Sal Baldanza, one of four brothers from Calabria, Italy, who own Mr. Sausage in Huntington, is an expert when it comes to ravioli making. He used to go through 70-100 dozen ravioli a week five years ago when he used a distributor who only offered 10 different kinds.
For Valentine’s Day, Sal would order several boxes of heart shaped ravioli, and customers seemed to really like it. One year they ran out, but customers were still coming in asking for them. Sal’s brother Joe told Sal that he had to do something. He had to make more. So Sal went to the supermarket, bought a heart shaped cookie cutter, and made a dough using semolina flour and eggs. He wanted his ravioli to be all natural, so instead of using red food coloring, he dyed the dough pink with tomato paste. The customers loved them!
“It was at that point that I said, wait a minute… I can make ravioli here,” says Sal. “I started small, making six to seven dozen ravioli a week in the back. I started getting more and more requests for them, and I wanted to experiment with different flavors. When we did some renovations in the store, we made room for a ravioli station. I have a nice, big work space now, and customers coming into the store can watch how the ravioli are made.”
Some of Sal’s more unique recipes include a carbonara ravioli made with pancetta, sautéed onion and garlic, egg, fresh ricotta, fresh parsley and parmigiano reggiano.
What started out small has really grown. Sal makes ravioli daily, averaging about 300 dozen a week. That amount quadruples during Christmas week. Sal offers 250 different types of ravioli, and is always thinking up new flavors.
“The most popular is my short rib ravioli,” says Sal, “and I recommend purchasing the sauce I braise the meat in. It’s really delicious.”
Their next big seller is lobster ravioli, which Sal recommends serving with a pink champagne sauce. His plain cheese ravioli is made with fresh ricotta and can be served with his homemade filetto di pomodoro sauce. Other varieties include spinach ravioli; artichoke heart ravioli; mozzarella, tomato and basil; 10-cheese or five-cheese ravioli or chicken or eggplant parmesan ravioli. The list goes on and on.
Some of Sal’s more unique recipes include a carbonara ravioli made with pancetta, sautéed onion and garlic, egg, fresh ricotta, fresh parsley and parmigiano reggiano. Oven roasted tomatoes with mozzarella bocconcini is another popular item, as is the shrimp scampi ravioli. “The shrimp scampi ravioli is unbelievable,” says Sal, “You really taste the butter and garlic flavors. It’s all in there.”
Seasonal ravioli, such as pumpkin and butternut squash are big sellers in the fall. Sal recommends making a simple brown butter sage sauce, or special ordering his Frangelico sauce made with Frangelico liqueur, heavy cream and walnuts, and is finished with a crumble of amaretti cookies instead of parmesan.
Several restaurants on Long Island and in New York City have requested Sal’s ravioli, especially his short rib and the lobster ravioli.
Ravioli prices range from $8.99 a dozen for plain cheese, to $14.99 for the short rib or lobster. The average price for other varieties are from $9 to $12 a dozen. All ingredients are fresh and natural.
“Everyone is so happy with the ravioli,” says Sal. “Customers keep coming back for more. This past week I had two new customers coming all the way from Floral Park just to buy my ravioli.”
So celebrate National Ravioli Day with a trip to Mr. Sausage. You’ll want to celebrate ravioli every day.
This story was originally published in March 2015.