Fall in love at a food cart this year

We may be known for dishing up authentic Florentine food, but did you know we also dish up romance?

Jordan and Kelsey had their first date at our food cart over a year ago, and these two adorable sweeties have been together ever since. Jordan worked with us during this past summer, and Kelsey danced her way through our recently-filmed music video. We are ready whenever they are to cater their wedding and baby showers! :-)

Ahhh, amore: there’s not a more fitting way to kick off the new year than by celebrating love. May your 2015 be brimming with it!

Best wishes from the Burrasca family: Paolo, Elizabeth, Giacomo & Gemma

Come help us make a music video!

For our upcoming Kickstarter project we will be asking for support in an upbeat, offbeat, feel-the-beat way: a music video filmed on location at the food cart.

WE NEED BODIES!

Don’t worry, we won’t ask you to do MC Hammer/Shakira/JLo moves–but you can if you want to!–it will essentially be a simple matter of waving and swaying to the song “Ciao Mamma” by Jovanotti, one of our favorite Italian artists (who gave us permission to use his song as long as we float him a free bowl of ribollita someday). Here’s a link to the song, which will give you an idea of what we have in mind:

WHEN:

Sunday, December 28–mark your calendars! Normal food service will end early, at about 1pm, at which point we’ll put out some FREE NIBBLES for our helpers and get the gig going with Stuff Your Face Productions. (We’ll also be getting some footage of folks eating and Paolo serving them earlier on).

WHO:

Our beloved customers and friends, of course! Bring your parents, your grandparents, your kids, your dogs, your cockatoos. Come as you are or wear your funky hats, lederhosen, Tigger costumes, unicorn heads. CAVEAT: NO LOGOS OF ANY KIND can be worn/visible, so no sports team hats/jackets, no Nike/Adidas t-shirts, no brewery garb, etc.

The song’s refrain is: “Hey Mom, look how much fun I’m having!” We want to show the world (and Paolo’s mamma ) how much Paolo gets a kick out of his job, which is why he wants to take it to the next level and open a restaurant.

HOLY CANNOLI: COME SEE PAOLO DANCE!

Please show us your support by coming over to the cart on the 28th and joining in the fun or at least lending us moral support We are counting on you!

If you think you can make it, please RSVP by leaving a comment or sending us an email–this will help us plan for food etc.

And please help spread the word. Grazie!

More details to follow as the date draws near…

2015: new year, new things in store for Burrasca

Change is afoot, friends.

First off: we will be closing the food cart as of January 1st. We love dishing up Tuscan fare for our cherished Portlanders and visitors from afar, but we need to focus our time and energies on locating (and setting up) a space for Burrasca, the restaurant. In looking ahead, we realized that Paolo cannot be in two places at once and that a brick & mortar incarnation calls for our full, undivided attention. Our projected opening is Spring 2015.

So please come out during this month and show us your support–and get your fill of Florentine goodies before the hiatus! We wouldn’t be able to even dream of opening a restaurant if it were not for the love and support our dear customers and friends have graciously bestowed upon us since we launched the cart in August of 2013. Your enthusiasm and appetite for Paolo’s food has overwhelmed and touched us deeply.

Speaking of support…. in the coming months, we will (hopefully) be launching a Kickstarter campaign to help us with some of the expenses involved in going brick & mortar. So watch for news regarding this here on the website or on our Facebook page or Twitter feed (follow us if you haven’t already!). A few friends have expressed interest in investing in the future Burrasca endeavor, and we are incredibly grateful. If any of you might like to become a private investor, please email us and let us know.

During our hiatus, we will host a few pop-up dinners–some of which may be in our (albeit tiny) home for small group family-style eating in an intimate setting. Again, look out for announcements coming in the months ahead.

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Additionally, we are happy to offer Paolo’s culinary services–you need only inquire! On a few occasions over the past year he has cooked multi-course Tuscan meals for groups of 10-20 people in private homes. These were fun, intimate affairs and proved a smashing success.

Or how about a private Florentine cooking lesson in your home? We’ll arrange the shopping/supplies and teach you, your friends and family how to create memorable, authentic dishes–which you then get to eat. Now there’s a holiday gift idea!

A Much-Needed Break

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Paolo has been working the burners (almost entirely as a one-man show) and, save for a few brief get-aways, almost non-stop since July 2013. He typically puts in 11- to 12-hour days, which obviously means that time spent with our two children is very little. (In true Italian style, our cherished family time is typically around the dinner table; we eat at about 8pm, having waited for Babbo–that’s Tuscan for Daddy–to come home). And as many family- and partner-run food cart owners know, the stresses of being in business together as a couple can be fatiguing.

We’re not complaining. The decision to move to Portland and open a food cart was the best one we’ve ever made. But it’s time for some rest, recharging and reconnecting, especially since the demands of Burrasca the restaurant will preclude any significant time off for probably another two years or so. Thus, during our hiatus, we are taking a family vacation to a place we’ve been dreaming of (and saving our centesimi for) for years: India. Specifically South India. We’re going to take a huge leap away from all things Italian and embrace the chaos and culinary wonder that is India, and we are so excited! (Oh, wait–Italy is also full of chaos and culinary wonder. Guess it’s not such a leap. Plus ça change and all).

