Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Utica Grind

If you have been reading my drivel for a while, then you will know that I have an enduring soft spot for the plucky polis that is the gem of Central NY. I am, of course, speaking of Utica, NY. We have covered Chicken Riggies, the city's eponymous Greens, and even had a few words about ol' Uncle Charlie (Utica Club). Did you know that Utica even has its own favored style of crushed red pepper? That's right folks, if you look around you may find "Crushed Red Pepper (Utica Grind)" or "Utica Style Crushed Red Pepper."

Apparently, as per the Avico Spice company website, around 1926-"Antonia Vitagliano demanded red pepper without the seeds. It became known as "Utica Grind" now an Avico Spice trademark." Should this post give you an especial jones for the stuff, then you can order the original off the Avico website here. Or you can just go over to Cardona's on Deleware as I did. Every time I buy one of Cardona's pre-packed items I admire the penmanship on the label, it has a certain flair.

Anyhow, as Avico states, the "Utica Grind" is dried/crushed red pepper without the seeds. The texture is a little finer then most commercial crushed red pepper brands, it reminds me of the skin from peanuts. It is all flaky, light and fluffy in a very pleasing sort of way. In terms of flavor, it adds a somewhat slower burn and a less aggressive heat with just a hint of red chili flavor to a dish. I have tried it cooked in pasta sauces and also dabbled in sprinkling it on various things and am becoming some what of Utica Style Red Pepper addict. I even mix the stuff with olive oil for bread dipping purposes, can you live at that speed?

It is one of those strange cases where a slightly different then usual preparation greatly alters the properties of an ingredient. Kind of like how the manner in which you choose chop, crush, or dice your garlic will impart different sorts of flavors to your finished product. It doesn't seem like the Utica grind should be all that different then what you probably have in your spice cabinate, but it is. All part of the myth, magic, and mystery of cuisine. Go get some and see if I am right.

I am scheduled to spend a couple weeks out in the Utica/Rome area come late March, so I am sure more discoveries are to be had. We shall see.


  1. I went to uticapizza ( i have no idea how to spell the actual name and dont feel like looking it up) last weekend and had a sausage, peppers, mushrooms, and anchovy pie. they had this pepper. it was excellent and the way they do their pizza is great. the thin layer of sausage above the crust and under the cheese - AMAZING!

  2. I have lived in Utica for 10 years and had never heard of this! Perhaps because it's in Albany. Now I have to go travel out there and find it.

  3. I also live in the Utica area, and haven't seen this, but I also wasn't looking for it.

    I'm thinking if it's going to be anywhere, it will be at Chanatry's. I'm going to go looking for it the next time I'm in there! Thanks!

  4. Just followed the link to Avico Spices. I'm GOING! *grin*

  5. FYI, for anyone in the Utica area looking for this, it's available at Chanatry's Market on French Road.

    Go to the back wall (next to the meat counter), and look for "double cut" red pepper flakes.

    I find it interesting that in Albany, it's called "Utica Grind", but in Utica, we just call it "double cut". :)

    1. Thats because it was invented in Utica

  6. I grew up in Whitesboro and now live in Mississipi. My mom furnishes me with this (amoung other great Italian spices) from the store on Broad Street. Large cheap containers compared to normal spice prices. Peppers are labeled Utica Grind which we found amusing since we never heard of that the years prior. "Double Cut" would not nearly be the same since there are no pepper seeds in the official mix. It is like having the skin of the peanut as mentioned. I also own 3 different versions of garlic powder/ all different grinds down to the powderiest powder known to man.They also have the BEST itallian cheese selection very reasonable ENJOY!

  7. just an FYI.. Chanantry's Market on French Rd. carries "double grind" red pepper in their spice isle along the back wall of the store, which conveniently enough tastes very good on the DiNapoli's Tomato Pie that they carry in the front of the store (on the days that DiNapoli's is open and delivers them)

  8. BK it's probably O'Scugizzo (pronounced Oh-Ska-Neats). Utican transplanted in MN. No place in the world can touch Utica food.

  9. BK it's probably O'Scugnizzo (pronounced Oh-Ska-Neats). Utican living in MN... No place in the world can touch Utica food... the BEST!

  10. Its for sale on Amazon - free shipping


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