The Five Questions-Peter Francis Battaglia
October 13, 2010
These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity for Wild Table. The Five Questions from its very inception has revealed a number of food – related inner thoughts. I learned that Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Food fame loves deli food, having grown up in NYC. One of my favorite answers came from Colman Andrews, one of the co-founders of Saveur Magazine when he replied to my question of: Do you have a favorite recipe that reminds you of a person or place in your past? What is it? Do you have any foods that you prepare that bring a tear to your eye when you prepare them? Would you kindly share a recipe and a story about that?
“I rarely cook from recipes, and I’m getting to the age where I’m forgetting most of the people and places in my past anyway–especially the ones who might bring a tear to my eye.” This is great stuff! I was looking for a recipe or a dish that might excite or sadden some one to the point of tears and Colman answers that he’s too old to remember the people from his past anyway!
I loved my interview with Frank Bruni. Who would have thought that in between writing for the New York Times and promoting his book, and living his very busy life- he would find time to answer my Five Questions!
My question to Frank about Thanksgiving food was a true surprise.
Fall is almost here. Do you have a favorite dessert for the cooler weather?
“My taste runs more savory than sweet, and some of the iconic fall desserts — e.g., pumpkin pie with Thanksgiving — aren’t among my favorites at all. But there’s a maple budino dessert at Locanda Verde in TriBeCa that comes onto the menu around October and tastes like a compendium of autumnal flavors. It’s been justly hailed by the New York Times’s current restaurant critic, Sam Sifton, among others, and it deserves to be tried. No way I’ll let the fall unfold without one or two helpings of the maple budino, which underscores what a terrific, super-talented pastry chef Karen DeMasco is.”
Mary Luz Mejia told us about her favorite Mezcal:
Do you have a favorite Mezcal?
“For Mezcal, my favorite is Herenzia Del Mezcalero. The two year old is my favorite. It is reminds me of the smokiest single malt scotch I’ve ever tried. Even some people who love smoky scotch whiskey say that OMG, this is too much!”
My questions are varied in scope, intention and guidance. The next one from former Kodak CMO Jeff Hayzlett gave me a glimpse into his life on a very deep level, from his stomach.
What do you like to see in your refrigerator at home… When you get home that is. Do you have any personal connections to these foods? Do they remind you of something?
“It’s rare that I’m home, but if I am, I certainly like to see Diet Mt. Dew but I also like to keep it stocked with olives, figs, dried fruit, good cheese, and dates. Plus I’m a lover of all kinds of pickles.”
Finding out that Jeff likes pickles was a gift for a food person. I don’t think anyone had ever asked him what is in his refrigerator at home. It’s not your typical elevator pitch to ask a well-known corporate leader, what he likes to eat. This is the magic of the Five Questions.
I’ve followed Peter Francis Battaglia on Facebook for some time now. Reading his posts, I wonder how he is able to turn out such a variety of foods in a given day. His photography glistens with character and love. Peter has about 2,652 friends on Facebook, how could he find my writing interesting enough to reply to my query?
I’m not sure why he agreed to follow me. I will say that Peter is extremely interesting to talk to! He is a man who wears many hats – business, social, food, photography, his Italian heritage, his children, his wife- food, food and more food. He loves talking about food, preparing food, and living food. In many ways the exemplification of Italian regional cuisine comes through his efforts to preserve these edible history lessons. Peter is above all a studied cook. You can taste his smile through every word and photograph he reproduces on Facebook and beyond into the blogsphere…
Peter should write a compendium of his family recipes. I will be the first one there to buy a copy.
I asked Peter to follow me on Facebook because his journalism made me hungry. His passion for good food draws through each carefully chosen words describing the family recipes that make up his energy. His verve for good food simply prepared is precisely what I like. His writing on the website named Global Foodie is informative, instructional, and colorful to view. This is not overly complicated food. His renditions of the classics are easy to appreciate and easier to enjoy.
We both appeared in the Saveur 100 list for 2010. What a nice surprise to have a common denominator! We are connected by our passions!
People are naturally attracted to Peter for his enthusiasm about food and life. He likes using only the best ingredients, simply prepared with love. What more do you want from someone who prepares Italian food with such passion? Peter’s style of cooking Italian food is provocative. He cooks everything with emotion and family history.
Thank you Peter for sharing some of your time with the world of the Wild River Review/Wild Table.
This interview was done in person at the Brickwall Tavern and Dining Room in Asbury Park, NJ.
