True Taste of Italy at Lake Norman

December 11th, 2009

by Joyce Deaton

Walk into Derado’s Italian Gourmet Market at Magnolia Estates Drive and Jetton Road, and you’d swear you’re in an outdoor market in Tuscany. With its stucco walls, exposed brick and awnings, Derado’s brings a true taste of Italy to the Lake Norman area.

Owner and chef John DeSieno Jr. opened the market a few months ago after operating a catering business for more than a dozen years in Watervliet, N.Y. His mother, Antoinette DeSieno, moved to Lake Norman two years ago and called John saying she couldn’t find any of her favorite Italian foods and products. Coming from a large family involved in the food business for generations, she was disturbed.

We called a family conference with all my uncles and aunts, and decided that I would bring our authentic Italian products to Mom and to the good people of North Carolina,” says John. He opened the shop a few months ago and decided to name it for his grandparents. “Without them, we wouldn’t have any of the recipes,” he explains.

Today Antoinette happily extends a warm Italian welcome to customers while John, a culinary school graduate and member of the American Culinary Federation, does most of the cooking. “Nobody prepares food except my mom and me,” he says. “We use our family recipes and sauces and other authentic ingredients brought down by some friends in New York who own a trucking company.”

The result is tasty, homemade food in an ambience of abundance. “Mangia, Mangia!” says their motto on the wall. (“Eat, Eat!”) Using a rotating menu, Derado’s offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, sandwiches, pizza, soups, salads and desserts, along with Italian bread, pizza dough and sub rolls, freshly prepared each morning. Breakfast specialties like fried dough rolled in confectioner’s sugar and egg sandwiches with peppers and onions on fresh Italian bread already are making Sundays Derado’s busiest day.

Especially for boaters, Derado’s offers everything packaged to go with all sauces, cheeses, breads, salads and utensils. Deli items are available by the pound, sandwiches can be packed in freezer bags for travel, and you can even buy a cooler there if you forgot yours.

Lunch and dinner feature entrees such as eggplant parmesan, cavatelli with meatballs, lasagna, tomato crostini with Fontina cheese, and Italian mac and cheese for the kids. Deli sandwiches, “piled high and deep,” are served on homemade sub rolls or Italian bread. Favorites include the Market House and Abbudennza, combinations of Italian meats and cheeses, chicken parmesan, and Grandma Derado’s famous meatballs with mozzarella and homemade tomato sauce. Giardiniera, a blend of carrots, cauliflower, celery and pepper in vinegar, makes a good side, and there’s also stuffed bread, fruits and a full line of Italian meats, fresh mozzarella, salads, cheeses, pepperoni sticks and other deli items.

Derado’s pizzas feature their own sauces and fresh-baked dough. And desserts include their signature Charlotte Mousse de Cioccolata, pizzelles, biscotti and deli cheesecake, plus a variety of cordials – small but incredibly rich desserts that are “to die for,” says John. “These are great after dinner with a glass of red wine. They’re shaped like bowls, filled with tiramisu, amaretto, coffee or other flavors. Our customers are really loving these.” There’s also Villa Dolce gelato, for which Derado’s is the only East Coast outlet.

You’ll also find a complete line of Italian grocery items including Casa Visco gourmet sauces and Pastosa flash-frozen pasta shipped from Brooklyn, dips, salsa and dressings. International coffees and waters are available now, and Derado’s will soon have a license to sell wines from Bully Hill Vineyard in upstate New York. Unique Italian gift and kitchen items make it fun to shop, though you’re likely to get hungry from the hearty aromas emanating from the kitchen. Go ahead, eat! “If you give us a try, we know you’ll be back,” says John. “You’ve never had food like this before.”

White Perch: Evil Invader or Savior of Lost Fishing Trips?

December 11th, 2009

by Joyce Deaton In the eastern third of North Carolina, in those wide, flat, often blackwater rivers, and in those bowl-shaped natural lakes, the white perch is king.

In Piedmont reservoirs, there’s ongoing discussion about whether the white perch needs a jeweled crown or prison garb – there’s no in-between.

Since they appeared in Piedmont reservoirs in the mid-1990s, the feisty, tasty little member of the true “bass” or “morone” family has carved out a pretty big niche. On the one hand, the white perch seems always to be hungry and always willing to save what would otherwise be a lost fishing trip. In addition, they make a pretty good leap from livewell to cooler to frying pan. And the fishermen who target trophy blue catfish seem to believe that cut white perch or white perch filets are among the best baits around.

On the other hand, however, are fishermen who have seen some of their favorite gamefish – white bass and crappie – on a swift, downward decline, point to the little immigrant from the east as the sum of all fears.

