Taste of Manchester: Pagani's Manchester Caterers

As part of the Taste of Manchester 2014 Marketing Committee, Amy has volunteered to write short features on the participating restaurants and share them via our blog here.This year's Taste of Manchester will be held on Tuesday, May 13th from 5:30 to 9 p.m. See the TOM webpageFacebook page, or Twitter @TastyTownCT (#TOMCT2014) for more information.

For over 83 years, three generations of the Pagani family have been providing high quality food to Manchester residents. And this year, Pagani’s Manchester Caterers will bring samples of that food to the Taste of Manchester 2014

Pagani's specializes in Italian cuisine; case in point, they make their own homemade meat sauce (and we hear it's to die for). Nonetheless, their culinary offerings spread beyond the peninsula with items such as Swedish meatballs and Polish kielbasa, to name a few. Their storefront is located at 78 Maple Street in Manchester, CT, and they serve all of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts with a wide range of catering options to suit every need and budget. They are most well-known amongst local businesses for their "hot and cold 'pick-up' buffet." Yes, from buffet spreads to party platters to clambakes, not to mention full service dinners to order, Pagani’s aims to please. Wait-staff, serving utensils, and delivery are all available at additional costs.  

We had the chance to speak to Mr. Pagani during one of the brief moments he was not in the kitchen. He spoke about what they might serve at this year's Taste of Manchester: a nice Italian-style meatball with a side of pasta topped with their famous meat sauce. And we Manchesterians do love our Italian food. 

Pagani's easy-to-navigate website has all the information you need to plan your next catered event, including menus, photographs, and testimonials from customers. They can be reached by phone at 860.646.0037 or by emailing paganicaterers@yahoo.com. And to try before you buy? Well, come to the Taste of Manchester, of course!


Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India for French Fridays with Dorie

We truly enjoy being a part of the online food blogging community. We love having the opportunity to share recipes, tips, tricks, family traditions and stories about food and drink. Food is such a huge part of our lives. We are not the type of people who eat to live. Food is not just fuel for us. Rather, it is pleasure - not just the act of eating delicious food, but also the act of creating it and sharing it. It's how we experience other cultures. It's how we show our love and caring. And it's great to be in a "club" with others who feel that way.

That's why we joined French Fridays with Dorie, a group of cooks who all make the same recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table each week. Although we don't have the time to participate as often as we would like, this week we just had to find the time. It was a good week to do so, as the recipe was quite simple and easily made with a few basic kitchen ingredients. And also, because even though it's the end of March, it's still as cold and briskly windy as mid-January around here! So this week we, along with others around the world, made "Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India," accented with such warming spices as garam masala, turmeric and red pepper. Perfect for this terrible weather!

We won't post Dorie's recipes here, as we'd rather encourage people to buy the book. The stories that go along with her recipes are entertaining, the pictures gorgeous, and it's a great big book filled with plenty of amazing recipes, making it well worth the cost. But this week, there's a loophole, in that Bill Daley of Tribune Newspapers did a feature on online cooking communities and in the feature, he included this very recipe. Here is the link to that article, and a longer version of the article can be found hereBon appetit! 


Taste of Manchester: Hartford Road Pizza

As part of the Taste of Manchester 2014 Marketing Committee, Amy has volunteered to write short features on the participating restaurants and share them via our blog here.This year's Taste of Manchester will be held on Tuesday, May 13th from 5:30 to 9 p.m. See the TOM webpageFacebook page, or Twitter @TastyTownCT (#TOMCT2014) for more information. 

We were thrilled to discover Hartford Road Pizza during the 2012 Taste of Manchester event, and it has been part of our local restaurant repertoire ever since. And really, that's what the Taste of Manchester is all about -- having the opportunity to discover, or re-discover, all the local gems we are so fortunate to have right here in the City of Village Charm. 

