s risotto. Herbs however, are up to the chef’s discretion… depending on the mood, moment, or what’s on hand. Typically, basic risotto calls for fresh, chopped parsley…although rosemary and thyme are used just as widely.

Other essential ingredients are butter, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and of course cheese. Cheese favorites are Parmesan, Parmesan- Reggiano, Asiago or Romano. Freshly grated is the way to go.

The ingredients and ingredient choices sound so simple and straightforward… that still doesn’t explain the fuss. Could it be the actual cooking time that causes the stress? Truth is that once you’ve begun the cooking process, risotto should take no more than 30 minutes. In fact, professional chefs can often get that cooking time down to 20 (and slightly under) minutes!

So what is it that earns Risotto its “fussy reputation?”

Very simply… preparing Risotto is ALL ABOUT TECHNIQUE. And to further complicate the preparation, there is some disagreement on proper technique.

The basic, yet critical, steps of making the base, toasting the rice, and adding in the broth a scoop at a time are one part art, and one part science. Here are a few tips, although it’s important to stress, these are by no means universal.

Added ingredients are cooked in olive oil, never butter.

The rice is first fried… a process that takes about 10 minutes over a moderate flame, while stirring constantly.

The wine is incorporated after it has been heated—then the wine is allowed to evaporate completely before adding the remaining ingredients, and the broth. NOTE. There are two distinct schools of thought on this next step… Ingredients are either added in one ladle at time or, they are added all at once.

Here’s another difference of opinion and frankly point of contention among risotto connoisseurs….no butter, and no cream at the end, ever.

So you see, the “interpretative nature” with regard to the technique present some very real challenges.  However, one hard and fast rule is to have everything at the ready before you begin so you can give all the attention to performing all that technique. We wish you luck! Or, you can forget all the fuss and worry and simply join us at Alpine for Risotto, as well as many other exceptional Italian favorites anytime you’d like.

Coconut flakes with whole coconut in wooden bowl. Macro with shallow dof.

Summer Coconut Cravings

Coconut Cream CakeCoconut Cake, Coconut Tart, Coconut Pie, Coconut Truffle, Coconut Wedge, Coconut Macaroon, and Coconut Cupcake…need we say more about the many ways we showcase nutty, flaky sweet coconut at Alpine Bakery? Why, yes. Yes we do.

Flaky, white, rich, sweet coconut can certainly be enjoyed year round, but there’s something about coconut and summer that fits like a glove. Coconut conjures up images of sunny, tropical paradises, and many (like me) find themselves craving the light, sweet, nutty taste come summertime.

At Alpine Bakery, we use a lot of coconut, but we don’t have an arsenal of hammers, machetes and screwdrivers in the kitchen to get them open. In fact, we don’t crack them open at all… we get our coconut just like the dedicated bakers in Hawaii do– we purchase it. We use dried (also called desiccated) coconut. Desiccated Coconut is the most familiar form of packaged coconut… more practical and far more useful than what can be painstakingly extracted from the inside of an actual coconut.

Dried coconut has usually been sweetened with added sugar and is different in flavor from the unsweetened. Along with the difference in flavor, sweetened coconut also has a higher moisture content so it can’t always be substituted when a recipe calls for unsweetened. Coconut milk, currently a very popular product, can be used to flavor custards and icings. Finally, in some desserts, coconut extracts are used to flavor pastry cream.

At Alpine Bakery and Trattoria, we showcase coconut in a variety of yummy desserts. Come in today and taste the coconut. You may or may not be instantly transported to a tropical paradise, but you’ll definitely taste the love!

