Remembering Vinnys La Focacceria Sicilian Specialties in New York


Sadly, They are No More

My Old Pal VINNY

Don’t Know who the Guy is on the Left

But I’m glad he took this picture.

I wish I would have taken one with Vinny

For the many times I ate there, and Vinny made me so many

tasty VASTEDDI Sandwiches … Mis then both. Vinny and the Vasteddi


La Foccaceria? Oh where have you gone? Well, I do know actually. After more than 90 years in business, it was time to close the doors. And a sad day it was for thousands, including me. I first moved into the East Village in November 1982 .. I was working in another famed old New York Italian institution in The East Village, in John’s (Since 1908) on East 12th Street right around the block from La Foccaceria. La Foccaceria was a great little Sicilian Specialties restaurant on 1st Avenue between East 11th and East 12th Streets on the east side of First Avenue .. That was  the first spot where Vinny’s father opened the doors in 1914 … I’m sorry to say, I never went to that one but to it’s (La Foccaceria) 2nd location a couple blocks south on 1st Avenue between East 7th Street and St.  Marks Place (E. 8th Street) on the east side of the avenue. The new La Foccaceria, run by one Vinny Bondi was just one block from my apartment at the corner of Avenue A and St. Marks Place. In 1982 the East Village was on an up-swing in popularity and improvement from a sort of sub-ghetto of The Lower East Side. the neighborhood which was strongly Eastern European; Ukranian and Polish, mixed with Hispanics, Italians, and people of Jewish persuasion. When Mr. Bondi opened the doors almost 100 years before when the neighborhood was largely made up of Sicilian immigrants which included one Charles “Luck” Luciano whose parents moved to East 10th Street when Luciano was just 9 years old. In the early 80s when i first moved into East Village it was a low-rent neighborhood with apartments that were relatively cheap for the city, thus attracting artists, so-called wannabe actors and musicians and young people who wanted to live in Manhattan. In the East Village they could find an apartment (though not the best physically) at reasonable rates for the time, I did. Through a friend I was able to procure a 2 bedroom apartment for a mere $400 a month. Quite a bargain. I shared the apartment with my good friend jay F. for the first year in that apartment. Once he moved out, I kept the apartment for myself.

   Hey, I’m getting off the beaten track. Yes back in 82 the East Village was an exciting and changing neighborhood, perfect for me and other young people just starting out in this great city of ours.

    I was only paying $400 rent and had money to spend eating out. I used to eat at a Ukrainian Diner Odessa on Avenue A and Lesko’s as well, two doors down from Odessa. There I could get plates of home-made Perogis, fresh Keilbasi and other solid food for cheap. In the East Village there were a few old-school Italian holdovers like; John’s were I was working as a waiter & bartender at the time, Lanza’s (now over 100 Years old), De Roberta’s Italian Pastry (over 100 years old) Brunetta a great little Italian restaurant I used to go to which was on the same block as the original La Foccaceria and there was the current La Foccaceria on 1st Ave near Saint Marks Place .. I went in to La Foccaceria one  day, I met Vinny and I loved it from the very start. Vinny’s father and mother had started the place way back in 1914 … Vinny, I never asked his age, but he must have been in his late 60’s at the time (1983). La Foccaceria served an array of wonderful dishes; all the usual pastas like; Lasagna, Spaghetti & Meatballs, Spaghetti Vongole (Clam Sauce), and Sicilian Maccheroni, like Pasta con Sardi and Lasagna Coccati, broken pieces of lasagna pasta baked with sausage,peas, tomato, and mozzarella. Vinny had great soups like Pasta Fagioli and the best Lentil & Escarole Soup around. He sold sandwiches like Chicken Parmigiano, Meatball Parm, Sausage & Peppers, and his most famous dish of all, the famed Vastedda Sandwich of Palermo. A Vastedda (Vastedde) Sandwich as we’ve said is a very famous sandwich that is a specialty in Palermo, is made with Beef Spleen (or Veal) with Ricotta and Cacciocavallo Cheese on a small Sesame Seeded Bun. It is quite wonderful and was a specialty of the house at Vinny’s La Foccaceria. I just loved it, and at $1.60 per, even in 1982 it was one of New York’s great prepared food bargains. The average price of most sandwiches  back then was about $5.00 around town, so  a Vasteddeat $1.60 per? Wow, what a Bargain?

I had tried most of the dishes at La Foccaceria in my first year eating there, but there was one that I loved by far most of all. Yes, the Vastedde. Most times I would have a Vastedde and a bowl of Vinny’s wonderful Lentil & Escarole Soup, the best I have ever had. If it was Thursday or Saturday, the days that Vinny made Arancini (Sicilian Rice Balls) and Sfingione (True Sicilian Pizza), I might get a piece of Sfingione and Lentil & Escarole Soup, or Sfingione, a Vastedde, and Soup. Yeah! 