Hartford Road Pizza is one of those gems. It's a family-owned operation that serves up delicious Italian food made with family recipes gathered for over 40 years. Their pizzas are fabulous, with a crunchy, chewy crust and a variety of toppings both common and not-so-common. Take, for instance, their Spaghetti and Meatball pizza - spaghetti and sliced meatballs coated in spaghetti sauce and topped with parmesan and mozzarella cheese. On a pizza! So clever! Or this one, topped with the more traditional mushrooms and peppers. Looks like the perfect pie.

Pizza with mushrooms and peppers

Hartford Road Pizza also serves up plenty of appetizers perfect for sharing such as salads, wings, and something they call a "fried mozzarella block" that puts everyone else's puny cheese sticks to shame. Italian dinners (served with a tossed salad and fresh rolls) also grace the menu, and the portions are huge. Amy stopped in earlier this evening to try their stuffed shells (she had a craving, Chris doesn't like them, and frankly, they are a pain in the neck to make). They were delicious, and there was plenty left for lunch tomorrow. They also serve calzones, grinders, lunch specials, and there's a kids' menu for the little ones. 

Fresh tossed salad

Fried Mozzarella Block

Stuffed Shells

The atmosphere is casual and cozy. The hostess greets customers as if they are old friends, which many of them seem to be. She let us in on their plan for this year's Taste of Manchester (and yes, they have participated in every one of them). They will be serving their famous pasta fagiole that they make fresh every day, and which they "sells gallons and gallons of." Amy got a small tasting and thinks they probably sell more than that. They will also have squares of their award-winning spinach, potato, sausage and cheese pizza for people to sample. We can't wait to try it!

Pasta Fagiole

Hosmer Soda

They are located at 250 Hartford Road, on the curve in the road across from the mills. Patio dining is open when the weather is suitable, and beer and wine are available, as is a variety of flavors of locally made Hosmer soda. They are closed on Monday, but open all other days for lunch and dinner. Free delivery is also available. They can be reached at 860.432.8800, and their menu is posted at their website.

Hartford Road Pizza on Urbanspoon


Sausage Bread for Secret Recipe Club

Time sure does fly, doesn't it? It seems we just made some Cuban Pork in our slow cooker for February's Secret Recipe Club, and here we are already with Reveal Day upon us. By the way, participants in Secret Recipe Club are assigned another food blogger and choose one of their (always amazing) recipes to make and post. This month we were assigned Jamie who writes Cookin' with Moxie.

Jamie is Italian, and many (but certainly not all) of her recipes are as well. We love her "Random Recipe" tab which, when clicked, brings you to one of her recipes. Randomly. So very fun! We clicked on it, and voila! Sausage Bread appeared.

It may have seemed random, but in actuality, it was pure destiny. You see, Amy had just last weekend taken a cooking class featuring stuffed breads (we will be posting about it soon, promise), and Jamie's Sausage Bread version seemed both tasty and simple. Plus, Jamie calls this recipe a "family tradition." One of the things we love most about Secret Recipe Club is connecting with other food bloggers and sharing those food stories and traditions. And finally, this recipe that featured sausage as a main ingredient gave us a reason to use this beautiful Green Valley Farm Berkshire Pork Hot Italian Sausage we found at the final winter Ellington Farmers Market

We made the sausage bread according to Jamie's instructions and brought it to dinner at the neighbors to enjoy as an appetizer. Everyone pounced on it and not only was it gone very quickly, but all pronounced it tasty, delicious, and yummy. It just may become a tradition of our own! Next time, though, we will be more careful about shaping the bread. Ours got a little bulky in the middle. 

Sausage Bread


1 lb. store-bought pizza dough
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 lb. ground Italian sausage (hot or sweet)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. spread a tablespoon of the olive oil onto a cookie sheet. Stretch out and form pizza dough to fit the size of the cookie sheet and set aside. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and cook the sausage until crumbled and cooked through. Place sausage, both cheeses, egg and pepper in a large bowl and fold together. Top the center of the dough with the sausage mixture. Fold sides of dough to cover completely and overlap to form a seam. Turn the bread over so the seam side is down. Rub the dough with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, turning over halfway through cooking, until dough is golden brown. Cut into 1-inch slices and serve at room temperature (slightly cooled).

