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Who makes great Italian Sausage?

Bob Copeland Jul 17, 2007 09:13 AM

I'm looking for great Italian Sausage to grill at home. I like a pork based sausage, somewhat coarsely-ground (not smooth), assertively seasoned, with fennel, like you could find on the East Coast, such as outside Fenway Park or in NY/NJ.

Preferably, the sausage will stand-up to braising in a red sauce as well.

Who makes your favorite sausage?

I've tried Columbus, Molinari, New Youk Sausage (Safeway/Costco), Caggiano, Schaubs, Café Rouge and Johnsonville. Any other ideas?

Any hot dog stands or restaurant suggestions welcomed as well.

  1. Melanie Wong Jul 30, 2007 06:45 PM

    How's the sausage taste-off going, Bob?

    Got another rec from chowhound ellenm this weekend for the Italian sausage made by third-generation sausage-maker, Panizzera in Occidental.

    Panizzera Meat Co
    Main St, Occidental, CA 95465

    Valley Ford Market
    14400 Highway 1, Valley Ford, CA

    1. y
      YSZ Jul 20, 2007 09:17 AM

      If you can make it out to the Palo Alto or Mountain View farmer's markets (Saturday and Sunday respectively), you can buy from Severino's Community Butcher. I bought an insanely good Italian with onion jam sausage a week or so ago and made the best past sauce ever. EVER. I cannot praise these guys enough.

      I honestly think it's worth a trip south to try their wares. Plus we've been getting some mighty nice produce in the farmer's market down here.

      Great practices, nice people, and yummy yummy pork. I am particularly found of their pate du campagne which occasionally, when I'm lucky, includes chicken or duck confit.


      1. s
        SLRossi Jul 18, 2007 10:46 AM

        No one has mentioned Genova? I think it might meet your desires quite well.

        Genova Delicatessen & Ravioli
        5095 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

        Genova Delicatessen & Ravioli
        1105 S California Blvd, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

        Genova Delicatessen
        2064 Treat Blvd, Walnut Creek, CA 94598

        3 Replies
        1. re: SLRossi
          Melanie Wong Jul 18, 2007 12:15 PM

          One more -

          Genova Delicatessen and Ravioli Factory
          1550 Trancas St, Napa, CA 94558

          1. re: Melanie Wong
            Laura2 Jul 19, 2007 09:33 PM

            My vote is for Molinari's (much better than TJs) although I haven't tried a lot of the other ones listed above. Andronico's in the inner Sunset carries Molinari's if you can't get to North Beach.

            1. re: Laura2
              Nancy Berry Jul 20, 2007 01:00 PM

              Sorrento Deli in the Excelsior (listed above) also carries Molinari's Italian sausage.

        2. The Chowhound Team Jul 18, 2007 09:49 AM

          A recipe for making your own was moved over to our Home Cooking board, if you'd like to discuss making your own sausage, please reply in this thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/42232...

          1. Carrie 218 Jul 18, 2007 09:03 AM

            Carlo Middione at Vivandi sells his products -- I believe his sausages as well. Great fennel flavor and my personal favorite.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Carrie 218
              Atomica Jul 18, 2007 09:26 AM

              Where/what is Vivandi?

              1. re: Atomica
                Atomica Jul 18, 2007 09:29 AM

                ETA: Found it -- Vivande.

                Vivande Porta Via
                2125 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                1. re: Atomica
                  Robert Lauriston Jul 18, 2007 09:30 AM

                  Vivande's an upscale Italian deli-cafe in Pacific Heights.

                  Vivande Porta Via
                  2125 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    poulet_roti Jul 21, 2007 04:57 PM

                    Vivande's sausage are great although they definitely hit the wallet pretty hard. I found that the Sicilian sausage at Little City Market in North Beach compare quite well.

              2. n
                Nancy Berry Jul 17, 2007 12:04 PM

                I like the house made Italian sausages from Lucca Ravioli Co. in the Mission. They have at least 4 kinds: sweet with fennel, hot -- I think that these also have fennel, "regular" -- I think this means sweet without fennel, and "with onion and bell pepper."

                I also like both the hot and sweet house made Italian sausages from Mollie Stone's Tower Market in SF.

                And finally, I really like the sausages made by the Gloria Sausage Co. that I get at Sorrento Deli on Mission in the Excelsior.

                Lucca Ravioli
                1100 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                Mollie Stone Tower Market
                635 Portola Dr, San Francisco, CA 94127

                Sorrento Delicatessen
                4763 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94112

                8 Replies
                1. re: Nancy Berry
                  Dave MP Jul 17, 2007 01:05 PM

                  I've tried the hot Italian sausage from Lucca Ravioli Co. and thought they were great. I didn't grill them though...I fried them, then cut them up and put them into a pasta dish with tomato sauce. I'm also pretty sure they had fennel...definitely similar to Italian sausages I've bought in the Boston area.

