Niagara Gazette —
Of their collaboration, Congi said, “He’s one of the best chef’s I’ve ever met. He teaches us and he works with us. He’s right next to you whether in thick or thin.”
Both Cooke and Congi met Pitillo when he was general manager of two Italian restaurants, La Cascata at the Seneca Niagara Casino and Patria at the Seneca Allegheny Casino.
Cooke oversees a menu that includes homemade touches including bread delivered in a paper bag and scissors accompanying the pizzas to make slicing easier. The restaurant also uses locally produced goods as often as possible, including pork from T-Meadow Farms in Lockport.
“We do so much from scratch right here,” Cooke said. “I say, ‘God made it and all I have to do is not screw it up.’ “
He calls his opportunity to lead the kitchen “the most positive professional experience of my life.”
“Not only is it eye opening, but it’s really, really rewarding,” he said. “It’s great people, keeping it as real as possible.”
The recipe for Osteria 166’s award-winning Soupfest submission, the broccolini gorgonzola soup, is below:
Broccolini gorgonzola soup
1/2 cup butter
1 white onion
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
Crushed red pepper
1 cup gorgonzola cheese
Salt and pepper
11/2 cups broccolini
Sauté onions with butter over medium-high heat for five to seven minutes. Add salt. Add flour and cook for two minutes. While whisking, add vegetable stock. Turn heat down to medium low. Then add milk and heavy cream.
Add crushed red pepper to taste. Adjust salt, pepper and gorgonzola to your liking. Cut broccolini into bite-sized pieces. Add to soup and cook until broccolini is tender. Just before serving, top with croutons and/or more gorgonzola cheese.