Mozzarella sticks are a mainstay of drinking culture and college cuisine. Raspberry sauce, also called “melba,” after a famous opera singer, is usually kept around for dessert, especially peach Melba.
Only in one place on Earth do these two components combine: upstate New York, namely Albany. In the city’s bars and eateries, mozzarella sticks come with fruity, tangy melba. Sometimes marinara sauce (the classic accompaniment) is not even on the menu.
It’s not known when or how the dessert sauce made the leap onto a plate of fried appetizers, but locals seem to dimly remember first trying the dish around 30 years ago. When facing skepticism from outsiders, its defenders argue that cheese and fruit pair well in cheesecake, baked brie with jam, and cheese plates. So why forego this combination of crispy, seasoned mozzarella that contrasts nicely with the cool, slightly sour sauce?
Sweet and crispy, salty and soft—mozzarella and melba has all the hallmarks of an addictive snack. Plus, raspberry sauce is migrating to other savory snacks. You may see it atop jalapeño poppers too.