This dish was one of the personal specialties of Dominic “Frex” Calarco.
The recipe was challenged in 1999 by the assistant chef of the MGM Grand Hotel (Las Vegas)
To meet the challenge, the chef was invited to the Boomerang Club for a cook-off competition. The chef, who’s name was Spilatro, brought with him a framed rendering of his grand-fathers restaurant…”Patsy’s”, which was located at the corner of Grand Ave and Ogden Ave, just a few blocks from the Boomerang Club. Patsy’s later became “Calarco’s” (owned and operated by my uncle Joe Calarco).
The challenge was on. Both chef’s prepared their specialty and the judges were selected for a blind test.
I’m proud to say, my dad won, hands down.
The recipe was never written down, so here it is as dictated by the man himself.
“Well, first you have to buy the octopus from the right place. On Hubbard street, there’s a wholesale seafood distributor. Just go in there and tell them you need about 5 pounds of baby Octopus for the “club”, on Grand and May. If you run into problems, just mention “Frex” or “Mike”.
The octopus will be whole, but deveined. So you have to cut the heads off and remove the ink “pill”. Its a small thing about the size of a large aspirin, just behind the head. use your thumb to just roll it out. You don’t want that in your sauce.
Cut the meat into bite sized slices and wash them thoroughly.
Using a pressure cooker or a steamer, steam the meat until it is nice and tender. 20 to 30 minutes or more.
Once finished, set aside.
Start with large (320z or 64 oz) cans of whole, imported Italian Plum Tomatoes with Basil. (depending on how much you are going to make)
Put them in an Osterizer and give them a few shots, just to loosely chop them. Don’t turn them to liquid.
Chop as much garlic as you like. The more the better, but to your liking. You’ll know by the second time you make it if you used too much or not enough.
Finely chop two large onions
Pour about a 1/4 cup of olive oil in the bottom of a large, deep put and saute the garlic and onions together.
Don’t let the garlic burn and cook the onions until they are clear.
Add the tomatoes. Sprinkle ground pepper on the top of the tomatoes (NO SALT) and bring the mixture to a boil.
Lower the heat and low simmer for about 20 – thirty minutes.
Drop in the Octopus and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Drop in a handful or more of fresh spinach (no stems, just leaves) let simmer 3 more minutes.
Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese, slice the bread, pour the wine and get out of the way. If you put your arms on the table, these guys will eat them.
Serve solo or with Linguine, Fettuccine or Angel Hair”
(Word for word)