1. Who taught you how to cook? Was it your Mother, Father, Grandparents, Television?
All of them. Of course I learned from my mother, my father and my grandparents. My grandparents were from Italy. They came over to America in the early part of the century. Around 1915-1920. My family was from southern Italy, Sicily and Naples. We had good discussions over the years on just where our cooking comes from. I do remember watching Julia Child in fuzzy black in white on Channel 13. (WNET-13, Public Broadcasting in NYC) Whatever she cooked, it infused my creativity, my passion for cooking. My early culinary memories were from Julia Child.
Sunday’s have always been a big cooking night for my family. What Italian family doesn’t make a huge dinner on Sunday night?
2. What is your favorite wine right now? From what part of the world?
I don’t drink now. But when I did drink my drink of choice was champagne. I work in the finance arena and Wall Street work encourages a healthy thirst for the best. The best wine, the best of everything. You celebrate success with champagne. When I think about Champagne, I think of my grandfather. It was my grandfather’s wine. He made it with a little “frizzante” on the tongue. It was a great treat.
I also have the aroma of Concord Grapes deeply set into my consciousness. I worked for years in Jersey City next to the place where they turned those plump, juicy Concord Grapes into sacramental wine. Every time I smell Concord Grapes I remember the Manischewitz Wine factory in New Jersey.
3. Is there anything that you enjoy eating that brings a tear to your eye and why?
Everything I make makes me cry. It’s anything (Food) that connects me deeply with being with my grandparents and my parents. Panzetta veal. Italian stuffed veal breast. Southern Italian and Jewish families make beautiful renditions of this dish. The Jewish way is stuffed with potato and matzo or rice. When I make that it’s a heart wrenching meal. It is certainly not once a week food. My mom made this for our family.
She only made this dish when breast of veal was on sale.
(Peter wrote me after the interview and explained Panzetta and his cultural relevance to the dish)
The reason why it’s called Panzetta, which is most likely a purely dialect word, is for the “pouch” , or belly it has when the breast meat is cut away from the bone, leaving you that pouch to stuff, which then produces that fat little protruding belly. La Panza in Napoletana means belly, La Panzetta, little belly…love love love the tasty bits of history, legend, and lore that create the foods we eat.
The stuffing that my mom made had fresh bread, fresh eggs and an abundance of grated- salty, Pecorino cheese.
4. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
I’d like to be in Venice eating grilled scampi. You can’t get that here in the United States. Prawns taste like little lobsters. They have a richer flavor than regular shrimp from their diet. They are rich and dense in tooth. The first time I had that was in 1986. I was in Nice in southern France traveling around, eating foods and imprinting my memory with their unique flavors and aromas. I began “chasing Langoustines” in just about every seaside village and town. Langoustines are delicious there. My next favorite place for Langoustines happened to be in Venice. Something about the freshness of the seafood, the tang of the sea air and the abundance of, “taste of the place” ingredients. Just being in Italy and eating foods that are truly local to the region brought it all together for me and my culinary memories.
5. Social Networking brought us together. Where do you see food writing going in the future? What about celebrity chefs?
One year ago in March I got on Facebook. Originally, I thought this was not for me. I was scared to start a blog. After all, who would want to read it? I also didn’t want to be a restaurant reviewer. All I ever want to do is talk about what I know. This, of course is food. I caught the blogging bug and got completely addicted. Anything I do that is food related, I post on my blog or on Facebook. As far as who is my favorite celebrity chef? Sometimes the so-called celebrity chef’s are just boring. I don’t want to say I have any one favorite chef. There is a story to be told here. I had a catering biz for seven years, that’s why I make such large portions of the foods that I cook. It’s hard to make a dish for four persons, but much easier to cook for a crowd. The flavors seem to resonate more deeply with me in a historic context. My mom, cooking for the entire family. It reminds me of her. And this also brings a tear to my eye.
Things changed in the catering industry with many of the big box stores selling frozen appetizers and entrees. All the stuff they sell tastes the same to me, but try telling people that when they are interested only in saving money on a party. It takes intense passion to be in the catering business. This experience of cooking for groups of people, large and small, will stay with me for a lifetime.
I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to spend some time with Peter. We shared some food and formed the roots of this conversation. I’m honored to have been given a glimpse inside Peter’s thoughts. Thank you Peter for allowing me an hour or so into your soul of food. wb
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Warren Bobrow in this Edition
COCKTAIL WHISPERER, Editor
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