Linguini with clams in white sauce is as basic a dish to Brooklyn Italian neighbourhoods like Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge as is pizza. The neighbourhoods are far away from Manhattan, and the restaurants are far away from their nearest subway stations, which might be why their descendants wear their pride like the shroud protecting the Statue of Liberty, on view just across New York harbour.
But things are changing. Dom Di Faro (Di Faro Pizza) recently died, casting into question the future of his world-famous shop and Lenny’s Pizza just closed for good, leaving its featured role in Saturday Night Fever its only trace.
Jackie Gleason’s Honeymooners character Ralph Kramden lived in Bensonhurst. There, Casa Bella is the kind of place where Ralph might have eaten had he found two cents to rub together.
The White Clam Sauce linguine is classic. Served in a NY soup plate—white, wide and deep—the two portion-sized offering steams, providing an impactful scent of garlic with a trace of Atlantic sea air, the urge to dive in pre-empted by a desire to bathe in this sacrament. Such a dish doesn’t come along every day, anymore.
So much is served that what can’t be eaten on the spot can be taken home and easily reheated the next day to its former glory—if not more so—by adding to it more pasta and mussels, or eaten cold, alone in your room.