Like most of the chefs and restaurant owners who shop our Markets, Rob Della Santina shops the perimeter of the store first, makes a beeline for produce and lingers in the seafood and meat departments, considering his options when it comes to feeding his family of five. Rob and his father, Dan Della Santina, are co-proprietors of Della Santina’s Trattoria on the Plaza, home of “Tuscan Soul Food,” while Rob and his wife, Nicole, run the adjacent wine bar, Enoteca Della Santina.
The restaurant business is 24/7, so it’s a rare day when Rob and the whole family get together over a meal. Rather than complicate things, Rob leans on the lessons of his father, who came to the U.S. from Lucca, Italy more than 50 years ago: keep it simple, choose the best meat and produce available, and always have extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and seasonal herbs on hand.
One thing that is always top of mind for both Rob and Nicole is the fact that their 14-year-old son has serious food allergies to dairy, nuts and sesame, so they make most things from scratch to avoid hidden allergens in foods, and always ask the butcher and the seafood counter to cut and bag Marco’s portions separately, a service that Sonoma Market is happy to provide.
Here are some highlights from Rob’s recent grocery shopping trip to Sonoma Market:
Produce: Rob chooses seasonal and local over organic, and prefers much of his produce grilled, including zucchini, corn and asparagus. Local and colorful carrots are great for braising, and brussel sprouts roasted with pancetta are favorites.
Heirloom tomatoes, in season, always make the cut.
When it comes to Seafood, again, simple rules the day. Rob makes his own cocktail sauce with lemon, ketchup, horseradish, lime and salt, and adds mesquite chips to the grill just like his father taught him. Rob says Scottish farmed salmon is a good value when buying for the family, and recommends grilling in a hot iron skillet with a white wine reduction. Other picks include scallops, Ono and Ahi (sushi grade – seared with a pepper crust and served with soy and wasabi).
In the Meat department – Rob raves about Mary’s air chilled chicken breasts, lamb, and when he’s on the go, pork tenderloin already marinated in wine and garlic. He will often dry-rub meat with a mix of cumin, celery seed, brown sugar, salt, and red chile. When he’s in the mood to splurge, Rob likes nothing better than a dry-aged, bone-in ribeye, heavily peppered to tenderize the steak once it is grilled. Rob says, “whatever you do, don’t sauce it!”
As he made his way through the Market, a few discoveries and a few standbys caught Rob’s eye: Dino Buddies (gluten free chicken nuggets) for his son, and Califia Farms unsweetened almond milk for Rob. Capers, balsamic vinegar, Sagra Olive Oil (Italian, and the closest he’s found to what he loves in Italy), Illy and Lavazza Coffees, and kosher salt are kitchen staples.
Scanning the frozen cases, Rob was happy to see frozen quail, which he would flat grill, and use the bones for making stock. A new Italian polenta caught his eye, as did just about everything in the imported cheese case.
Finally, no trip to the Market is complete without a quick peek at the Imported Wines section, where Rob will often pick up a bottle or two of something French, Spanish or Italian, to see if it might be something he’d want to bring into the Enoteca’s “No Ordinary Wine Club.” Salute!
Thanks Rob! We love seeing what’s in your basket.