Q: We always enjoy reading your column and are often amazed that you are able to help people find "long gone"' food preparations. We are hoping you can help us as well. In the 1980s there was a restaurant in the Yorktown shopping center (Lombard) annex named Sorrento's. They had a terrific dish, "Spaghetti Ala Mario." Garlic, oil, cheese. It was terrific. We went there often just for this dish. Have tried recreating it without success. Can this recipe be resurrected from the "long gone" category?
--Bob and Diane Treski, Woodridge
A: Possibly -- if readers help out. I couldn't find a recipe, even calling a suburban restaurant with a similar name to see if they knew the recipe or were somehow related. Nope, I was told.
I didn't hold out much hope for finding the recipe you were looking for. Anything named "spaghetti a la Mario," or "spaghetti alla Mario" to use the Italian form, has to be fairly generic. As for the ingredients -- spaghetti, garlic, oil and cheese -- that makes what Lidia Bastianich, the restaurateur, cookbook author and television cooking show star, once described as "the quintessential Italian pasta."
"Just about everyone in Italy knows how to make it and loves it,'' she wrote in her book, "Lidia's Favorite Recipes," which includes her recipe for "spaghettini with oil and garlic." I've copied it for you below and hope to try it myself soon.
I did type "spaghetti a la Mario" into Google. Got lots of mentions of a restaurant in Bronx, N.Y. I then typed "spaghetti alla Mario" into Google. What popped up were several recipes and photographs of spaghetti alla carbonara from Mario Batali, the superstar chef, television personality and cookbook author, who, coincidently, is a partner with Bastianich in Eataly Chicago, the Italian dining and food emporium at 43 E. Ohio St. I have not made his recipe, but Batali knows what he doing, so I thought I'd include it here in case you want to jazz dinner up some night. The recipe comes from the web site of ABC's "The Chew," the daytime lifestyle series he co-hosts.
In the meantime, I look forward to hearing from readers about the recipe you're looking for. I'll share anything I get.
Spaghettini with oil and garlic
Makes: 6 servings
Lidia Bastianich describes this dish in her book, "Lidia's Favorite Recipes," as "one of those magical dishes whose ingredients can be pulled out of the cupboard and turned into a glorious meal in about 15 minutes. In all its simplicity, or maybe because of its simplicity, it is a favorite of many, and makes regular appearances at my table."
Salt for pasta pot and to taste
1 pound spaghettini or vermicelli
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
10 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)
1.Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Stir the spaghettini into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently, and cook, semi-covered, until the pasta is tender but still very firm, about 6 minutes.
2.Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook, shaking the skillet, until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and add the crushed hot red pepper. Ladle about 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water into the sauce; then add the parsley, the remaining olive oil, and salt to taste, and bring to a boil.
3.Fish out the pasta with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. Bring the sauce and pasta to a simmer, tossing to coat the pasta with sauce. Cook about 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat, and toss in the grated cheese if using. Check the seasoning, adding salt and crushed red pepper if necessary. Serve immediately in warm bowls.