You may have doubts about this rendition of Taco Tuesday, and that’s okay. An Italian taco? An Italian breakfast taco? Those things don’t go together… The flavors of Italy should not – nay, cannot – be wrapped up in a tortilla! The tastes of these two cultures are separated by thousands of miles and simply cannot come together to create a weird, beautiful, surprising breakfast taco.
Except they can.
The boy and I met while we were in college, working at a coffee shop. He was a barista and I was the baker. Our first shift together was in the dead of summer, while the city usually bustling with college kids in chacos and jorts had become a hot, barren ghost town. It’s your classic story… boy meets girl alone in coffee shop. Boy rudely ignores girl for the first 4 hours of his shift until coffee sets in. Boy and girl talk from across the bar about nonsense. Boy takes girl on awkward faux date, then real date. Boy and girl fall in love and get engaged at said coffee shop.
It was a great place to work in college, and it’s where both of us got to learn more about experimenting with food, and what’s more, food for a paying audience.
I was stuck in the back dungeon, or kitchen, as some might call it, hidden from the joyful coffee-scented hustle and bustle of the front counter. It was there the owner would share some new recipes with me, where my brain learned to associate the smell of sweet kolache dough with the subtle burning scent of the janky old oven, where I played with dessert specials for finals week (I’m not saying my Crisco-based buttercream-filled double chocolate sandwich cookie sent someone home feeling light-headed and shaky… but it did).
That shop was constantly in motion, trying new products, learning what appealed best to over-caffeinated college students “studying” in deep, cozy, likely-infested sofas and armchairs. We experimented with waffles, gelato, bagels with specialty cream cheese, paninis, etc… But one of the crowning glories of all of those experiments was THIS taco. The boy has talked about it on and off for years… “Remember that Italian taco? What all was in that…? We should try recreating it.”
Years of saying it have finally made it happen. We loaded up on all the ingredients we could remember from the shop: shredded mozzarella, cheap pepperoni, chicken, eggs, bottled Caesar dressing (I tried convincing him we should make our own dressing, but as he so rightly reminded me, why mess with a good thing?). And to work he went. On one stove burner were tortillas, puffing up to a light, fluffy crisp. On another, pepperoni and cooked chicken were simmering in a shallow puddle of olive oil, loosening up, readying themselves for a skillet full of fresh eggs. Mix together, place in the warm tortilla, top with creamy vinaigrette and mozzarella, and call it a day.
You wouldn’t think these flavors are a good idea together, but trust us when we say that they in fact are. The egg, mozzarella and chicken wrapped in a tortilla fulfill the classic breakfast taco requirements of egg, cheese and meat. But the addition of hot, sliced pepperoni with creamy dressing is quite the game changer. What palate doesn’t leap at the tangy bite of Caesar dressing, or at the dangerously addicting spice of pepperoni? It’s a hearty, flavorful, protein-filled shakeup from your average breakfast.
As a sign of maturity, I topped our Italian breakfast tacos with freshly chopped tomato (much to the boy’s chagrin) and served it with a side salad of romaine, tomato, and purple onion. But cards on the table… I didn’t touch the salad and instead filled myself with memories via this taco.
Also, if you try the taco and love it as much as we do, try omitting the egg and making it into a quesadilla with marinara dipping sauce (cue fireworks in mind).