I often ate at Vinny’s on Thursdays and Saturdays, as they were the two days in the week when Vinny made Sfingione, which is real Sicilian Pizza, that comes from Palermo. This type of pizza is made in a pan and is thick just like what is know as Sicilian Pizza all over America, and has tomato and Mozzarella Cheese baked on top. Sfingione on the other had doesn’t have tomato or mozzarella, but minced Anchovies that are suteed with onions and breadcrumbs. This breadcrumb mixture covers the dough and then is backed in the oven, and “Voila,” you’ve got the true Sicilian Pizza known to Sicilians and Sicilian-Americans alike as Sfingione. 

Very made a great version of Sfingione, and I’d get a piece of it every week for the 11 years before I moved over to the west side in Greenwich Village. Saturdays was a very special day at La Focacceria as that the day that all the old guys who grew up in this neighborhood, but later bought homes outside of Manhattan, Saturday was the day many of these guys would take a ride into the hood to get a Vastedde, see Vinny and habg out with old friends, one coming from Staten Island, one from Brooklyn, one from Jersey, etc., etc., and they’d all meat up at Vinny’s for a nice lunch together and remember their old times in this old Sicilian Neighborhood.

Boy did I love Vinny’s. There was nothing like those Vastedde and Vinny making them. Vinny had a special stattion at a counter up front of the place where he cut the cooked Beef Spleen, fry it in lard, cut the bun, cut some Cacciocavallo, he’d lay the spleen on the bun, add some Ricotta, and sprinkle the cut Cacciocavallo Cheese over the top. Yumm! And I’d have a little chat with Vinny as he made my Vastedde right before my eyes. When i ordered it, all I had to say to Vinny, was, “One with everything.” That meant everything; the spleen, Ricotta and Cacciocavallo. Some people would order them minus the spleen. Why? Amateurs.

Sadly, Vinny closed his Foccaceria a few years ago. it was a sad day for me, no more Vinny, no more La Foccaceria, no more Vastedde.

Ode to La Foccaceria

Ode to My Pal Vinny

Ode to My Beloved Vasteddi

I Will Miss You All So


Daniel Bellino-Zwicke


A Beef Spleen Ricotta & Caciocavalo Cheese Sandwich

This Sicilian Specialty from Palermo is called Pane Muesa

in Palermo (Palermitana Dialect). It is also called Pane Milza

Both names translate to Bread and Spleen.

In Bew York, Sicilian New Yorkers named these sandwiches after the Bread,

thus the name Vastedda (Singular), and Vasteddi for mor than one Sandwich.


This is real SICILIAN PIZZA. Vinny made it on Thursdays and Saturdays and all the guys that used to live in the neighborhood but bought homes in Brooklyn, Staten Island or where ever, they’d come in to La Focacceria every Saturday for a VASTEDDA and some SFINCIONE and ARANCINI. It was quite a place.

“One of the Saddest days of my life”

…  Author Daniel Bellino Zwicke, on the closing of La Focacceria …

The following is from The New York Times, 1996

When the authors reviewed LA FOCACCERIA, a bright little restaurant, it was already 50 years old, having opened in 1914. It has moved from its old address, 195 First Avenue, but judging from the old review, not much else has changed.

One of its unusual specialties is still the vasteddi ($1.50), described in the book as ”a bizarre Sicilian sandwich.” It is made of slices of calf’s spleen, layered with ricotta cheese and shavings of Parmesan and served on a little bun. The authors describe it as ”mild and quite tasty,” which holds true.

The words al dente may never have been uttered here, and wine is poured from big jugs into carafes. The regulars look as if they have been coming here for years, and food is plentiful and cheap.

A bowl of white bean, pasta and pumpkin soup ($2.95) is earthy and filling. Fusilli is overcooked, but comes in a tomato sauce with slivers of pork subtly flavored with garlic ($6.50). Veal stew ($7.95), tender chunks of veal with potatoes and beans in a simple gravy, is excellent.


