When my beautiful wife and I moved back to NJ from Houston years ago, perhaps the most anticipatory part of it for me was that I would once again have easy access to restaurants serving authentic Italian food. Texans, don’t pile on! I know that in the last 20 years,Texas has experienced a renaissance in dining out options, especially in the Houston and Dallas areas. However, in the early 80’s, if we wanted good Italian we had no choice but to break out Gramma Rinaldi’s worn & torn recipe cards and try to create it ourselves.
So, I arrived back in Jersey as I usually arrive anywhere we go…. visions of food and drink dancing in my head…. Linguini with clam sauce, Eggplant Parmigiana, Veal Scallopini and Saltimbocca……. And luckily we found OUR Italian Restaurant almost immediately. Rillo’s, ahh Rillo’s Restaurant was the Mother Lode of Italian food in our part of Northern NJ. Smallish by most standards, but always busy with local regulars dining, drinking and communing behind plates of steaming hot Northern Italian specialties prepared by a kitchen team that belongs in the Hall of Fame. Hot bread always, fresh, cold salads and antipasto, beautiful desserts, and good Italian wines by the glass…… Yeah, Heaven is probably a lot like Rillo’s.
It wasn’t long before I tried what would become my favorite Italian dish. Pork Chops and Vinegar Peppers is definitely not what you would call “classic” Italian fare, but any good Italian Restaurant that has pork chops on the menu will know what you mean and be happy to prepare it for you if you ask. At Rillo’s, it was the standard Pork Chop dish on the menu and was available either “hot”, “sweet”, or “mixed”, depending on how you like your peppers. Vinegar peppers, by the way, are simply pickled cherry peppers.
Since it’s my favorite, I’ve tinkered with it at home quite a bit over the years. I actually have the recipe to the point that eating it brings me right back to that great little restaurant where I spent so many Friday and Saturday nights in the 80’s. Sadly, Rillo’s is but a sweet memory for me and many others, but making a meal with this dish and a nice bottle of Valpolicella or Amarone will allow you a glimpse into those memories. I hope you will enjoy it!
6 Pork Loin Chops, Center Cut, Bone In
1 Medium Sweet Onion sliced or chopped
6 Garlic Cloves chopped
1 tsp Dried Oregano
12 Pickled peppers (hot, sweet or comb) sliced
4 TBSP Pickled Pepper Juice
2 TBSP Olive Oil
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Pat chops dry with a paper towel. Salt & Pepper both sides.
Preheat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-hi heat and add Olive Oil.
When oil is hot, add 3 of the chops and brown about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and repeat with other 3 Chops.
After removing chops, add onions. Stir occasionally for 3-4 minutes.
Add Garlic. Stir for 1-2 minutes.
Add sliced peppers. Stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes.
Add Pepper Juice and Oregano. Stir until it just starts to boil. Pickled peppers vary in saltiness, so this is a good time to taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
Return Chops (& juices) to pan one at a time and cover with onion and pepper mixture.
Cover pan and place in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes.
A couple of potatoes, sliced thin, and fried golden brown can be added to this when plating if you like, and it’s terrific. It also goes well with a baked potato or just a thick slice of bread to mop up the juices.
I know you will enjoy this!
“There is no love sincerer than the love for food.” George Bernard Shaw