If all the years living in Italy taught me (Elizabeth) anything, it’s that health and well-being and slowing down for quality family time is a crucial part of living well and fully. Paolo and I also feel that it is key to the success of our (and any) business endeavor: you can’t build something and function at your highest level if you’re running on fumes and haven’t spent some solid time listening to your son’s corny jokes or seeing the impish grin on your daughter’s face when she rides her bike like the wind.

So we will return from India stoked and ready to make Burrasca the restaurant a special, unique place that will give you so much more than the food cart ever could: an expanded Tuscan menu, beer and wine, and shelter from the elements :-) And we’ll hold true to the essential food cart–and Italian family-style dining–philosophy and keep it all at an affordable price.

For the person on your holiday list who has everything: BUY OUR FOOD CART

If you or anyone you know wants to wallow in the glamor and grit of owning/running a food cart that’s in excellent, turn key condition (seriously, this baby’s good to go!) and in a great location (SE’s Pod 28), contact us. Check out our ad on Craigslist.

We are excited about what 2015 holds in store, and want to take this time to express our deep gratitude to all of you for your wonderful smiles and support. And for my part, as Burrasca wife, seeing Paolo come home every day exhausted but happy because he’s doing what he loves for so many appreciative folks is a gift you have given to me and my children.

Watch for news and above all come see us during this month of December!!!!!!

Grazie di cuore,

Paolo, Elizabeth, Giacomo and Gemma

Winter hours and other news

Cari amici, it’s time to hunker down for the season and for us that means introducing WINTER HOURS. So please note that we will now be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesday-Saturday 11:30 to 7pm, Sunday 11:30-3pm.

We also need the extra time to hunt down the perfect space for our brick & mortar incarnation!

As hardy Portlanders, we all need to get over it and embrace the rain–it’s just part of the package that comes with living in the gorgeous, lush, geographically blessed and verdant Pacific Northwest. This means supporting our favorite food carts through the slower, mucky season so that they’re there for us in July when temps are 80 degrees and we feel like frolicking in the sun :-) In our pod, the double-decker bus provides shelter from the elements, and Vino Wine Shop, right next door on 28th, encourages cart food to be brought in and consumed in cozy warmth. And what better way to enjoy the offerings of Guero, Steak Frites, Wolf and Bear’s, Grilled Cheese Grill or Burrasca than with a glass of wine? They’ll even provide the stemware should you pop for a bottle.

Portland Monthly graciously included us on their list of How to Devour Portland’s Restaurant Scene in 7 Days. Check it out–we’re in pretty fine company!

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Our recent event at the cart–the Sagra dell’Olio Nuovo–was a roaring success. We had great fun and it was wonderful to have Lee Collins from Oregon Olive Mill (the source of our peppery, freshly-milled EVOO) on hand to talk about olive oil and offer tastings. Steven Shomler, author of Portland Food Cart Stories (which features our Florence-to-Portland saga) was also there, talking carts and sharing his infectious enthusiasm.

As always, thank you all for your support and hearty appetites! We continue to feel blessed and pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming happy about our decision to make this fabulous city our home.

Some recent press

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Local food writer and blogger, Kathleen Bauer of  Good Stuff NW, wrote a piece on us for The Oregonian. She does a wonderful job telling our story and the motivations that drive (so to speak) our little food cart.

You can read it here. (Plus there’s the recipe for our summertime fave: pappa al pomodoro!)

Serious Eats, the online blog about all things seriously food, wrote about our food cart pod—which boasts a wonderful, superbly-curated variety of carts and food offerings (we know because we’ve eaten at all of them!). Nice input and insights from all the cart owners.

Read it here.

Our deepest gratitude to these writers for including us in their endeavors; and as always, we wouldn’t be here without the support from our wonderful customers–thank you!

 

 

Arista and the best sandwich this side of the Arno

In a town like Portland filled with excellent sandwich slingers, to crown any one as the best is a fool’s game, a folly of personal opinion and pure zeitgeist between two pieces of bread. But we like to think we’ve got a serious contender.

Legend has it that back in 1439*, Cosimo de’ Medici convinced Pope Eugenio IV to shift the Greek and Roman Catholic ecumenical council from plague-ridden Ferrara to Florence and allow the Medici bank to host the guests. While in Florence, the Greek cardinal Basilios Bessarion tasted some Tuscan-style roast pork that really tickled his cassock: he promptly declared it aristos!, using the Greek word for “the best.” Apparently the Florentines thought he was using a name for that particular cut of pork; they found it simpatico and adopted the moniker themselves–and thus the word arista strolled amiably into the Tuscan lexicon. However, I’d wager that there was also a certain appeal in the idea that the Florentine way of cooking pork trumped all others.