Take a look at our pizza sauce made by The Texan New Yorker and more Secret Recipe Club posts from Group C:


Taste of Manchester: Hilltop BBQ Downtown

As part of the Taste of Manchester 2014 Marketing Committee, Amy has volunteered to write short features on the participating restaurants and share them via our blog here.This year's Taste of Manchester will be held on Tuesday, May 13th from 5:30 to 9 p.m. See the TOM webpage, Facebook page, or Twitter @TastyTownCT (#TOMCT2014) for more information.

Relatively new to the Main Street, Manchester scene, and participating for the first time in the Taste of Manchester is Hilltop BBQ. This is the second location for Hilltop, the first being the wildly popular and award-winning Hilltop BBQ Steakhouse in Moodus. Owners Cindy and Ernie sure have awesome smokin' and grillin' skills. Whether you are looking for chicken, ribs (of many styles!), brisket, or pulled pork,  Hilltop is the place to be.

We had dinner here with some friends last Saturday on our way to an Irish pub night. Hilltop Downtown (as it is known) is a much smaller location than the one in Moodus, and there's no bar here. That said, you are welcome to BYOB which has its upside, and we took advantage of that by bringing in a couple of six packs of beer. There are plenty of soft drink choices available as well. The friendly server offered us a bottle opener and a bucket of ice once we settled in and delved into the menu. 

We started with an order of beer battered onion rings for the table. They were fluffy and crisp at the same time, as they should be. Our appetites whetted, each person made their dining choice. Bonus? All sandwiches and dinners come with a side dish, and there are 12 sides to choose from. There are also three different BBQ sauces along with all types of other condiments in a caddy on every table, so there is something for every taste at Hilltop Downtown

P was hungry and went for one of the combination choice platters, which feature any two meats served with cornbread and a side. He picked the Memphis ribs and brisket with collard greens, and said the greens were "killer!" C and C chose pulled pork sandwiches, L and D both noshed on perfectly charred rib ends, D also had some General Tsao wings, and A had rib ends with a lunch-sized mac-n-cheese side. Speaking of mac-n-cheese, Hilltop offers an entire Mac-n-Cheese menu with twelve varieties of the comfort food favorite, from original (with bacon) to truffle, to cheeseburger, and even a vegetarian style. Hollah!

If you love BBQ, wings (there are 17 flavors!) and/or mac-n-cheese, you have got to try Hilltop. They are open daily for lunch and dinner (hours vary slightly), and eat-in, take-out and catering are all available. More information can be found at their website or by calling them at 860-643-7427 (RIBS).

Hilltop BBQ on Urbanspoon


Irish Onion Soup for St. Patrick's Day

Of course you've heard of French Onion Soup. However, this is St. Patrick's Day weekend, and we needed something Irish. In the end, we found inspiration from an Italian - Michael Chiarello - with his Guinness and Onion Soup with Irish Cheddar Crouton. Confused yet?

To bring as an appetizer to C's family's annual St. Patrick's Day Irish Dinner of corned beef and cabbage, we toyed with the Food Network recipe and ended up with an Irish Onion Soup that was a big hit. What sets it apart from the French style soup is the pleasantly bitter, slightly sour taste imparted to the broth by the dark stout. Not to mention the sharp cheddar cheese melting over the bread on top. 

