Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Lou Di Palo Launches a New Cookbook

“Of all the stores in all the world, Di Palo’s is probably my favorite.”—Ruth Reichl

“Lou Di Palo is single-handedly preserving the history of Little Italy in New York City. Shopping at Di Palo’s is an authentic, personal experience. When you walk into the shop, you feel like you’re in the center of the universe. I’ve been waiting for Lou to write this book for years. He’s a good friend and an American treasure.”—Tyler Florence

Lou Di Palo presents his book to the public.
Lou Di Palo presents his book to the public. Photo by Conrad Bradford.

“Di Palo’s has been one of the Seven Wonders of New York since 1925. This book is a beautiful story of their commitment to keeping Italian traditions, and shows the passion they’ve had for the artisanal best for almost one hundred years.”—Chef Daniel Boulud

“Lou Di Palo’s depth and breadth of knowledge of Italian foods extends from the Alpine hills to the Sicilian coastline and he manages to bring it all home to us in this wonderful book.”—Chef Michael Lomonaco


On November 18, 2014, even the severe blasts of an early New York City could not affect the warm reception at the Italian Trade Commission for a gala reception toasting  “Di Palo’s Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy” [Ballantine Books, 2014].  Hosting the party was the Italian Trade Commissioner Pier Paolo Celeste.

Conrad Bradford, Italian Trade Commissioner Pier Paolo Celeste, right, master of ceremonies at the book party for the Di Palo family. Lou Di Palo, center.
From the left: Conrad Bradford,Lou Di Palo and Italian Trade Commissioner Pier Paolo Celeste, master of ceremonies at the book party for the Di Palo family.

In his introduction, Lou’s friend and a former Little Italy resident himself, director Martin Scorsese wrote: “My family has been going to Di Palo’s for generations. My mother shopped at the store back when it was a latteria, and I’ve gone myself since I was a kid. Now, when I take my daughter to Di Palo’s, I feel like I’m home.”

The father of Lou Di Palo in front of his store. Photo courtesy of Lou Di Palo
Photo courtesy of Lou Di Palo

Lou Di Palo was offered six book deals but agreed to co-author it with Rachel Wharton, a James Beard award-winning food writer, as long as his stories remained intact. And Lou knows how to dish about the good life. Breezing through his 225-pager is like reading a memoir well stocked with recipes.

Over a century ago, his maternal grandmother Concetta Di Palo, born in Basilicata, Italy, founded a cheese shop with her husband (Lou’s namesake) on Mott Street in Little Italy. Attentive, congenial customers will be served a dash of family history along with a nibble of parmesan or sliced salumi. Details [“Our Story”] are on their website:  http://store.dipaloselects.com/dipalolegacy.html

Photo credit: EDDIE HAUSNER, New York Times --- 1974 Little Italy
Photo credit: EDDIE HAUSNER, New York Times — 1974 Little Italy

The newly released tome is filled with enthusiasm, hard work, and many familiar themes of the Italian immigrant experience at a time when New York’s Lower East Side was a neighborhood with low rents and more aromas from home cooking than trendy restaurants. A helper at the family store since he was a kid in knee pants, Lou juggled duties at Di Palo’s in between college classes. “When I graduated from college in 1973, I had a marketing degree with a specialization in real estate,” Lou explained. “Until then I’d worked in the store practically my whole life, so I decided to try working at a real estate firm uptown on Madison Avenue. … One day at the office I got a call for a big real estate sale worth a $30,000 commission. As I was talking to the client, the other line buzzed. It was my father calling.” His father wanted his opinion on another sale; they could save four cents a pound on cheese by acting quickly. At that moment, Lou realized the family’s flagship was his true calling and he’s been there ever since.

The Di Palo founders. Photo courtesy of Lou Di Palo.
Photo courtesy of Lou Di Palo.

Do you need advice on storing or serving Italian coffee? Do you realize how some merchants trick you into overspending on olive oil? What do you know about speck? And how about a quick course in making fresh ricotta at home? All the essentials are here, explained in Lou’s voice, along with instructions on how to prepare, for example, Viola Di Palo’s lentil soup with prosciutto, polenta con formaggio crucolo fuso, and Sal’s tiramisu.

The newly expanded Di Palo Fine Foods Store is at 200 Grand Street. Says the writer Pete Hamill: “If there’s no Di Palo’s in heaven, I ain’t going.”

Savino Di Palo in his store.
Photo courtesy of Lou Di Palo.
Lou Di Palo as a teenager. Courtesy of Lou Di Palo.
Lou Di Palo as a teenager. Courtesy of Lou Di Palo.
Linda Ann Lo Schiavo
Linda Ann Lo Schiavo
Native New Yorker LindaAnn Loschiavo has been on the staff of L’IDEA since 1996 and coordinated L’IDEA’s 25th Silver Annniversary Extravaganza. Her works for the stage include “Courting Mae West,” which has been seen in New York City theatres and most recently in Melbourne, Australia. Her writing has appeared in “Anti-Italianism: Essays on a Prejudice” [Macmillan, 2011] as well as numerous magazines, literary journals, and newspapers. Her forthcoming book “Flirting with the Fire Gods” will be published by L’IDEA Press later this year. Loschiavo is the Editor for the English Language section of L”IDEA.

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