Memorial Day is so close you can taste it. If you find yourself flummoxed about what to make, you feel tired of dogs and burgers, or you just want to relax and need a theme, think: Italian. Chef Angie Rito, one of our Williams Sonoma Chefs’ Collective superstars, hails from Cleveland, where she spent a ton of time at her family’s Italian bakery. Her Sicilian grandpa and Naples-born grandmother had a huge influence on her palate and development as a cook.
Angie has worked at some of the best restaurants in New York, and nowadays, she’s know for her work at Quality Italian and its sibling restaurants. Her menus bristle with flavor. Think: tuna carpaccio with crispy garlic gremolata, and dover sole with cured lemons and hazelnut brown butter.
Because Italians know how to do summer pretty much better than anyone else (aside from the French, who promptly abandon their cities in favor of the country and seaside for much of the season), we wanted to hear what she might do for Memorial Day grilling. The results are nothing short of ZOMG. So kick things off with a super-simple Italian cocktail, wrap with a frosty watermelon-basil granita, and love your life. Angie’s sticky Campari and orange ribs and avocado-studded warm potato salad are dreamboats, and will be epic centerpieces for the smallest or largest festivities. Here are her recipes. Thanks, Angie!
To celebrate summer, Angie Rito loves to make ribs with a sticky Campari and orange glaze that’s reminiscent of some of her favorite crisp aperitivo-style beverages that she has enjoyed al fresco during summers in Italy. If you prefer, you can simply cook the ribs in a 300°F (150°C) oven for about 2 hours rather than putting them on the grill.
For the ribs:
- 2 racks baby back ribs, 3 to 4 lb. (1.5 to 2 kg) total
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 finely grated garlic cloves
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the Campari-orange glaze:
- 2 Tbs. vegetable oil or other neutral oil
- 1 garlic head, cloves finely chopped
- 1 Tbs. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) orange juice, strained of pulp
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) Campari
- 1 cup (8 oz./250 g) sugar
- 1 cup (12 oz./375 g) honey
- 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 1 orange, cut into half-moons
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill (about 300°F/150°C).
Rinse the ribs with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Using a clean, dry kitchen towel, remove the membrane on the underside of the racks by pulling gently; it should come off in one piece.
In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, garlic, ground ginger, orange zest, 3 Tbs. salt and 2 tsp. pepper. Rub the ribs all over with the spice mixture and wrap each rack in a double thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the foil-wrapped ribs on the grill, meaty side up, cover the grill and cook for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Add the garlic, fresh ginger and 2 Tbs. salt and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the garlic is fragrant and just turning pale gold, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the orange juice, vinegar, Campari, sugar and honey and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce is reduced by about three-fourths, 35 to 45 minutes. Large bubbles should appear, and the sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Stir in the lemon juice. You should have 1 1/2 to 2 cups (12 to 16 fl. oz./375 to 500 ml) of thick, sticky sauce. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Remove the ribs from the grill and check for doneness—a cake tester or the tip of a sharp knife should slide easily into the meat. If not, rewrap the ribs and continue to cook until tender, 10 to 20 minutes more.
Let the ribs rest, still wrapped, until cool enough to handle. Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and cut between the bones into individual ribs. In batches if necessary, transfer the ribs to a large cast-iron pan, pour some of the glaze over them and heat over medium-low heat, tossing occasionally, until the ribs are well coated and the glaze is heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer the ribs to a platter, garnish with the orange slices and serve immediately. Leftover ribs can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Serves 4 to 6.
Angie and her husband Scott Tacinelli suggest using only the innermost ribs and leaves of the celery—those with a pale yellow color—which have a clean celery flavor and are more tender and less fibrous than the outer stalks. Dressing the potatoes while they’re still warm ensures that they soak up plenty of the flavorful dressing.
- 8 cups (64 fl. oz./2 l) cold water
- 2 lb. (1 kg) red new potatoes, halved
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane
- 1 Tbs. dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 cup (5 oz./155 g) diced celery, inner ribs and leaves only (4 or 5 inner ribs), plus 1/4 cup (1/4 oz./7 g) leaves for garnish
- 1 cup (3 oz./90 g) thinly sliced green onions
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
- 3/4 tsp. sugar
- 1 avocado
In a pot over medium-high heat, combine the water, potatoes and 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and 2 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the oregano and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, taking care to prevent burning.
Pour the olive oil–garlic mixture over the hot potatoes. Add the diced celery, green onions, lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar and sugar. Using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, stir vigorously until some little bits of the potatoes break off and emulsify with the oil, creating a slightly creamy texture, about 1 minute. Most of the potatoes should remain intact.
Just before serving, halve and pit the avocado, then cut the flesh into 1/2-inch (12-mm) cubes. Gently fold the avocado into the potato salad. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Transfer the potato salad to a serving bowl or individual plates, garnish with the celery leaves and serve at room temperature. Leftover potato salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Serves 4 to 6.
Recipes reprinted from © Italian American by Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli with Jamie Feldmar, Clarkson Potter, 2021