“What really worries me is that High Rock is starting to get a lot of them,” said Jerry Neeley of Bessemer City, who operates Capt. Jerry’s Guide Service.

Neeley guides for bass on Lake Wylie and Lake Norman, and he guides for catfish on Lake Norman. He used to guide for crappie on Wylie, but then the fishery went from dynamite to distraught in the period of a half-dozen years. He responded by turning his crappie-fishing attention to High Rock, where his parties have had countless 100-fish days.

“Wylie used to be like High Rock is now, eight or nine years ago,” he said. “I’m afraid we’ll see High Rock become like Wylie is now in two or three years, when the white perch really take over.”

Neeley admits that white perch are fun to catch, especially for kids who aren’t particular, as long as something’s biting. And he understands they’re pretty good table fare, but he’s worried that they out-compete fish that are native to the area, wiping them out.

Biologists from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources point to white perch as being most responsible from the disappearance of reservoir white bass. They eat fish eggs of all kinds, and they’re usually coming off their spawning run, feeding back up, when white bass and stripers appear in the tailrace below hydroelectric dams, ready to flood the water with their eggs.

While many fishermen echo Neeley’s concerns, there is a big chunk of fishermen who are happy to have another species to target, even if it’s one that rarely weighs more than a pound.

Maynard Edwards, who runs Yadkin Lakes Guide Service out of his home in Lexington, guides for just about everything that swims on High Rock, Tuckertown and Badin lakes. He sees them as a positive, at least right now.

“There’s getting to be quite a few of them at High Rock – they’re reproducing real well – and we’re starting to see some bigger ones,” Edwards said. “You can really have a lot of fun catching them, and I hear they’re pretty good to eat.”

On Lake Tillery, they’re one of the favorite summertime species, because when stripers, bass and crappie shut down, they’re still hungry.

Fishermen find them either busting the service, chasing small baitfish, or in deeper water, in tightly-packed schools, harassing schools of threadfin shad. On the surface, they can be caught with small in-line spinners, small topwater baits and tiny jigs. In deep water, fishermen jig for them vertically with tiny spoons, tempt them with live worms or minnows, or catch them three or four at a time on multi-hook contraptions like the Sabiki rig.

It features a sinker tied to the end of the monofilament and a series of tiny jigs or ice flies spaced out on dropper loops. Tipping the little jigs with a tiny piece of meat – shad, shrimp or worm are commonly used – is a deadly way to catch a bucketful in one stop.

Catfishing on the Piedmont Lakes

December 11th, 2009

Catfish not only taste great, but also are fun to catch. In addition, they grow to enormous proportions and tug hard on the end of a fishing line. No wonder they’re summertime favorites on Piedmont Lakes.

Catfish are found in streams, rivers, ponds and large impoundments throughout the Carolinas. If it’s big cats you want, the Catawba and Yadkin River chain of lakes are the places to fish. Lake Norman yielded an eighty-five pound Blue catfish several years ago, a state record until an eighty-nine pounder was caught in Badin Lake in 2006.

Channel, blues and flatheads are the three most common species of catfish. Channels are the smallest of the three, but are quite numerous in area lakes and ponds. Many are taken near boat docks and piers with a simple hook and sinker rig baited with a chicken liver, worm, dead minnow or prepared bait (stink bait).

Blue Catfish look similar to channel cats, but don’t have spots. They are caught on a variety of live and cut baits, chicken livers and stink baits. Table scraps will also tempt blues; so offer them leftover shrimp, clams and oysters. Since blues are larger than most fish, heavy leader material is a must. Particularly, since they have a tendency to spin and wrap the fishing line around their body when hooked.

Flatheads have a broad head that looks like the top of an old brown shoe. This predator hunts live shad, herring, bream, white perch and crawfish. It lurks at ambush points near rip-rap, sunken logs, brush, stump fields and beneath schools of feeding fish. Live baits are best to use, but flatheads will also hit fresh baits cut into three to six inch strips that simulate the movement of a swimming baitfish. Twenty pound-plus bait casting tackle is a must for these large mud cats. Wide gap circle hooks (5/0 to 9/0), attached to fifty pound test leader material, are a necessity for catching big flatheads. The NC State record flathead is a seventy-eight pounder caught in the Cape Fear River in 2005.

Catfish make excellent table fare, so break out the peanut oil and hush puppies and share your catch with family and friends.

Captain Gus Gustafson is an outdoor columnist and a full time professional fishing guide. Visit his web site, Fishin’ With Gus! at www.FishingWithGus.com or call 704 617 6812. For additional information e-mail the Captain at Gus@LakeNorman.com