Mussels-and-sausage dish is quick and easy to prepare
From the July 2019 issue
Italian American cuisine has become remarkably diverse. Consider the Italian restaurants at the beach. There are the family-friendly favorites that offer heaping plates of ravioli and brick-sized portions of lasagna. But there are also upscale eateries better known for burrata with black truffles and grilled fish than fettuccini Alfredo.
You’ll find a plethora of pizza parlors that sell affordable pasta, and, more recently, restaurants that put an upscale touch on pizza pies.
“There are so many Italian restaurants at the beach,” says Nina Maddox, the executive chef of Crust & Craft, located near Midway Shopping Center. And she’s determined to stand out in the crowd. “I know how to cook Italian,” Maddox says with confidence.
Her experience started in 1999 when she got a job at Tamburelli’s in Greenwood, owned by Giuseppe (Joe) Randazzo, a Sicilian immigrant. She spent 11 years there soaking up the industry and the cuisine.
“Joe taught me everything — front of the house, back of the house,” she says. “I started part time to get my feet wet, and I wound up managing the kitchen and dining room.”
In May 2017, Maddox moved to Lupo Italian Kitchen, which is owned by SoDel Concepts. The Rehoboth Beach restaurant’s menu includes elevated Italian dishes such as grilled swordfish, whole branzino, and linguini and clams with tarragon-Gorgonzola butter.
In February 2019, SoDel Concepts purchased Crust & Craft, which is known for pizzas with a slightly blistered edge, the hallmark of cooking in a wood-burning oven. Since Maddox knows her way around a pizza oven, she was the natural choice to replace founder Brenton Wallace, who was the chef and previous owner. “It was home for me because that’s where I came from — the kind of food your grandma makes,” she says.
Crust & Craft — also known for its craft beer selection — is more than pizza. The pan-roasted mussels, for instance, are among the most popular appetizers.
When you make this dish at home, you can use any type of canned or boxed tomato. “You just want good quality,” says Maddox, who prefers the Stanislaus brand. If you can’t stand the heat, use a mild sausage.
To serve as an entree, double the recipe and serve over your favorite pasta.
Pan-Roasted Mussels with Spicy Sausage
(serves 6 as an appetizer)
Extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound of Italian spicy sausage
5 pounds of mussels, cleaned, beards removed
1 cup of white wine
1 quart of Stanislaus tomatoes, diced and peeled
2 ounces of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
Generous pinch of salt and pepper
Toasted Italian bread for serving
Heat a large saucepan on the stove (it should be deep enough to hold the mussels and have a lid). Coat the pan with the oil. Add the garlic and the sausage. Cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the sausage. Add the mussels and wine. Cover until the mussels begin to open. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cover for five minutes. To serve, scoop the mussels with the sausage and sauce into bowls. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with toasted Italian bread.