Sunday, November 07, 2010

Ciao Bocca in Atlanta

As I've said before, Italy ruined sandwiches for me.

When I first arrived in Italy as a student, I would eat one sandwich, and one sandwich only: mozzarella con pomodoro.

When the bread is locally-made, and the mozzarella is fresh and slightly damp, and the tomatoes are good, there's really nothing better.

Really, when you can buy a sandwich like that, you don't need mustard or mayonnaise. I used to order this sandwich at a small dive bar in Siena called Il Pozzo, and the German proprietor would toast the sandwich slightly, and oh, it was heaven.

Later on, when I began eating meat again, I realized life is even better when you add prosciutto crudo to a sandwich. (It's only fair to say at this point that prosciutto crudo improves just about any situation!).

How good are Italian sandwiches? Well, when I was driving from Rome to Puglia a few years back, I stopped a few times at autogrills, i.e., rest stops along the highway, and even at these places, the bread was fresh, the mozzarella was good and the prosciutto had been sliced that morning.

But the discovery of the Italian sandwich makes life hard in America. I mean, eating at Subway just simply isn't the same.

So you can imagine how lovely it is to find a little treasure like Ciao Bocca, which opened earlier this year at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, near downtown Atlanta.

I included the lunch counter, and its owner, Deborah Kudelka (in photo above), in a story I recorded for WABE 90.1, Atlanta's NPR affiliate.

You can listen to the story here:

She makes a variation of my favorite sandwich that uses pancetta instead of prosciutto. It includes baby arugula and it's a delight!

And Deborah offers daily specials, which can be anything from a specialty sandwich (for example, the grilled portabella sandwich you see in the top photo) or a pasta dish. And she serves fantastic salads as well.

Her lunch counter reminds me of the food stalls that I used to see at the markets in Italy, but also the markets in Mexico, too. You know, the places where the market workers eat, often the simplest places, and the ones with the best local food. And that's no surprise since Deborah comes from fine Roman stock (she says she learned how to cook in part from her aunt).

Below, you can see what her homemade ravioli look like. Truly squisiti! The photo is not the best, but her food is: on the left is a sample of her ravioli with portabella mushrooms and on the right is one with a pumpkin mixture (its orangey goodness breaking through the pasta sheath like an egg served sunny side up). Oh my Lord are they good!

So buon appetito and I'll see you at Ciao Bocca!

Ciao Bocca at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market
209 Edgewood Avenue (Jesse Hill Jr. Drive)
Atlanta, Ga.

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