'Babbalucci' features Italian cuisine in Harlem

HARLEM (WABC) -- There is nothing like pizza in New York.

But in this week's "Neighborhood Eats" this pizza comes with a twist.

"Babbalucci" is located at 331 Lenox Avenue in Harlem.

"I got to see every aspect of the restaurant and gravitated toward the cooking side,"

Andrew Lo Presto's father owned pizzerias, so Andrew knows a thing or two about pizza, but it's cooking that he really loves and he's doing his thing at "Babbalucci".

"Some traditional Italian, Italian American, and my own twist on traditional Italian," Lo Presto said.

He features summer pasta with corn, lasagna featuring short rib ragu, pizza with unconventional toppings like Thai sausage or snails, which is what "Babbalucci" means. That's the term they use in Sicily, and there's usually a dish featuring fregola.

"Fregola is a semolina pasta that's toasted. It absorbs the broth, acts like small pasta you'd put in soup," Lo Presto said.

For his summer version, the fregola is served with seafood. Scallops and shrimp are seared first. Then lemon zest, basil and tomatoes are added to shallots and garlic, clams and mussels steam in that along with a splash of white wine. The shellfish is removed so the already cooked fregola can be added to that pan, and the fruti di mare goes on top.

"I was looking for somewhere vibrant and the food is great," a customer said.

A neighborhood spot in Andrew's own neighborhood of Harlem that's quickly gaining a following.

"The calzone is amazing, I go back to it," a customer said.

Recipe for Fregola ai frutti di mare

3 sea scallops
3 shrimp peeled and deveined
5 manilla clams
5 mussels
4oz. Fregola
4-5 grape tomatoes, halved
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 shallot, minced

Pinch red pepper flakes
Pinch lemon zest
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
2-3 oz. Dry white wine
Salt and pepper as needed
Olive oil as needed

Bring 2 quarts salted water to a boil, add fregola and cook to al dente about 8-9 minutes depending on pasta.
Heat up medium sized saute pan over high flame, season well scallops and shrimp with salt and pepper. Add oil to coat bottom of pan. When oil just starts to smoke add scallops and cook each side to caramelize, about 1 minute each side and remove from pan, set aside. Quickly sear shrimp, about 30 seconds each side and remove. Turn down flame and remove oil. Re coat pan and add tomatoes, garlic, shallot, lemon zest and red pepper flakes. Cook until garlic and shallots start to get color. Add mussels and clams, toss then remove pan from flame, add wine, cover and return to flame. When mussels and clams open return scallops, shrimp and drippings to pan. Add fregola and toss. Add pasta water if mixture seems dry, season to taste, finish with parsley and olive oil.
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