Like a brave tulip popping up amidst the dollar slice weeds of the Lower East Side, Roman import Trapizzino opened for business this week on Orchard Street. The casual shop sells meat-and-sauce-stuffed bread pockets, trapizzino, dreamed up by Roman pizza celebrity Stefano Callegari, who began his triangular sandwich empire in 2008. His mission: make Italian entrees ("secondi") portable by paring them down and squeezing them into some really outstanding bread.
Callegari found a new job for pizza bianca, a common Italian bread that shares DNA with things like focaccia and, yes, pizza dough. The restaurant has a proprietary flour mix flown in from Italy to make the bread, which is baked daily for optimum freshness. And if it tastes like it has an old soul, it does: the mother yeast (which Callegari essentially had to smuggle out of Italy) has been handed down for 11 generations from a family in Puglia.
Inside the soft, salty bread are the sandwich-sized versions of classic Italian entrees like braised oxtail, chicken cacciatore, eggplant parmigiana and meatballs. "These are all recipes that you can talk about and you're talking about Italian food culture," Callegari says. "It's something you can study." Staff spent a month in Italy learning and perfecting each recipe before heading back to the states to open.
Each day, the restaurant will offer eight different trapizzino fillings out of a roster of about 15 that they're able to produce. If they have the one with burrata and anchovies it's a must-order, though Callegari says the also excellent Pollo alla Cacciatora with chicken, garlic, white wine and rosemary is the most popular. Among the offerings will always be at least one vegetarian item, in addition to one made from offal.
Addressing whether he was concerned with some Americans scoffing at eating ingredients commonplace in Italy like tripe, Callegari seemed unperturbed. "People study food [these days]; they're ready to try something weird."
In addition to the trapizzino ($6 each), the restaurant fries up suppli ($3), the Roman equivalent of arancini, or rice balls, which are coated in breadcrumbs made from pizza biancha. These will also rotate for variety's sake, coming in combinations like taleggio and artichoke or spicy tomato sauce, meant to represent the primi, the traditional pasta course.
Callegari says it's his "mission to make people understand" the trapizzino and if he's successful, the LES shop will be a springboard for more across the country.
144 Orchard Street, (212) 475-2555; trapizzinousa.com