Maybe you make regular trips to the Bronx to eat meatballs. Maybe you grew up down the block from an Italian grocer in New Jersey. No matter your red sauce background, Nicole Albano claims, you’ve never eaten anything like her grandmother’s cooking.
“I bet very few people, if any, in Charleston have ever experienced Italian-American food like this,” says Albano, who’s spearheading a pop-up Butcher & Bee dinner with Ann Albano at the stove. “Though there are very good Italian restaurants in Charleston, and plenty of relocated northeast Italian Americans from New York, Boston and Philadelphia, I would say that most are likely more familiar with Italian-American restaurant food.”
By contrast, Albano says, her “nan” works in a Depression-era idiom which prizes versatile, belly-filling dishes. Although the menu for the Oct. 27 event hasn’t yet been finalized, Albano’s specialties include fried zucchini, stuffed artichokes and chicken parmigiana.
“Even in New York and New Jersey, everyone commented that her food was unique and special,” Albano says.
Now in her 80s, Ann Albano two years ago relocated to Mt. Pleasant with her husband, Joe. When granddaughter Nicole came from New York to visit, she frequently ate at Butcher & Bee.
“A few months ago, she mentioned to our owner, Michael Shemtov, that her grandmother is an avid cook,” the restaurant’s event coordinator, Nayda Freire, recalls. “He invited her to think about partnering up on a dinner with us, and the rest is history.”
“While she hasn’t cooked for the public before, Nicole and (her sister) Katie assure us that their grandmother has decades of experience cooking for crowds,” Freire adds.