Tasty restaurant gossip

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Vegetarian treat

Gravesend personal chef Roberta Roberti challenges the conventional wisdom of Italian-Americans — namely that their vegetarian offspring will starve to death — with her new cookbook, “What, No Meat?: Traditional Italian Cooking, the Vegetarian Way.”

The new guide has pages of inspiration for all of your vegetarian friends hungry for dishes centered on something besides tofu, yet, not surprisingly, you won’t find a recipe here for meatballs.

The genesis for Roberti’s cookbook took root when her sibling Fabio announced he was a vegetarian in 1986.

“When my brother declined the main entree, someone would invariably say, ‘What, no meat?’ Year after year, the question was put to him,” recalled Roberti in her preface. “While the idea of excluding meat from their diets may seem strange to Italians — frightening, even — the truth is they wouldn’t miss it that much, for many traditional Italian dishes are vegetarian.”

Roberti incorporates many of her own family’s recipes, brought with them from Basilicata or Naples. The recipes are often accompanied by preparation and entertaining tips — such as which dishes can be made in advance — and interesting factoids about the ingredients that you can discuss over dinner.

“What, No Meat?: Traditional Italian Cooking, the Vegetarian Way” ($22.95 paperback, $16.95 e-book) is available from the publisher, For more information, contact author Roberta Roberti at

Real deal

If you’re craving real Mexican food, then visit Hecho En Dumbo [111 Front St. at Washington Street in DUMBO, (718) 855-5288] from Sept. 8 through Sept. 15, when the eatery will participate in New York’s Authentic Mexican Restaurant Week.

Chef Daniel Mena has put together a diverse selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts to complete their three-course, $35 prix-fixe dinner.

Customers have a choice of “chicharron” (housemade pork rinds) or “cheese chicharron,” which Mena describes as “toasted cheese that gets crispy [like the rinds].” For the main course, Mena recommends the “cecina,” which are “thin strips of beef and pork, that are salt-cured, air-dried, then pan–fried for one minute” or the flank steak, which according to Mena, is imported from Mexico, and is hormone free.

For the grand finale, Hecho en Dumbo offers a coconut torte, little cakes topped with citrus caramel and seasonal fruits.

Hecho En Dumbo will be open from 6 pm till midnight, from Sept. 8 to Sept. 15. At other times, they are open Monday through Wednesday, from 6 pm to 10:30 pm and Thursday through Saturday, from 6 pm to midnight. Closed Sundays.

Basket case

If you give Abigail Hitchcock, chef and owner of Abigail’s Cafe & Wine Bar [807 Classon Ave. at St. Johns Avenue in Crown Heights, (718) 399-3200] a couple of days notice, you never have to be one sandwich short of a picnic!

Open since late May, Abigail’s now offers homemade picnic baskets. For $15, you get one sandwich — such as the artichoke melt or the Dijon roast chicken, one or two salads (the chickpea is a favorite), a dessert and a beverage.

The best part is that Hitchcock’s to-go containers aren’t limited to warm weather. Hitchcock told GO Brooklyn that “the idea is to have prepared meals year-round.”

Posted 6:38 pm, September 4, 2008
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