                  Dave MP

                  1. re: Dave MP
                    sfoperalover Jul 17, 2007 09:03 PM

                    with the palate of an east coast Italian American, the sausages i have come to like the best by far are from Molinari. I like Lucca's well enough, but for my taste, I prefer Molinari.

                    1. re: sfoperalover
                      rworange Aug 19, 2007 09:29 PM

                      I'm with you on Molinari. Mastrelli's sells it in the Ferry building. The sweet and hot are classic with great flavor. There was a third sausage they sell, but I forgot what it was. It didn't have fennel and was only ok. But those other two were wonderful.

                    2. re: Dave MP
                      P. Punko Jul 17, 2007 11:08 PM

                      What is weird is that sausage you can get in Boston's North End (think North Beach) many times lack the fennel seasoning, and many Italian cookbooks specify mild sausage without fennel in recipes (which I definitely don't prefer). I think the general flavor profile the OP is talking about is that of a Johnsonville mild. I have tried sausages from Andronico's and Shaub's Meats and they definitely do not have this profile. They were just on the salty side without the fennel-y sweetness that works great for a grilled sausage.

                      1. re: Dave MP
                        Dave MP Jul 18, 2007 09:00 AM

                        Inspired by this thread, I went to Lucca yesterday evening to buy sausage for dinner. Sadly, they were already out of the sweet fennel sausage, so I tried the onion and pepper sausage instead. These were still very good, although they didn't have the fennel flavor that I like...I cooked them in a light tomato sauce and served them with pesto pasta and spinach. Delicious

                        Dave MP

                        1. re: Dave MP
                          Robert Lauriston Jul 18, 2007 09:04 AM

                          You can always add more fennel seed. Or this time of year, throw some fresh fennel bulb in with the onions.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            Dave MP Jul 18, 2007 10:53 AM

                            Hmm, that would have been a good idea :) Even though I have fennel seed in the cupboard, I didn't think of it.

                          2. re: Dave MP
                            bernalgirl Jul 19, 2007 11:00 AM

                            Do return to Lucca for the sweet fennel sausage, to me this is the most like an East Coast Italian sausage, it's not too fine in texture and holds up well grilled or braised in tomato sauce (over polenta, what comfort food!). The hot lacks the fennel flavor that the OP was looking for.

                      2. d
                        DavidT Jul 17, 2007 10:22 AM

                        I think the hot sausage that Trader Joe's sells is pretty darn good. It is certainly a good value for what they charge ($2.99 a pound)..

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: DavidT
                          Atomica Jul 18, 2007 09:24 AM

                          I never see pork-based sausage at Trader Joe's, and I have made a point of looking many times. I exclusively see chicken and turkey sausages. If you're finding pork sausage at TJ's, which one?

                          I really like the Caggiano sausages I've tried. I bought some Prather Ranch Jameson Whisky sausages yesterday that I haven't tried yet.

                          1. re: Atomica
                            Nancy Berry Jul 18, 2007 09:46 AM

                            All of the Bay Area Trader Joe's carry their own brand of both hot and sweet varieties of pork Italian sausage made by New York Sausage Co. They are in the refrigerated meat dept. I don't know whether they still sell it, but they've also sold a version of this sausage that also includes cheese and wine.

                            1. re: Nancy Berry
                              Atomica Jul 18, 2007 09:48 AM

                              Don't say "all." Believe me, Nancy, I have looked. The refrigerated meat department is pretty much my main stop (to see if I can get the increasingly elusive unmarinated tri-tip). I even remember past Chowhound posts asking incredulously why one cannot get pork sausage at TJ's. I will try again, I suppose.

                              1. re: Atomica
                                Nancy Berry Jul 18, 2007 09:50 AM

                                They might run out of these sausages, Atomica, but they all carry them. Ask at the front desk.

                                1. re: Nancy Berry
                                  teresalynne Jul 18, 2007 10:01 AM

                                  I just purchased raw pork sausages, one pack of hot and one of sweet, from TJ's in Emeryville. About $2.80 for a pack of 5.

                                2. re: Atomica
                                  Dave MP Jul 18, 2007 10:50 AM

                                  I always see them at the Trader Joe's on 9th and Bryant. Like DavidT says below, they often have different kinds. I've only had the spicy Italian sausages from Trader Joe's....I prefer the ones at Lucca.

                                  Dave MP

                                  1. re: Atomica
                                    Nancy Berry Jul 19, 2007 08:45 AM

                                    Yesterday, at the Daly City TJ's in the Westlake Shopping Center, there were 4 kinds of pork Italian sausage, hot, sweet, Vino et Formaggio, and basil garlic.

                                    1. re: Nancy Berry
                                      Dave MP Jul 23, 2007 12:32 PM

                                      I was at the Trader Joe's at 9th and Bryant in SF last night and saw the same 4 kinds.

                                      Dave MP

                                      1. re: Nancy Berry
                                        Atomica Jul 30, 2007 08:02 PM

                                        Okay, I was at the Daly City TJ's yesterday and, after looking really hard, found 3 kinds of pork sausage among the 20 or more types of chicken and turkey sausage. And of course they were out of almost all of the pork. They also have done away with the great tri-tip they were carrying in favor of a far inferior Australian tri-tip.

