Angelo Lutz, The Kitchen Consigliere
When I opened my restaurant in Collingswood, NJ just over a year ago, I had one thought in mind—create a warm and relaxing atmosphere in which I would be able to serve Italian comfort food.
This is the food of my mother and grandmother, God rest their souls, the food I grew up on, the food whose taste and aroma signals not only the start of a great meal, but the feelings of joy and contentment and happiness that are part of the Italian-American experience.
That’s what I’m going for at the Kitchen Consigliere Café, and that’s what I hope to convey in this column for JerseyMan Magazine.
Food is more than just nourishment. It’s enrichment. It’s life. It’s love. It’s laughter. It’s an experience. Anyone who cooks, for his or her family or the public, brings their life experiences to the table. And let me say, I’ve had more than my share in nearly a half century on this earth.
I’m the Kitchen Consigliere. I was born Angelo Jenaro Lutz, a product of South Philadelphia. Lutz is a shortened version of my father’s name: Luzzi.
You may have heard of me. I’ve been in the news from time to time, not always in a good way. Spent some time—nearly eight years—as a guest of the federal government.
That’s part of who I am. I also was the Golden Buddha on New Year’s Day, marching with the Italian American String Band. Other years I donned feathers and sequins and played the sax while marching in the parade.
I’ve been a blackjack dealer, a caterer, a rug installer and, let’s put it all out there, a gambler and bookmaker. The feds would add loanshark and extortionist to that list. I disagree, but that’s all in the past.
When I testified in my own behalf at a racketeering trial in 2001 I told the jury, “I’m a cook. Not a crook.” While not commenting on my culinary abilities, the jury thought otherwise, which is why I did my time.
Prison life is part of my experience; as this column continues, I will describe how we were able to prepare and enjoy fine Italian cuisine behind bars. It’s amazing what you can do with a microwave and the right ingredients. But that’s a story for another day.
This is my way of introducing myself. In each column I hope to offer recipes, some thoughts on life and, hopefully, some joy. For openers, here are a few tips for those of you who like to cook Italian:
Meatballs – The secret to making a good meatball is, no surprise, the meat. Use three types: beef, veal and pork. Grounded twice; that’s the way my mom ordered it from the butcher. Add eggs, cheese, heavy cream, salt, pepper, garlic and parsley to taste and there’s your mix. You can use wet bread or breadcrumb to bind. Now comes the most important step: you have to fry them. Not bake, not place in the pot raw. Fry them. Any respectable Italian will tell you that’s how they ate them every Sunday morning. Recently, I was a guest chef on “The 10! Show” on NBC10 in Philadelphia and discussed this with the host. The link is on our Facebook page or you can go to “The 10! Show” website and watch it.
Gravy – You may call it sauce. Either way, the key is the tomatoes. I use Cento San Marzano tomatoes. They may cost more, but they’re the best. When it comes to preparing a good meal, I don’t do it on the cheap. When I’m making gravy I use Cento extra Virgin olive oil, the best romano cheese and Carlo Rossi Paisano wine. You don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink.
Garlic – A staple in Italian cooking. But don’t overdo it. I’ve been in too many quasi-Italian eateries where garlic disguises rather than enhances the flavor of a meal. Moderation is the key. I always finely mince it, so when you sauté garlic it almost dissolves into the sauce.
The Kitchen Consigliere Café
8 Powell Lane