Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

These Greens and Beans Make Me Feel Like a Member of The Buffalo Mob

by 
Kiki Dy
September 17, 2021

For both legal reasons and the pursuit of forthrightness, I must state that I am not a member of the Buffalo crime family. But sometimes I like to eat like one. 

The long-laboring Buffalo mafia, not to be confused with the Bills Mafia, are experts in existing below the radar. Some successful prosecutions for murder, bookmaking, loan sharking, drug trafficking, theft, and other classic crimes withstanding, law enforcement has never made a criminal racketeering case against the alleged leaders of the organization.

However, the Buffalo hivemind knows that they are alive and well. 

From the thin-crusted La Nova pizza to the sepia memories of Buffalo’s old Roseland restaurant where ‘70s mob lieutenant John Cammilleri was very publicly gunned down after a manicotti supper, often the lore of the mob intersects with the area’s best eats. 

Even if you’re not one to believe “la cosa nostra” still rules the town’s underbelly, you have to admit, dining at a Niagara Falls Italian restaurant feels like a portal back in time. 

Where other establishments and areas age and reinvent, the nucleus of Niagara Falls remains untouched. It resists gentrification and innovation, some may say, but stays tethered to tradition. From the red-checkered walls of Michael’s to the well-presented bountiful portions of Fortuna’s, enduring family-owned eateries abound in The Falls. You can eat off the same forks as Stefano Magaddino, the crime family’s godfather, imagining all the fights, blood spatters, toasts, and laughter that filled the long nights of the ’60s and ’70s. 

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However, if you can’t take time away to nosh your way through Niagara Falls, you can prepare these simple Michael’s-inspired greens and beans at home. 

Whenever I make them, I imagine myself as an integral player in an era that I didn’t inhabit (a totally optional aspect of the recipe but highly recommended). A Frank Sinatra-heavy playlist, a fake tan, and a side of gabagool –– I chop, press, and stir my way into the past. I see myself as a mid-century Buffalo mob boss with my tentacles of terror stretching into Ohio, Toronto, and Las Vegas; I change my name from Kiki Dy to Giuseppina Capicola. 

Surrendering to the fantasy raises the stakes and makes cooking feel crucial. With a heavy hand of pecorino romano and a gastro-intestinally irresponsible amount of garlic, I plate the greens and beans and sit down on my couch. 

I hang my mob boss character up to dry and reinhabit my own body; a little longing for an irresponsible existence of crime, a little grateful for my simple, low-stakes life –– but, mostly, enormously hungry for my highly addictive greens and beans. 


Greens, Beans, and Pecorino

 | 
Cook Time: 30 Mins
 | 
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

3 bunches escarole, cleaned, stems removed & chopped, leaves cut into chunks 

3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil 

5-6 garlic cloves, pressed 

⅛ - ¼ tsp crushed red pepper 

½ cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed & roughly torn

2 14.5-oz cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 to 4 cups of chicken broth (depending on how brothy you want it) 

Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese to taste

 | 
Cook Time: 30 Mins
 | 
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

3 bunches escarole, cleaned, stems removed & chopped, leaves cut into chunks 

3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil 

5-6 garlic cloves, pressed 

⅛ - ¼ tsp crushed red pepper 

½ cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed & roughly torn

2 14.5-oz cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 to 4 cups of chicken broth (depending on how brothy you want it) 

Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese to taste

Ingredients

3 bunches escarole, cleaned, stems removed & chopped, leaves cut into chunks 

3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil 

5-6 garlic cloves, pressed 

⅛ - ¼ tsp crushed red pepper 

½ cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed & roughly torn

2 14.5-oz cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 to 4 cups of chicken broth (depending on how brothy you want it) 

Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese to taste

Directions

1. Boil escarole for 5 minutes to precook. Do not overload the pot: you might need to boil in batches. Drain/squeeze out excess water with paper towels

2. Heat olive oil over medium low in a large frying pan or deep skillet.

3. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Gently fry until the garlic is a light golden brown Do not overly brown or burn the garlic, as the oil will become too bitter. 

4. Add the beans and two cups of broth. Cook for several minutes, stirring frequently, until the beans start to soften and split and the broth has reduced by about half.

5. Add the escarole and additional broth, if using, cooking for 15-20 minutes uncovered. Stir periodically.  

6. Fold in freshly grated Romano cheese (optional), taste for seasoning, and serve immediately with additional cheese on the side.

About the Author

Kiki Dy

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