Dieselboy is a veteran DJ and seasoned world traveler who has a healthy obsession with food, cocktails, and cooking. Track his globe-trotting food adventures here at First We Feast, and follow him on Twitter: @DJDieselboy.
For some reason, when people talk about the most delicious and satisfying Italian dishes, lasagna isn’t always the first thing that comes up. But when you think about how fucking amazing lasagna is, then you realize that maybe it should be.
Lasagna was one of those things that I ate from time to time throughout my life, but it never really blew me away. Garfield the cat loved it. I had almost no opinion. It wasn’t until I moved to NYC eight years ago that my mind really changed.
I had my first run in with true lasagna magic at a charming little wine bar in the East Village called “In Vino.” The version there, containing both pork and lamb and requiring a 20-minute cook time, kind of blew me away. Deeply flavorful and molten hot from the oven, it achieved that extra layer of flavor that only the best comfort food can provide. It was this particular experience that set me on the path to ordering lasagna any time I saw it on a restaurant’s menu. It was also, unbeknownst to me, the beginning of my quest for lasagna perfection.
Lasagna was one of those things that I ate from time to time throughout my life, but it never really blew me away. Garfield the cat loved it. I had almost no opinion.
Over the years since then, I probably tasted at least 50 different versions and variations of lasagna from spots all over the country. Some were made with beef, pork, lamb, veal, chicken, or no meat at all. Some had noodles “verde” (made with spinach) and others didn’t. I had lasagna from no-name cooks and lasagna from celebrated chefs. A few were memorable, but most were mediocre at best (and a few worthy of an apology and a refund).
One of the better versions I had was at the four-star Batali-Bastianich flagship, Del Posto, on Manhattan’s west side. They used to offer their insane hundred-layer lasagna as part of their tasting menu, but they were willing to serve up a piece for $35 as an evening special. This piece, cut into an inch-thick slice and laid on it’s side to reveal all of its layers, was an incredible sight to behold. Most of the pasta sheets were paper-thin and there were A LOT of them, hiding pockets of a fine ragù and dots of béchamel in their nooks and crannies.
The taste, however, left a bit to be desired. I like my lasagna big and bold and deeply satisfying. This was light and mild. Beautiful in appearance, but just not packing that giant savory punch I craved in lasagna. And so the quest continued.
Next: Finding the holy grail at Torrisi Italian Specialities…