At Luca Brasi's, the cozy corner deli on Park Avenue and First Street in downtown Hoboken, "mutz" is what's for breakfast, lunch and dinner.The "mutz," or fresh mozzarella, is prepared daily by award-winning executive chef and co-owner Jeff Dello Stritto, who for more than four years has provided Hobokenites with arguably the best "mutz" around, with his brother Stephen. In fact, Dello Stritto's "mutz" has won several contests from various statewide food publications in recent years.
"We're proud of our mozzarella. Our goal is for the customer to be satisfied," Dello Stritto said. "A lot of people come here asking about our 'mutz.' So maybe the word is getting around."
The small Italian deli has a few tables in the dining room for patrons to enjoy their sandwiches, and an outdoor café during the summer months. Dello Stritto's specialties include chicken cheesesteak ($5.49), chicken cutlet ($4.75), meatball parmigiana ($4.25), Virginia ham and cheddar cheese ($6.99), and signature sandwiches like the Johnny Roast Beef ($5.99), and the Sweet Marie ($4.99). They also offer salads, appetizers and pasta dishes.
When he was little, Dello Stritto's family always prepared mozzarella during big functions. He observed his mother and aunts in the kitchen, and eventually started making his own "mutz." After a few jobs at local restaurants, he took over Luca Brasi's and focused on making the best possible mozzarella.
"The 'mutz' has to be perfect. You need to know how much to put in to maximize the taste," he said.
During a recent visit to the deli, I enjoyed an order of mozzarella sticks ($4.99), and antipasto ($5.99) with rolled ham, provolone and roasted peppers. For the main course I tried the popular Little Petee sandwich ($5.49), recommended by Dello Stritto. Served with pepperoni, sun-dried tomatoes, and a ton of fresh mozzarella, this large sandwich was ideal for a power-lunch with friends or a modest casual dinner at home.
Dello Stritto would not say how he prepares the "mutz" in the kitchen, just like a magician does not reveal his secrets. But he did stress that the most important thing with mozzarella is to keep it fresh.
Other large sandwiches include the Luca Brasi ($5.25), served with Italian tuna and mozzarella, and the Big Paulie ($5.99), served with prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella.
"Mozzarella is one of the most important elements in Italian food. Everything has to have 'mutz.' Some families are known for how good they can make their 'mutz,'" he said.
Luca Brasi's is located at 100 Park Ave. in Hoboken. They deliver and are open seven days a week. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. For information call (201) 217-9960. Dello Stritto's second location is in Wood-Ridge at 261 Hackensack St. q