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The Italian Table

Chef Joey Trani Shares Recipes Inspired by His Upbringing on the Italian Island of Ischia

Want to feel like you’ve stepped into an episode of “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy?” Order anything on the menu at Basilico in Raritan, and you’ll be getting a taste of what you’d be served in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, Italy. 

The dishes are the creations of Giuseppe (Joey) Trani, who co-owns Basilico with fiancé Kari LaSpisa. Trani, who was born in born in Princeton and moved to Ischia as a young child, attended culinary school and owned a restaurant there for 10 years before returning to New Jersey 30 years later, in 2013. Over the past decade, the Hillsborough couple owned and operated numerous restaurants, but longed for a special place to plant roots for an authentic Italian restaurant. 

“We were looking for a walking town close to home,” says LaSpisa, who was born and raised in Hillsborough. “Joey’s family had restaurants. He wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. Our goal was to serve fresh, made-from-scratch food inspired by his upbringing: dishes that you could actually find if you went to Italy.” For example, LaSpisa notes, expect a lot of fresh cherry tomatoes and basil. 

“The dishes are always cooked at the moment, never premade,” she says. “It’s Joey himself cooking the food—it’s a one-man show back there.”

View the menu at basiliconj.com

Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca

Olive oil

1 garlic clove 

Basil

2 oz olives (green or kalamata)

2 oz capers

2 anchovies 

1 can cherry tomatoes 

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmigiano-Reggiano (for serving)

In saucepan, heat olive oil and garlic clove (keeping clove intact to remove before eating), add remaining ingredients except for tomatoes. 

After 3 minutes, add can of cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper then simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Anchovies should be melted into sauce. 

Discard garlic clove. Add cooked spaghetti and toss to coat. 

Serve with Parmigiano-Reggiano. 

Al Limone

3/4 c heavy cream

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Lemon zest

Salt and pepper to taste 

1/3 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 

Handful of arugula 

1/8 c pignoli (pine nuts)

In saucepan, heat heavy cream with lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. 

Simmer until it starts to thicken and slightly reduce. 

Add cheese, arugula and pignoli and stir together. 

Toss with cooked pasta of your choice.

*Measurements for 1 serving.

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