This is the second in a series where I shared lunch and stimulating conversation with one of Baltimore’s interesting personages, today Gino Troia. The menu for you is a bit of Lunch With’s backstory on our guest, delicious bites of lunch, a generous portion of stupid food questions and answers with tidbits of conversation.
- Dara: You can choose anyone to have lunch with living, fictional or dead – who would it be and why?
- Gino: I would choose James Beard, he was the only American gastronomic expert to write an accurate recipe for Pasta e Fagioli, the patron of Neapolitan dishes.
The Italian is coming, the Italian is coming is what I thought when Gino Troia of Grano Emporio and Grano Pasta Bar in Hampden pulled up in his Fiat. I hopped in this Italian classic with an Italian classic and we were off for a road trip to Washington DC to have lunch at 2 Amys Neapolitan Pizzeria. Gino wanted me to enjoy and relish a true Neapolitan pizza.
- Dara: What is the oldest thing you have in your refrigerator?
- Gino: A rind of Parmigiano Reggiano I saved seven months ago (at least) to use in my ribollita.
We sat on the patio; Gino gentlemanly lent me his jacket for it was a bit cool in the shade. Glasses of wine, an escarole salad and potato-prosciutto croquettes shared, and of course the true Neapolitan pizza. (Check out the slideshow). Gino graciously revealed the true secret to his mother’s eggplant parmesan is chocolate. Who knew?
- Dara: What food could disappear tomorrow and you wouldn’t miss it?
- Gino: OKRA – I do not like the center stuff.
- Dara: What is the best dish you cook?
- Gino: Linguine with olive oil, Gaeta olives, garlic, peperoncino, anchovies and bread crumbs.
Gino and Gino’s mother opened Café Troia in 1986 in Towson introducing Baltimore to the true foods of Southern Italy, the flavors of their native Naples. Their food, then and now – is a true Italian cuisine, not the spaghetti and meatball mentality. (i.e. think Big Night). Gino, is a bit of a food historian, loves to inform and eventually taught multiple cooking classes and ran tours to Italy.
- Dara: What has been your most memorable meal?
- Gino: My most memorable meal was with my daughters and my mom in Epernay. It was July, 1995 at the estate of Moet & Chandon, Napoleon’s former residence. I do not remember what we had for lunch, but I remember the impeccable service with the waiters in tuxedoes and white gloves serving us the cheese course, cognac and Cuban cigars, to the amazement of my family.
- Dara: Truffle Oil?
- Gino: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
- Dara: What was your epic culinary fail? Details?
- Gino: I was preparing zuppa di pesce (seafood stew) for some Italian diplomats in Salzburg and two clams opened, and realized too late that they were full of sand.Thank God I found some pasta in the consulate kitchen and also some Knockwurst, onions, plenty of red wine and schnapps. Fortunately it was before Yelp and Facebook.
Life happens, things take turns but Café Troia is still run by Gino’s family members. His daughter Daniela owns and runs Café Zia. He has partnered in the ever successful Grano Pasta Bar and the more upscale Grano Emporio where Mediterranean cuisine reigns. The Fall/Winter menu has just been introduced offering more grains and fish.
- Dara: Instead of St. Peter at the pearly gates it was Julia Child, what would she ask you?
- Gino: Julia Child would ask did it frustrate you when people did not understand your CUCINA POVERA?
- Dara: What is your guilty food pleasure?
- Gino: Gelato of ricotta and ripe figs of September. GUILTY because I would like to share it with all the people I love.
Get your Italian on!
3547 Chestnut Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21211
Grano Emporio’s Fall /Winter Schedule
The Mediterranean way of eating is inspiration for the Fall/Winter menu – featuring more grains and fish
Sundays, starting, October 20th – Brunch menu 11 a.m. to last seating 5 p.m.
Frittatas, frittata omelets, in house smoke salmon panini and a selection of small pasta dishes and salads
Mondays starting October 14th – the restaurant is closed
Tuesdays thru Thursdays – 11:15 a.m. with last seating at 9 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays – 11:15 a.m. with last seating 9 p.m. and the lounge is open until 11:30 p.m.
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