Johnny Piancone’s

Long Branch, NJ

Big Joe Henry/ Cinecall Productions

Johnny Piancone’s has always been a favorite restaurant of mine for years. Executive Chef and Owner Rick Piancone is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and he’s also one of the most talented chefs you’ll find in New Jersey.

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Quite simply Johnny Piancone’s serves classic Italian dishes in a very comfortable setting. Chef Rick and his wife Cynthia have succeeded in presenting a great dining experience.

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Chef Rick stays true to his family ties by serving high quality ingredients in his classic dishes as a matter of fact his family still owns an Olive Oil company in Italy and Chef Rick proudly uses the product at his restaurant. 

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The mozzarella is made several times a day at Piancone’s and is the freshest possible when it’s brought to your table. One of the many things I’ve learned at Piancone’s restaurant is the difference in taste in a fresh serving of mozzarella as opposed to a serving that’s been hanging around for a while.

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 The taste is creamier and flavorful when served immediately after being made. I’ve been around the world and at some of the finest restaurants in this fine country and Johnny Piancone’s has the best deli antipasto I have ever eaten. Every ingredient on the serving board is as fresh as you can get. I highly recommend it.

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 I also enjoy the pasta dishes; particularly the Vodka Rigatoni along with the Pork Osso Bucco, Chicken Scarpello and the Sunday Sauce is awesome. 

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Come to Johnny Piancone’s and enjoy a classic Italian dinner in comfort. If you’re fortunate to meet Chef Rick and have a chat with him, you’ll leave having a friend forever.

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Piancone’s Deli Antipasto with Freshly Made Mozzarella

Here’s how to make the famed Italian delicacy.

Cut mozzarella curd into I-inch cubes. (Cutting the curd while still cold gives cleaner rather than jagged edges).

Place cut curds in a large mixing bowl and pourjust enough warm water (roughly 90 to 1000 F) to cover the curds. Never pour water directly on top of the curds, but pour water along the sloped side of the bowl to gently envelope the curds. This brings the curds to temperature gradually.

Let stand for a few minutes until the curds warm through. (Test by picking the largest piece of curd in the bowl and splitting it open. If it still feels cold on the inside, let stand for a little longer.) Warming the curds through helps them melt evenly once really hot water is introduced. When the curds are fully warmed, they should go from a firm, tofu-like texture to a softer/squidgier texture.

Introducing warm water to cold curds will cause the temperature of the water to drop slightly. If the water feels too cool, add a little more warm/hot water to bring the water temperature to 100 to 1200

When all of the curd pieces have warmed through, drain the water from the warm curds into a separate bowl and reserve. (This water is the brine for your finished balls of mozzarella. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water and stir to dissolve.

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In the bowl of curds, pour hot water (1600 F) around the edges of the bowl until it just covers the curds. Let the curds sit for about 2 minutes until they begin to soften and melt. Use a wooden spoon to gently fold the curds over each other in the bowl. When you get one smooth, homogeneous mass, you are ready for the next step!

Keep feeling the temperature of the water. It should be uncomfortably hot to the touch. If the temperature drops, skim off some warm water and add hotter water to raise the temperature of the bowl.

Keeping the curd mass submerged in super hot water, gently pull one end of it away from your body (while guiding the remainder in the bowl with your other hand). Imagine you are guiding a fire hose or straightening a long stocking. Keep as much of the ball submerged under water as possible. (This will keep the curd smooth and silky.)

Once the curd is loosely elastic and stretched, roll one end of the hose until it meets the other end—as if you are coiling a stocking. Then, take the mass in one hand and pass it through your other hand cupped in the shape of a "C".

As the ball completely passes through the C-shaped hand, pinch the smaller ball off from the larger cheese mass (by bringing your pointer finger in toward your wrist).

Immediately put the formed ball into the warm brine solution. Let sit for a few minutes. If there are ragged edges from where the ball was pinched, smooth the edges by running the ball submerged along the inside of the bowl.

Repeat steps 5 through 8 with the remaining curd mass.

Serve and eat as soon as possible! Fresh mozzarella can kept unrefrigerated overnight or for a few days longer in the fridge. Note that refrigeration will cause the cheese to seize up and lose its pillowy softness.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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