Slice of Jersey – Stop Number 7 – Giovanni’s of Whitehouse Station
Could you imagine what it was like for a couple of Sicilians to have moved thousands of miles from their homeland on the slopes of Mt. Etna, to Park Slope, Brooklyn and eventually out to the green green pastures of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey?
I’m thinking Eddie Albert and Ava Gabor in Green Acres.
Well, maybe a little of an exaggeration, but for Martha and Giovanni (John) Scova, it was quite the leap!
And 17 years later, they’ve carved out a place for themselves among the locals in this growing New Jersey community along a bustling Route 22! Everybody knows Martha! You can’t miss her. She of the robust figure; the demonstrative “rat-a-tat-tat” way she speaks, and the way she treats each and every guest to her and her husband’s place. You feel so comfortable there that you may as well be in her own home!
So after giving Martha a welcoming “hug” (I’m still not sure if she appreciated it!), it was onto the pizza and everything else she TOLD us we HAD to eat! Yes, she TOLD us WHAT to eat.
It is the equivalent of going to one of those legendary places like Rao’s in the City or Augustino’s in Hoboken. Great food, but you eat what they TELL YOU TO EAT!
So onto the bill of fare.
Besides the vast array of pies stood out a few Sicilian goodies only someone like myself and possibly my Sicilian/Calabrese/South Philly coworker Dennis Malloy could appreciate.
We start with the Nonna (Grandma) pie with plum tomato basil, and fresh mozzarella…very simple and very tasty.
Martha insisted we try the Chicken Salsa pie with delicately baked white meat, spinach, and salsa, over a firm crust so as not to allow the pizza to get “flaccid”! (Like how I went there?)
Her signature pie ranks up there as one of my favorites: this featured pesto, eggplant, ricotta on a thin but firm crust.
For those of a more “Merigone” (American) palate, there’s the “pulled pork” pie, with cheddar, onion rings, and chili.
And now onto the Sicilian specialities.
Anyone who grew up in a Sicilian neighborhood would remember the “foccacciaria”….a restaurant featuring mainly Sicilian specialties. Giovanni’s could probably pass for the only “foccacciaria” in New Jersey.
Spinciune (Proun: Spin-choon-eh!) is a Sicilian pizza made “deep dish” style, with plenty of plum tomato, grated cheese, garlic and onion.
Normally what Sicilians do is pre cook the sauce, then apply it to the pie. As an extra treat, sometimes “alice” (proun: alleech!) , or fillets of salted sardines, are added to the top of the pie.
I mentioned this to Martha, and told her emphatically how much I HATE “alice”.
She laughed and told me she didn’t put any on there but little did I know, she actually cooked the “alice” into the sauce beforehand. She totally faked me out! But it did add a nice aura to the sauce, which was just the right consistency.
Next up was the customary “arancini” or rice balls. Coated with a light bread crumb crust, and stuffed with chop meat and peas served with a nice tomato sauce.
Finally to top it all off, we were treated to something Martha says she only makes twice a week. “Sfinge”…(proun: Sfeengee!). These are little zeppoles, lightly fried with a stuffing of cannoli cream. Oh, Jesus…just thinking about them makes my mouth water anew!
Being with someone like Martha and John was like being with a couple of folks I’d known all my life. The video will attest to that.
It’s truly a treat. Check out Giovanni’s on Route 22 East in Whitehouse Station, stop number 7 in our Slice of Jersey Tour.