Calogero Soldano was a teenager when his father Jack opened Casa Antica, an Italian restaurant in Lewiston.
“I was still in high school,” Calogero Soldano. “I was the little kid looking over the counter in the restaurant, always watching and learning.”
He noticed that customers were “always asking for peppers.” What they meant were Buffalo-style stuffed peppers, long yellow chiles filled with a cheese-and-crumb mixture with herbs, and sometimes sausage. They are inescapable on the Italian restaurant menus of Western New York, and the menus of a fair portion of nominally nationless restaurants, to boot.
However, the Soldanos did not grow up with them. “We’re from New York City, and that’s not on the standard menu in New York,” he said. He’s eaten his share, and enjoyed them, but “we wanted to do something different, put our spin on it. So we started playing around in the kitchen, me and my father, and we came up with the final product we have today.”
The not-Buffalo-style stuffed pepper the Soldanos came up with wasn’t oozing cheese with every cut. At Casa Antica, Hungarian yellow peppers are sliced open, and the seeds are removed. Then they’re stuffed with Genoa salami and three cheeses. Instead of ricotta, mozzarella or blue cheeses, the Soldanos use thin slices of hard imported Italian cheese. “It’s not shredded cheese,” he said. “We slice them so it stays more durable.”
Pecorino romano is among them, he said, declining to elaborate further. “Just enough cheese so you get it in every bite.”
Then the peppers are grilled “to put some nice grill marks on them,” he said, “plus the grill adds a little bit more flavor, a smokiness.” To make sure the cheese and salami is nicely married together, the peppers go into the oven for about five minutes.
Done? No. Soldano lays out three to five peppers, depending on their size, on a plate. Then applies a white sauce of cream, more of those three cheeses, a touch of sun-dried tomatoes and herbs. An order is $12.
They have been on the menu in Lewiston ever since their debut. Soldano-style peppers from Casa Antica were honored at Taste of Buffalo in the early 2000s. “Everyone fell in love with it,” he said.
Info: Casa Antica, 490 Center St., Lewiston (754-2581)