Fun Nutty Facts About Coconut

  • Coconut Cream PieDried coconut, coconut milk, even coconut extract—all provide authentic flavor without the uses of hammers and screwdrivers to actually crack one open!
  • Coconut milk is not the liquid found within the coconut. Coconut Milk has become hugely popular, and it’s made from combining coconut meat with hot water (or dairy milk or cream) and straining and squeezing out as much liquid as possible.
  • Toast shredded coconut to round out its flavor. Toasting coconut is easy, but you have to watch it carefully, and stir it once half way through. Spread it evenly on a baking sheet and put it in a 350°F oven.
  • Syrups and Extracts add flavor too. Coconut syrup, often used by bartenders and available in liquor stores, is excellent in place of simple syrup to moisten sponge cake layers.
  • Extracts work well in French buttercreams or when used in place of vanilla extract in white or yellow cake layers.
Heirloom Tomatoes in a Wooden Basket

Summer is here. Let’s talk tomatoes.

Summer is synonymous with lots of things. But to foodies summer means heirloom tomatoes. What Exactly Is An Heirloom Tomato? Heirloom is defined as a valuable or special possession that has belonged to a family for many years. Hence the heirloom tomato is a variety that has been passed down from grower to grower, coming from seed, which conveniently makes them easier to share.

Heirloom tomatoes popularity can be explained in one word – flavor. There’s not one taste for all heirloom-tomatoes. But typically ALL heirlooms taste incredible, and are miles ahead of the status quo at the grocery store. They even leave the more popular modern hybrids that are specially grown to maximize taste in the dust.

In an effort to get on board the Heirloom popularity train, many marketers and growers have labeled their tomatoes “heirloom” when in fact they are not. So to clarify and make some distinctions, TomatoFest Garden Seeds, an expert tomato grower and advocate, recently adopted the definition used by tomato experts, Craig LeHoullier and Carolyn Male, who have classified down heirlooms into four categories:


  1. Commercial Heirlooms: Open-pollinated varieties introduced before 1940, or tomato varieties more than 50 years in circulation.
  2. Family Heirlooms: Seeds that have been passed down for several generations through a family.
  3. Created Heirlooms: Crossing two known parents (either two heirlooms or an heirloom and a hybrid) and dehybridizing the resulting seeds for however many years/generations it takes to eliminate the undesirable characteristics and stabilize the desired characteristics, perhaps as many as 8 years or more.
  4. Mystery Heirlooms: Varieties that are a product of natural cross-pollination of other heirloom varieties.

(Note: All heirloom varieties are open-pollinated but not all open-pollinated varieties are heirloom varieties.)

Heirloom tomato can be found in a wide variety of colors, shapes, flavors and sizes. The names of the heirloom are entertaining and evoke all sorts of ideas ranging from the homespun to the sublime. Some of the most famous examples include San Marzano, Brandywine, Green Zebra, Gardener’s Delight, Lollypop, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Black Krim, Amish Paste, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Big Rainbow, Chocolate Cherry, Redcurrant, and Three Sisters.

Some scientists however, are not fans of the heirloom, suggesting that heirloom tomatoes are no more natural than commercial ones, and that many are simply “inbred” tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes do tend have a shorter shelf life and are less disease resistant than most commercial tomatoes. But again in the taste comparison…there’s just no arguing. Most of us don’t really care about the genetic mutations and claims by some experts that heirloom tomatoes are labeled “nothing special” and “inbred”. What we do care about however, is how incredibly wonderful they taste, and now that summer’s here, we are craving heirlooms anyway we can get them.

Come in and try one of our Alpine Menu Selections starring the lovely and tasteful Heirloom Tomato.

MOZZARELLA ALLA CAPRESE… served with torn basil, sea salt, cracked pepper, fresh burrata mozzarella and aged balsamic

CRAB AND AVOCADO STACK… fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, avocado and fresh diced tomato stacked and dressed with white balsamic vinaigrette

BRUSCHETTA… diced heirloom tomato, fresh mozzarella and wild mushroom

Enjoy summer and enjoy the heirlooms.

Olive branch and Olive Oil

Olive Oil – A Super Super Food

Heart Healthy, Anti-Inflammatory and …Delicious.

