For Giuseppe Giuffre, chef/owner of the 3-year-old Zio Toto on Third Avenue in Bay Ridge, opening yet another Italian restaurant in the already red-sauce happy neighborhood was a no-brainer.
“Everyone said I was crazy, doing Italian with so many already here,” he admits. “But I wanted to be among the best, and for Italian, Bay Ridge is the best.”
Zio Toto has found plenty of ways to stand out amongst the competition, though, not least of which is its massive, wood-burning oven. That’s where you’re most likely to find Giuffre, shuttling slabs of freshly made dough back and forth in the form of pizzas and paninis.
The ubiquitous tomato? It’s been shuffled aside for lighter, Northern influenced fare, such as fennel and blood orange salad, grilled chicken with lemon, garlic, and artichokes, and the off-menu Veal Valdostana, which Giuffre makes once or twice a week for customers who know well enough to ask for it.
“We use white veal, not red, so it’s very tender,” he explains. “We stuff it with prosciutto, fontina, and three mushrooms, then top it with a mushroom sauce. Everyone loves it.”
Not that he’s likely to make it for himself any time soon. “No way I’ll cook outside of the restaurant,” he says. “My girlfriend does it. Luckily, she’s a good cook too.”
Zio Toto’s Veal Valdostana
Courtesy of Giuseppe Giuffre
2 bone-in veal chops, butterflied and pounded thin
4 slices of fontina cheese
4 slices of prosciutto
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Flour for dredging
2 eggs, lightly beaten, for dredging
4 tbls. butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 lb. dry Porcini mushrooms, rehydrated
2 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup veal stock
For the mushroom filling:
Saute 1/3 cup of chopped prosciutto in a pan until it begins to release its fat. Add 2/3 cups of chopped, assorted mushrooms, such as cremini, shitake, or porcini, and cook until brown. Stir breadcrumbs to bind.
For the veal:
Preheat oven to 450. Set veal chops on individual sheets of plastic wrap. Top each with two slices of prosciutto, two slices of fontina, and 1/2 cup of the mushroom filling. Using the plastic wrap, tightly roll each veal chop, sealing the filling inside. Unwrap from plastic.
Heat olive oil until very hot, but not smoking, in an oven-proof skillet. Dredge each veal chop in flour, then in egg, and add to the skillet. Cook until brown and caramelized on all sides.
Add butter, shallot, porcini mushrooms, and sage to the skillet, and cook until the mushrooms are soft and the shallots are translucent. Add the stock and white wine, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
Place the skillet in the oven, and cook for an additional five to six minutes.
Recipe from Zio Toto [8407 Third Ave. at 84th Street in Bay Ridge, (718) 238-8042].