Sara’s Weeknight Meals: Season 02

Episode 214: Mi Famiglia


Giuseppe Fanelli and Sara Moulton

Everyone loves Italian food, especially The Husband. When we go out to eat Italian is his number one choice and one of his favorite Italian spots is Tre Dici, a tiny little neighborhood spot with a terrific chef, Giuseppe Fanelli. We love Giuseppe’s gutsy down to earth food. It is elegantly prepared and served but somehow it always feels to me like a home cooked meal, like I am sitting around the table at someone’s house. I knew he would be the perfect guest, even though he had never really been on tv. And I was so right.

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Giuseppe Fanelli

Fanelli’s versatility is no surprise, given his extensive background at the Big Apple’s most celebrated Italian restaurants. He started in high school, waiting tables at Italian restaurants near his home in New York State. After graduating from the New York State Sullivan County College Culinary School, Fanelli took a job aboard the Delta Queen, on the Mississippi River. He moved to Manhattan for the restaurant F.illi Ponte, where he worked his way up to executive chef. Fanelli’s next posts were as sous-chef to Lidia Bastianich at Felidia for two years, and as chef de partie at Union Pacific under Rocco DiSpirito. Fanelli was tapped by Frank Pellegrino, Sr. and Jr., to open their new restaurant, Baldoria, and while waiting for the restaurant to be built, he worked at the ultra-exclusive, über-legendary Rao’s. There he mastered Rao standards like lemon chicken and frutti di mare, which made it onto the Baldoria menu. New York magazine’s Hal Rubenstein had high praise for the new venture. Comparing it to Rao’s, he wrote, “Baldoria is bigger, roomier, friendlier…and to top it off, you’re going to wind up better fed,” thanks to Fanelli’s culinary prowess. Fanelli arrived at Scopa after a stint at Crispo, where he worked under the restaurant’s namesake, Frank Crispo.

Tre Dici
The tiny coral marble bar at Tre Dici might not look like anything special, but it’s home to the best damn cocktail in all of New York: the Chamomile Martini. This soothing blend of chamomile tea and gin is perfect for the non-masochistic drinker who’s put off by the acrid classics, but too proud to order a tooth-achingly sweet girly drink. It’s mellow, just like the bar. There’s no scene here, just quiet diners enjoying rustic Italian fare at prices that don’t require a black American Express card. Tre Dici just might be Italian for cozy, as you’ll never have to fight for a barstool. The perfect spot for that mid-workweek date.

Through an unmarked door, up an elevator, through an indistinguished hallway and then past one more unmarked door, a hidden 1920’s throwback New Orleans style speakeasy opens up. The space’s rich leathers, black and white marble, antique tin ceiling and plush seats offers a sexy, intimate and classy backdrop to Chef Guiseppe Fanelli’s classic southern Italian cooking.