Olive oil is a healthy fat and starting point for many dishes in Italian cuisine and Mediterranean diets. It comes from olives that are the fruit of the Olea europaea tree. Olive Oil’s distinctive green tint makes it a visual stand out while its host of super food properties makes it a nutritional stand out.

Rich in good monounsaturated fat, olive oil is the ideal food for heart health. This oil can lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and exhibits anti-cancer properties. Studies show that replacing two tablespoons of saturated fat (found in butter and lard) with monounsaturated fat may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Also a recent study in the journal Nature reports that olive oil also has potent anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it can help reduce pain and swelling just like a dose of ibuprofen.

Did You Know?
  • 119 calories per tbsp.
  • Recommendation: Eat 2 tbsp. per day
  • Originated in Crete or Syria
  • Olive oil does not need to be purchased organic although it is available
  • Store olive oil away from any light or heat.
  • Comes in a variety of grades: extra virgin, virgin, pure and light
  • An olive branch is a symbol of peace
Four Types and How and When to Use.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – Pressed once it comes from the first pressing of olives, making it the highest quality olive oil.

Profile: EVOO contains less than one percent acidity. It has a perfectly balanced aroma and superior taste, Extra Virgin has a light, delicate flavor thanks to minimal processing.

Don’t: Use for cooking since high heat can damage the flavor and nutrients.

Uses: Salad dressings, soups, marinades, or for dipping delicious bread.

Virgin Olive Oil – Comes from the second pressing of slightly riper olives. “Virgin” actually refers to the fact that the olives haven’t had much handling and manipulating.

Profile: Has a bit higher acidity but is still known to have a pretty good taste.

Uses: Use this oil for lightly browning or sautéing vegetables or meat.

Regular (or Pure) Olive Oil – Known as commercial olive oil.

Profile: Has a blander taste and lighter color than its virgin counterpart. It has been chemically refined to neutralize the high acid content and strong flavors. Lowest nutrient levels.

Uses: All-purpose cooking oil, best for deep frying or stir frying due to its higher smoke point.

Light Olive Oil – Has the exact same fat and calorie content as virgin oil.

Profile: A less pure, more chemically refined mixture of lower-quality oils with some virgin oil added back in.

Uses: Virtually flavorless, so great for baking.

Please join us for lunch or dinner and

get your recommended daily serving of heart healthy olive oil.

Mortarboard and graduation scroll

Graduation is a Milestone to Celebrate

Alpine Graduation CakeTwelve long years of school is an achievement. Graduating from high school is a rite of passage almost always followed by the inevitable, leaving home and off to college. It’s also a cause for celebration.

Today, graduation parties truly run the gamut. So depending on your preference, you may want to send them off with a small and intimate gathering or a big blow out to celebrate.

Here are seven tips to help you make plan and make choices about what kind of celebration you want to have.

  1. Plan Ahead. Plan well in advance. Ask your student, what they envision. They may want absolutely no input whatsoever, but other students want to be involved with all of the details.
  2. Book the Space. If you are hosting at home, not a problem. But if you are booking a venue, these book well in advance.
  3. Set the date. Often, your student’s friends will be hosting their own parties as well. Collaborate with other parents if that is a concern, and consider throwing a “combined affair” with your student’s best friend.
  4. Determine a Budget. Sit down dinner? Or finger foods?
  5. Make a Guest List. This can be done in conjunction with budget planning
  6. Order Food and Cake. Once you determine the number of guests, plan your menu, and either order your food and cake or get cooking and baking! Remember restaurants need a little time to prepare your order and it is a busy time a year for catering, so make sure you place your order well in advance.
  7. Make is Memorable.  Present a series of photographs, or memorabilia. One mom created a memory quilt with pieces of particular items of clothing that were significant in her child’s life..e.g. fabric from the first grade backpack etc…
  8. Choose a Fun Theme. Of course the theme is graduation, but consider how to further personalize with school colors or a play on the graduate’s college major. Choosing a theme will help you purchase supplies and decide on a menu.

Call Alpine for your catering and graduation cake needs.