Except we were in Forest Hills and in our living room. A girl can dream, can’t she? 🙂

As you can see from my recent post on Del Posto, Jason and I have a serious relationship with Italian food. Oftentimes our craving for it is as insurmountable as the love we have for each other! Cheesy and a bit sad, but true nonethless.

It all began with a search for good fresh ricotta that I used to be able to buy at a local deli when I lived on the UES. I had no specific intentions for this mozzarella by-product at the time that I launched my search, I just knew I wanted it. More than that, I wanted know that should there be an emergency where fresh ricotta would be needed to come to the rescue, I would have instant access to it.

Forest Hills, while not totally devoid of culinary finds, certainly lacks in specialty food stores so I knew I’d have to expand my search area. Imagine my good fortune at having stumbled across a specialty Italian gourmet shop named Iavarone Brothers that is a more-than-worth-it 10 minute drive from our apartment! It received rave reviews online so I enlisted Jason to go with me the very next day. The promise of a salumi selection, which according to him is its own food group, certainly offered up enough incentive.

Upon arrival, I was a bit disappointed at the size of the store. However, I came to realize that what IB lacks in size, it makes up for with its wide selection of yummalicious goodies. There is a deli section with prepared foods ranging from eggplant parmigiana to arancini to a wide variety of olives. They have a butcher section that offers numerous types of homemade sausages as well as different cuts of beef, pork, and lamb. Their seafood case is not as varietal but what they do have is extremely fresh. The beautiful day-boat scallops were destined to be prepared with a lemon beurre blanc sauce but that’s a different day and a different post.

They do in fact showcase a respectable selection of cured meats and not surprisingly, the bulk of our purchase that day was from that counter and the cheese section that I covet. And yes, fresh ricotta packaged in something appropriately called a “traditional ricotta tin” is sold there as well. Our apartment is now safe.

This little picnic is the result of our happy day at Iavarone Brothers:

                                                 Tuscan Picnic

Going counter clockwise from the bottom half of the plate there are slices of mild black peppercorn flecked pepato cheese made by IB, sweet sopressata, and imported prosciutto. The crackers we already had in our pantry at home. Then there are slices of heaven from a wheel of fresh mozzarella rolled with prosciutto. The last item on the upper left hand corner is a caprese salad I put together using IB’s homemade lightly salted mozzarella. I layered thin slices of mozzarella with thin slices of vine-ripened tomato, basil, and a tiny sprinkling of salt and pepper. As with most salads in our house, I finished the stack with a drizzle of golden La Mozza olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I’d have to say, there are few indulgances better than having an Italian inspired picnic in the middle of the day with a glass of wine and my husband. Except (hint hint to Jason) maybe if it really were under the Tuscan sun 😉