For our arista sandwich, we use Carlton Farms pork loin which is encrusted with herbs (including foraged fennel pollen) and roasted. The bread is homemade schiacciata (Florentine-style flat bread–think flatter foccaccia), liberally slathered with an incredibly zesty and tangy salsa verde (a heavenly concoction of parsley, garlic, capers, egg and anchovies), drizzled with sughino–the pork’s pan juices–and cracked black pepper, and topped with fresh watercress. It just might make you bust out the superlatives in Greek, too.

*The charm of legend notwithstanding, evidence of the use of the word arista in Tuscany goes back to even 1287.

Le novità: new on the menu & such

Cari amici, head on over to the menu page to see what Paolo’s been up to at the cart! Inzimino fans: don’t fret, even though we’ve phased it out for the moment, it’ll make a cameo appearance from time to time :-) And be on the lookout for pasta specials and other goodies. (Apropos of this, if you haven’t already, do follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter in order to keep up with the shenanigans).

Ciao – a presto!

 

A soup by any other name

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Burrasca’s farinata

Those frugal, ingenious Tuscans. They’ve an uncanny knack for making silk purses out of sow’s ears, poetry out of the vernacular: we’re talking food fit for a pasha out of a poor man’s pickings.

Like our new dish, farinata. This is deep-winter comfort food all over Tuscany’s hill regions and comes in various guises: polenta incatenata (polenta in chains), farinata con le leghe (tied-up cornmeal porridge), farinata di cavolo nero (black cabbage cornmeal soup). According to Slow Food’s Ricette di Osterie di Firenze e Chianti, this is food for those with “courage to spare and a wolf’s hunger.” Indeed, it’s hearty stuff.

These rich, flavor-packed recipes all have something in common: the black cabbage (Italian kale) that is the fruit of Tuscan winters, cannellini or borlotti beans for cheap protein, and farina gialla (cornmeal), that low-rent rib-sticker dear to many a mountaineer’s heart. Country-folk would pretty much leave it at that but the well-heeled might add some pig in the form of ham bones, prosciutto or pancetta. It’s a dish meant to go the distance, too: the farinata would be cooked for the evening meal and the leftovers–after setting/solidifying–would be sliced thickly and pan-fried for breakfast the next day, to be eaten with bread. And if still some scraps persisted, they’d be sliced, fried and served in a spicy tomato sauce for dinner.

Our version is made of cornmeal studded with Italian kale, cannellini beans and leeks, punched up with garlic and rosemary. It’s served drizzled with extra virgin and cracked black pepper, and is guaranteed to warm your belly and keep that wolf’s hunger at bay. Promise.

Backstory: inzimino

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The origin of the word zimino (in + zimino signifying “in ‘zimino’ sauce”), as with that of so many foods, lies somewhere far back in the dusty recesses of history. Under murky layers that evoke the not-so-far-away Arab world, the exotic scent of cumin (cimino in outmoded parlance), or even the unleavened (azzimo) bread of the Jews–the word’s etymology has been the subject of some debate. The most general consensus is that the word is of Arabic origin: samin or zamin, which means fat, fleshy and seems linked to the concept of a fatty or rich condiment or sauce. Moreover, the traditional liberal use of spinach in this dish would also seem to point east, to Persia: wherein lies the august ancestry of this inky-green vegetable.

Though the precise etymology may evade our grasp, we know that the recipe is very old, traces of which go back at least as far as 1300. It was a classic piatto povero, or poor-man’s dish, making up for its lack of silk-purse ingredients by beefing up with vegetables and bread. Originally, the dish was strewn with bits of salted, dried fish such as baccalà (Florence being land-locked, after all)–a cheap ingredient that packed a flavor punch and stretched to help fill many bellies at a time. It is believed that the strong flavor of the fish demanded an equally muscular, spicy sauce in order to achieve the proper balance–clearly something even the most impoverished medieval Florentine was unwilling to forego. And so, with characteristic Italian ingenuity, a rich, zesty sauce was born–for which the Arab word zamin was most likely adopted and italianized over time.

Other versions in other regions have since evolved: in Liguria, Sardinia and even Corsica, some with chick peas instead of calamari (or totani or seppie), or swiss chard instead of spinach, and they are all worthy of our praise. But the classic, über-Florentine recipe remains that of squid simmered at length in a rich stew (or umido) of spinach, tomato and red wine, to be accompanied by garlic-rubbed toasted bread and–hopefully, ideally–shared in good company. It’s a bold, inky dish–as wine-dark as Homer’s Aegean–lusty and redolent of both earth and sea. It’s exactly the kind of thing a famished, humble laborer in the age of Petrarch would tuck into, and feel a richer man for having eaten it.

–by Elizabeth Petrosian

Come and try our version of this Florentine classic–ti aspettiamo!

Link

Photo by Amanda Widis

Photo by Amanda Widis

Read it here: Review in Willamette Week

Thank you, Willamette Week, for the wonderful review. And we agree: the pod we’re in at 28th and Ankeny is awesome and has some really terrific, diverse offerings.

A heartfelt grazie to all our supporters–your appetite and encouragement keeps us going. It’s not easy being one guy alone in a cart; knowing you enjoy his food makes Paolo molto molto felice. And his mamma back in Florence is pretty darn happy about it, too :-)

So we hope to see you soon, new friends and old!