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Who makes great Italian Sausage?

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.

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  1. Fatted Calf and Fra'Mani

    2 Replies
    1. re: Morton the Mousse

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

      1. re: Morton the Mousse

        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.

      2. 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.

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

        Star Meats
        3068 Claremont Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          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

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

          2. 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

              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

                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

                  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

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

              Edited to add: also the homemade Italian sausage from Valley Ford Market.
              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/311575

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

              2 Replies
              1. re: Melanie Wong

                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

                  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. 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

                  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

                    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

                      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

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

                        1. re: Nancy Berry

                          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

                          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

                            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

                              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

                                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

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

                            3. re: Atomica

                              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. 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

                              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

                                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

                                  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

                                  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

                                    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

                                      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

                                        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

                                        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. 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

                                      Where/what is Vivandi?

                                      1. re: Atomica

                                        ETA: Found it -- Vivande.

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

                                        1. re: Atomica

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

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

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            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. 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. 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

                                            One more -

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

                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                              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

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

                                          2. 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.

                                            http://www.severinos.com/

                                            1. 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