It’s All About the Moz

Citizen Brooklyn enjoys fresh mozzarella at Sergimmo Salumeria

Interview by Lora Wiley - Video and photos by Raoul Beltrame

CBK Sergimmo Salumeria from Citizen Brooklyn on Vimeo.

When you walk into family owned and operated Sergimmo Salumeria  on Ninth Avenue in Manhattan, the first thing you notice is the giant chalkboard on the wall with the hand drawn map of Italy and listings of all the amazing panini combinations. With all the delectable choices, my stomach immediately started rumbling drowning out the sounds of midtown traffic and my mind wandered to all the beautiful and delicious places to visit in Italy.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Greeted by owner Sergio, I was swooning even before sampling fresh mozzarella. The smile, the sweater, the charm, the old world manners and movie star looks. Sigh. I heart Italy. Taking him up on his immediate offer of espresso/cappuccino, a plate of his mother’s homemade lemon drop cookies pushed towards me and in no time flat, one was in my mouth. Manga.

This is a restaurant in the family sense of the word. It is family owned and operated and customers become like La Famiglia, most greeted by name.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Restaurant owner, Sergio Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Once properly fortified (thanks to mama’s melt in your mouth cookies) we forged ahead to the main attraction, making the fresh mozzarella. Sergio cut up blocks of cow’s milk curd sourced from upstate NY(” pasteurized and safe for pregnant ladies”). Making sure to separate each block into even pieces, Sergio then massaged the curd and rotated it into three different hot water baths varying in specific temperatures. His father taught him this trade when he was 10 years old, so there was no need to measure the water. From experience, he could tell by feel if each bath was the proper temperature adding invisible measurements of salt to the water and careful not to overcook it. “Just like pasta, too much time in hot water can take the flavor out of it.”

To finish, he added some cold water to shock it and prevent the cheese from cooking further. Aside from a thermometer, another tool Sergio forgoes is the large spatula commonly used in making mozzarella. His father told him, “always with the hands” for the best results.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

While he was bathing the cheese, I chatted up suave Sergio about how he came to be: sitting in a beloved midtown panini palace with his hands in hot water massaging cow curd.

Sergio’s father started a cheese making business when he was a kid back in Palermo, Sicily. When he made the move to the USA, he opened up his first Salameria in Astoria, Queens. Making fresh mozzarella for the whole Astoria neighborhood. His father loved to sing while making the cheese. Sergio did not inherit his father’s vocal talent but still pictures his father making mozzarella and singing while he’s making mozzarella himself. This is a family tradition that connects generations. Generations of cheese makers. Back in Sicily, Sergio’s grandfather is 84 years old and still making fresh mozzarella and ricotta. He has cows on his land where he personally sources the curd for his cheeses.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Every summer Sergio goes back to Sicily to apprentice with his grandfather who always has tips to impart for making traditional Sicilian cheeses and fresh pasta. In this way, Sergio renews his connections to his roots and brings back to the restaurant more traditions and recipes for making authentic foods from scratch.

When in Sicily, Sergio gets up at 7am to go to the beach, his grandmother already long in the kitchen preparing food for that day’s afternoon family meal where everyone shares what’s going on in their lives, both good and bad. Sampling sauces at sunrise before breakfast is common, and no one is allowed to miss a meal.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Customers often ask Sergio how he stays so thin, working around all this delicious cheese and food. He swears it’s the mozzarella. He eats a ball of it a day.

In no time at all, the cow’s milk curd is sensuously and expertly massaged into creamy luscious mozzarella. He holds out a piece for tasting and I die right there and go to heaven.

Sergio laughs, “I do make a banging mozzarella, not to offend anyone but it’s the best in NY.

This is the common denominator for the rest of the menu at Sergimmo Salumeria. Of the umpteen panini combinations listed on the chalkboard wall, most or all are made with mozzarella crafted by Sergio which he does several times a day. This luscious fresh cheese is also included in many of the other dishes served at Sergimmo Salumeria like pastas and appetizers. Selling it fresh makes a big difference to his customers who sometime just order the mod straight up.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Their most popular panini is the VIP containing Prosciutto di Parma (“always di parma”), Fresh mozzarella, figs, olive oil, arugula, balsamic, vinegar and sea salt. Sergio slices off some of the fresh mozzarella and quickly makes up a VIP for sampling. Once again, I die. Enlightened this time, immediately comprehending why people line up out the door daily for this specialty.

Located between Penn Station and Port Authority, Sergimmo Salumeria is a must visit. Perfect for picking up a special meal to go for a long bus or train ride. if you have a layover or lunch hour, order that VIP, sit down and enjoy the hospitality. Tell Sergio CBK sent you.

Sergimmo Salumeria
456 Ninth Avenue (between 35th and 36th Streets)
New York, NY 10018

2 Responses to “It’s All About the Moz”

  1. Joey says:

    The best place in new york city ..

  2. Joey says:

    The best paninis new york city ..