Best Ever Pasta With Ragu Bolognese Recipe by Bellino

Northern Italy

Perfect Recipe
Anna Maria & Gino eat her Pasta with Ragu Bolognese
Two great Recipes for Ragu Bolognese. Anna Maria Mannari at Trattoria Anna Maria. Anna Maria is 
The Ragu Queen of Bologna. Her recipe starts at minute 1:45 of this video.
Gino’s Recipe starts at minute 7:00 …
and Gino’s recipe that he was taught to by his grandfather.
Daniel Bellino “Z” is considered The King of Bolognese in America. His famous
Ragu alla Bolognese was Voted The Best in America from The Journal of Italian Food Wine
and Travel Magazine in 1998. Hundreds of Thousands of adoring fans have eaten Daniel’s famed
Pasta with Bolgonese Sauce. And now you can eat it too.
For years Daniel kept his Recipe a Secret. But now, Daniel decided to share this amazing recipe with all the people of the World, with his publication of The Ragu Bolognese Cookbook – Secret Recipe, and more, by Daniel Bellino “Z” aka “Danny Bolognese” There are many other wonderful recipes and stories by Daniel, and of course his famous recipe for Pasta w/ Ragu Bolognese, considered on of the Tastiest Dishes in the World. Daniel says, it’s very easy to make, all you need is a great recipe (like his), use the best ingredients, follow and execute the directions, and you can make it too. It’s a great thing to know, as it taste oh so good. And when you make it for friends and family, they will love you all the more, for making it for them. 

Pasta with Ragu Bolognese all Danny, “The Tastiets Dish in The World” !!!  Make it!





Italian Chicken Cacciatore Recipe




Pollo alla Cacciatore is quite popular all over Italy, from Piedmonte in the North West of Italy, down to Campania and Naples, and even into Sicily. The dish is especially popular in Tuscan and the Umbria region of Central Italy. Chicken Cacciatore is hugely popular with the Italian-American Enclave, as it is tasty, easy to prpepare, and has inexpensive ingredients, and the dish holds well when left in the refrigerator and is reheated for multiple meals. This being said, you can make larger batches by doubling and even tripling the following recipe.

There is no one sigle recipe for Pollo Cacciatore which means hunters chicken. The dish was originally made by hunters, using rabbits, which you can subsitute one or two rabbits for the chicken in the recipe that follows. 

As the original dish was made by hunter, who besided shooting rabbits and other wild game, and also coming across wild mushrooms in the woods, the hunters made their Cacciatore with Muschrroms. If you don’t like msuhrooms, as many people do not, they may be omitted from the recipe. If you don’t like Peppers, you can omit them as well, as long as you have the base sauce recipe, of the tomatoes and wine, and the aromatic vegetables, especially the garlic, and onoins. You can also add Olives to the dish, if you so choose. Experiment, and make the recipe you own., just Enjoy.

Italian POLLO alla CACCIATORE – Recipe


  • 2 pounds Chicken Thighs
  • 1 pound of Whole San Marzano Tomatoes (crushed)
  • One carrot
  • One garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup Red Wine
  • One celery stalk
  • Salt to taste
  • A sprig of rosemary
  • Pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces Mushrooms (washed and sliced)
  • 1 Sweet Red Bell Pepper, cored and sliced
  • I large Onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Italian Olive Oil

Wash the carrot and celery under running water and chop them coarsely.

Pat dry the Chicken with paper towels. Season both sides of the chicken with Salt & Black Ground Pepper.

Take a frying pan and put the olive oil in it and heat it well.

Add the Chicken to pan with the olive oil and cook on medium heat, until the chicken is nicely browned on all sides, cooking over medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side.

Remove the Chciken from the pan, and set aside on a plate to rest.

Add the Red Bell Peppers and cook on low heat for 6 minutes.

Add the Mushrooms to pan, and add the Salt & Black Pepper to the peppers and mushrooms. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. 

Add th onion and cook on low heat for 3 minutes.

Then add the chopped garlic and the bay leaves. Cook on low heat for 3 minutes.

Add the chicken back to the pan. Turn heat on high.

Add the Red Wine to pan and cook on jigh heat until the wine is reduced by half its original volume. About 4-5 minutes.

Add the Tomatoes, Carrots, and Celery to the pan.

Turn heat to high and cook until the contents strarts to bubble and boil.

Turn the heat to a low simmer, and let everything cook until the chicken is tender.
About 25 minutes.

Turn the jheat off and let the Chicken rest.

Serve 3 pieces of Chicken with the vegetables and sauce to each person. 

You can serve this with boiled or raost potatoes, or over any pasta or egg noodles that you choose.

Enjoy !!!





And MUCH More …

Sicilian Timballo Baked Maccheroni Pasta Recipe

Palermo, Sicily

Note :  Stanley Tucci ‘s BIG NIGHT TIMPANO. Timpano and Timballo, essentially describe the same thing, which is baked Maccheroni Pasta incased in some sort of crust that can be made using pastry dough, psheets of homemade pasta, or thin slices of vegetable such as zucchini or Eggplant (Melanzane).
In Big Night, Chef Primo (Stanley Tucci’s character brother) encases his baked maccheroni Timpano with pasta sheets. Timpano is the term used in Abruzzo and other parts of Italy, while Timballo is the dialect for the same thing in Sicily and most of Italy that names this dish that comes in many variations, depending what part of Italy it is made in.