                                    2. re: Nancy Berry
                                      Melanie Wong Jul 18, 2007 09:49 AM

                                      Just wanted to mention that New York Sausage Co. products are often available at deep discount at Grocery Outlet.

                                    3. re: Atomica
                                      DavidT Jul 18, 2007 10:16 AM

                                      I buy the pork-based sausage regularly at the TJ's on Masonic@Geary. They usually have a hot, a regular and a wine/cheese variety. I don't look to see if it is in stock every time I go there (usually once a week), but it has always been in stock every time I have looked for it.

                                  2. Melanie Wong Jul 17, 2007 10:01 AM

                                    Housemade from Little City in North Beach, especially the spicy one.

                                    Edited to add: also the homemade Italian sausage from Valley Ford Market.

                                    Little City Market
                                    1400 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                      poulet_roti Jul 21, 2007 04:48 PM

                                      Could not agree more, the house made sausage at LIttle City in North Beach are some of the best. The Calabrese are the one which are a bit on the hot side. The Sicilian are coursely ground with good black pepper and a touch a wine I believe.

                                      Somebody mentioned Lucca Ravioli in the Mission - they sell the brand "New York Style". They are not house made. It is a passable sausage, but not one of the best in the area.

                                      While the South Bay was not known for its great cuisine, there used to be an old fashioned market down in SJ called Badalamente Market which made the type of Italian Sausage that you are seeking - I believe they even used to carry it at Lunardi's Markets although I have not been in 10 years or more.

                                      1. re: poulet_roti
                                        bernalgirl Jul 23, 2007 12:50 PM

                                        Agree that Lucca's cannot compete among the best in the area, but their sweet fennel sausage seems like what the OP is looking for. It's hard to find East Coast style Italian products here. Having read Calvin Trillin's musings on the NY-style Italian sausage sandwich, I wonder if this is something like a good bagel, you can't find it here...

                                    2. d
                                      david kaplan Jul 17, 2007 09:57 AM

                                      I use either Fra'Mani (available at numerous stores throughout town) or the house brand at Bi-Rite, the small grocery on 18th near Guerrero in the Mission. I tend to crumble and fry with broccoli rabe or tomatoes and onions rather than grill or braise whole, so I can't speak to the texture.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: david kaplan
                                        pane Jul 17, 2007 10:21 AM

                                        Speaking of, I love Bi-Rite's new Devil's Gulch Ranch sausage. I met the Devil's Gulch owner at a Bi-Rite wine event several months ago and was impressed with his knowledge of and commitment to quality ranching. I cooked some of the sausages as a side dish and in a frittata last week and my guests were quite impressed.

                                        1. re: pane
                                          david kaplan Jul 17, 2007 11:01 AM

                                          Is Devil's Gulch Ranch what Bi-Rite now sells in two-sausage packages in the fridge section just to the right of the deli counter? I referred to those packages as their house brand, but now I wonder if we're talking about the same or different products.

                                          1. re: david kaplan
                                            pane Jul 17, 2007 11:15 AM

                                            Different products, and, yes, DGR are the two-sausage packs in the fridge section. Try them and let me know what you think.

                                            1. re: pane
                                              david kaplan Jul 17, 2007 11:39 AM

                                              I guess that's what I had most recently and liked them very much. Bi-Rite used to have bulk sausage in the deli counter, and apparently they've replaced that with those two-sausage packs, so I think DGR is now the only fresh sausage Bi-Rite carries.

                                      2. Ruth Lafler Jul 17, 2007 09:47 AM

                                        The housemade sausages -- including both "sweet" and "spicy" Italian -- at Baron's meats are very good. Two locations, one at the Alameda Marketplace and one at the Star Market in Berkeley.

                                        Baron's Meat & Poultry
                                        1650 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501

                                        Star Meats
                                        3068 Claremont Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                          foodfan Jul 17, 2007 10:15 AM

                                          If Alameda is convenient for the OP, I like the sweet Italian at Scalise's in the Encinal Market also, and it is one of the rare items in their case I think is reasonably priced.

                                          Out further, I like the sausage selection at Lunardi's in is it, Pleasant Hill? Concord?

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                            Ruth Lafler Jul 19, 2007 04:11 PM

                                            At Baron's the other day they also had "sweet" chicken Italian -- I thought it was pretty good, with a distinct fennel flavor.

                                          2. Morton the Mousse Jul 17, 2007 09:22 AM

                                            Fatted Calf and Fra'Mani

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Morton the Mousse
                                              wally Jul 17, 2007 09:35 AM

                                              Second that. They are NOT East Coast derivatives so they may not be what the OP is looking for.

                                              1. re: Morton the Mousse
                                                chemchef Aug 20, 2007 06:12 AM

                                                Fra'Mani is delicious. Highland Hills Farm (sold at the Berkeley farmer's markets) makes a good Italian sausage too, but it is more finely ground and subtley flavored.

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