M's corned beef was amazingly tender and everyone ate their fill. Although we were nearly stuffed from all that good food, we managed to fit in one of L's Irish-Italian cookies (are we sensing a theme?) as well as one of M's clever shamrock treats made from pretzels, Rolos and M&Ms. So cute!!!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

Irish Onion Soup
(slightly adapted from here)

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons Kerrygold Irish Butter (divided)
5 cloves minced garlic
8 cups (about 5 medium-sized) thinly sliced white onions
kosher salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 12-ounce bottle Guinness stout
1 package (17.6-ounces) College Inn Bold Beef Stock
1 package (32 ounces) College Inn Fat Free and Lower Sodium Beef Broth
12 slices slightly stale baguette
12 pieces Kerrygold Reserve Cheddar

Heat oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a soup pot over high heat. Add garlic and onions and stir to coat. Season with salt and sugar and cook over high heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring often. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and reduce heat to medium. Cook another 15 minutes, stirring often, until onions are golden brown. Stir in thyme and vinegar and allow to cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Add beer and return heat to high. Bring to a boil and cook until amount of beer is reduced by half. Then add the stock and the broth. Bring to a simmer and cook another 15 minutes. Butter the baguette slices with the remaining tablespoon of butter and broil until light brown. Top each slice with a piece of cheddar and return to the broiler; broil until cheddar melts. Float a cheddary baguette slice in each bowl of soup. 


Taste of Manchester: Antonio's Pizza & Restaurant

As part of the Taste of Manchester 2014 Marketing Committee, Amy has volunteered to write short features on the participating restaurants and share them via our blog here.This year's Taste of Manchester will be held on Tuesday, May 13th from 5:30 to 9 p.m. See the TOM webpage, Facebook page, or Twitter @TastyTownCT (#TOMCT2014) for more information. 

Antonio's Pizza and Restaurant, 832 Main Street, Manchester, CT

Antonio's Pizza & Restaurant was one of the first places to participate in the Taste of Manchester shortly after they opened five years ago, so it is only fitting that they be the first restaurant featured in our series leading up to this year's event. Located at 832 Main Street, Antonio's is run by husband-and-wife-team Antonio (aka Tony) and Lucia who are of Greek descent. Tony does the cooking at the restaurant, including making his own red sauce and his famous chicken cutlet, known as "The Best Chicken Cutlet in Town." Lucia works a few nights a week, when she is not at her full-time teaching job, in which she has been teaching students food, nutrition, and regional recipes such as homemade ravioli and Greek cookies for nineteen years.

Cozy booths and tables

Beer and wine are served

Tony makes his own red sauce from scratch

We stopped in on a Monday night, and were happy to see Antonio's open when many other Main Street restaurants are closed. Chris ordered the gyro platter, and Amy got an order of Buffalo wings and a small pizza topped with pepperoni and hamburger. While we waited for our to-go order, we asked Tony what he plans to serve during this year's Taste of Manchester. His samples will likely include regular cheese pizza, white pizza, and his famous chicken cutlet with a side of penne pasta, topped with some of that red sauce, we hope! Our stomachs were growling just imagining it. 

Tony and Lucia are a husband-and-wife team

Turkey Club with fries and cole slaw

While there, we also met an Antonio's "regular," noshing on a generously portioned turkey club and fries, who told us he goes there often because of the "good food, good prices, and good people." We couldn't agree more. When our order was complete, we sped home to eat it up. The pizza had a beautifully crunchy, airy crust with just the right amount of sauce, cheese and delicious toppings. The gyro was filled with nicely seasoned lamb and beef, and was topped with tomato, onion, and a creamy and refreshing tzatziki sauce. The fries were crisp, the wings hot and spicy, and overall, we were happy and satisfied.

Buffalo Wings served with bleu cheese

Small pizza with pepperoni and hamburger

The Gyro Platter

Antonio's specializes in pizza, grinders, Italian dinners, gyros, and salads, but offers much more on their menu. The space is cozy, with booths lining the walls, a few tables in between, and a couple of televisions for entertainment's sake. Tony and Lucia are wonderful hosts, and are proud to be part of the Taste of Manchester, as well as all the other happenings that go on in town. They serve wine and beer, and there is a cooler filled with a variety of soft drinks. They are open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m to 10 p.m., and eat-in, take-out, delivery, and catering are all available. More information can be found at their website or by calling them at 860.646.7479.
Antonio's Pizza Restaurant on Urbanspoon