In the New World, however, a not so ideal manufacturing community developed at the junction of the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers. Instead of lyric poets, immigrants from Italy and Poland settled in the Triple Cities of Binghamton, Endicott, and Johnson City to work in the factories making shoes, airplanes, cameras and business machines.
If you find yourself in upstate New York, drive south from the charming towns and wineries of the Finger Lakes District and see where Utopia might have been. In keeping with our mandate of eating history, take a bite of Binghamton's immigrant history. Eat the mysterious spiedie!
Italian immigrants created a recipe for marinated lamb cooked on a skewer and served with a chunk of warm crusty bread. The spiedie is found only in the Binghamton area and the exact ingredients of the marindade are a closely guarded secret. The spiedie itself is tender, juicy, spicy, and unforgettable. The marinade hints of vinegar, garlic, oregano, and "many more spices". Once you've eaten a spiedie, you will want to return to the rather seedy urban wasteland of Binghamton for another and another. Most of the factories are gone but not the spiedie.
Each Binghamton resident has a favorite spiedie recipe and restaurant. Many feel the best place for spiedies is Sharkey’s. Located in a working class area of small houses and shops, the restaurant is a wonderful example of Binghamton history. Sharkey’s has been run by the same family for more than 50 years. Over the wooden bar are the iconic Shultz and Dooley talking Utica Club Beer mugs now silently looking at the dance floor and ancient bowling game that have done service for decades. The “dining room” has utilitarian wooden tables and booths. The walls are green, the napkins and plates are paper, but the no nonsense ambience is rather charming. You can order clams, pizza, cabbage rolls, pierogis, and even salads……..but you want the spiedies and a pitcher of beer!
The spiedies are brought to you on a skewer with a piece of Italian bread soaking up the juice. You have a choice of pork or chicken. The pork is tastier and is closer to the lamb of the original recipe. You can order one or more skewer (the more the better).
After you have devoured the spiedies, sit back, swill your beer and think of the generations of workers, students, and families who have come to eat the mysterious spiedie. Enjoy the “charm” of this upstate New York classic and ponder whether Southey and Coleridge would also have found their way to Clinton Street to discuss the ideal society with students from Binghamton University.
56 Glenwood Ave. (at Clinton St.)
Binghamton, New York
the weblink www.sharkeysspiedies.com was not functioning at the time of this posting
the marinade can be ordered from www.spiedie.com