Editor’s Note: Welcome to Inside Out, our weekly roundup of stories about Staten Islanders making waves, being seen, supporting our community and just making our borough a special place to live. Have a story for Inside Out? Email Carol Ann Benanti at [email protected]m.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — When it comes to cooking creativity and culinary prowess, striving for excellence can be a challenge, especially in today’s world of fusion cuisines and the mixing of food cultures and disciplines.
Although chefs all share a common bond when it comes to their deep-rooted passion for cooking, in the field of culinary arts these days, the competition is especially fierce.
Armed with an infatuation for food and the desire to create culinary masterpieces innately rooted in their hearts, many believe great chefs are born — not made — and their destiny scripted in the stars.
Consider Stefano Sena and Antonio Migliaccio.
When Sena, former co-owner of Bocelli Ristorante who now consults and is an “ambassador” at the Zagat-rated Grasmere eatery paid an impromptu visit to Noodle Pudding and met Antonio Migliaccio, the longtime executive chef/owner of the Brooklyn Heights dining spot, the parallels in their lives were uncanny.
As Sena and Migliaccio exchanged food-related ideas, it was obvious — they were cast from the same mold.
Sena presented Migliaccio with a copy of his cookbook, “The Bocelli Cookbook, Chef Stefano’s Favorite Recipes.”
THE SIMILARITIES IN THEIR LIVES AND IN THEIR PASSION FOR FOOD
After chit-chatting for a bit, the men learned they share a number of things — interests not only in culinary artistry, food discoveries and managing an enterprising hospitality business, but also in their personal lives.
Both chefs are native born Italians who immigrated to America from the Campania region of Southern Italy — Stefano from Avellino and Antonio from Ischia, a volcanic Island in the Gulf of Naples — leaving family members behind and seeking a better life in this country. They both settled in Brooklyn in the early 1960s. And though their paths didn’t cross until recently, they discovered they lived not that far from one another in our neighboring borough.
Both are family oriented and never lost sight of the importance of family values. And even though other commitments may take them away at times, they always focus on a strong family presence.
Says Sena, “When I was a young adult learning the trade in Michaelangelo Restaurant on Avenue U in Brooklyn, a high end dining spot owned by my brother Renato’, the executive chef there was a man named Giacomo. And Giacomo was born in Ischia. So as a result, I learned a lot, not only about the region, but to cook specialty dishes native to the area where Antonio was born. So I have an appreciation of Antonio Migliacco’s fine cuisine.”
And Sena, a former chef at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Manhattan and the Chanticler, Short Hills, N.J., many may recall was the opening chef at the former Monte Bianco in Grant City, the Excelsior Grand in New Dorp, and at the Hilton Garden Inn, Bloomfield.
Both chefs have always maintained and emphasize that simplicity and true flavors are the key ingredients to authentic down home, Italian cooking.
Migliaccio, who sits at the helm of the the quaint 60-seat authentic Italian eatery for 25 years, possesses a calm, quiet, unassuming demeanor. In fact, he was described as a man who “speaks through his food.”
He opened Noodle Pudding with thoughts of cooking fresh food at the right price. He had been the previous owner a dining spot on Court Street in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Noodle Pudding has nothing to do with pudding, but is the literal English translation of Migliaccio’s last name — noodle pudding or a bowl of noodles.
SIMILARITIES IN NOODLE PUDDING AND IN BOCELLI
Noodle Pudding is housed in a vintage building in Brooklyn Heights renowned for its refined architecture and its many brownstone row houses, most built prior to the Civil War. At one time Noodle Pudding was the neighbor of an authentic wire brush factory and a candy factory when the mode of travel was on horseback.
Like Sena, Migliaccio’s priority is focused on his guests, ensuring that his food is the best it can be and having diners feel extra special. And both men say being in the restaurant business isn’t just about preparing food and serving, but having diners feel like they’re in the dining room of their own home.
Both chefs believe in authentic Italian decor. And although the motiff is different in many ways, the basics are the same: Noodle Pudding possessing its old world charm, exposed brick and unusual lighting and original, classic mahogany bar — and Bocelli with its fine wood work, intricate moldings and eye-catching murals of the Mediterranean.
CELEBRATIONS – OCT. 31 TO NOV. 6
Happy Halloween birthday Sunday to Joyce Gheraldi, Jennifer and Christina Randazzo, Tony Lordo Sr., Ellen McHugh, Joseph Falcone, Eileen Downing, Michael Putney, Darrin Porter and Tom Andersen.
Wedding anniversary greetings Sunday to Jillian and Tim Rose.
Monday is birthday time for Judith Driscoll and her daughter Beth, Jasmine Mercado and twins Sebastian and Ilirian Popinara, who turn 9.
Happy wedding anniversary Monday to Lynn and Terry McHugh.
The best of birthdays Tuesday to Robert Wiese and Angela Commissa Frisone
Happy birthday Wednesday to John Caltabiano, Tiffany Angelico, Matthew Tafone, who turns 33, Caroline Sullivan, Laura Percoco, Tara Ann Pisano, Frank Floridia, James Greco, Peter Palazzotto, Stacy Benton, Michele Fitzgibbons and Kaitlyn Dratsczyk.
Happy wedding anniversary Wednesday to Anna and Robert Breazzano and to Jennifer and Quamie Smith.
Birthday greetings Thursday to Gina Biancardi, president and founder of Casa Belvedere, the Italian Cultural Center on Grymes Hill, Eithner Byrne, Charlotte Landry, Amanda Nielsen, Tom Hart, Jeff Canney, Rodney Stilwell, Phil Ebner, Robert Widener and Jerry Kelly. Cheryl and John Gaugh celebrate an anniversary.
Richmond County Clerk Steve Fiala marks a birthday Friday along with Christopher Ramos, Thomas Leli, Linda Doherty, Ruth Valva and Gary Escobar.
Happy wedding anniversary Friday to Emma and Jim Briazzano.
Saturday is birthday time for former Congressman Dan Donovan, Eddie D’Anna, Peg McGinley Reilly, Ann Marie Calzolari, Janice Giacalone Stoffers of Hall of Frames fame, Nicki Buczkowski, Mildred Olsen and twins James and Joseph Stropoli, who turns 8.
It’s wedding anniversary time Saturday for Pat and Joe Sansone, for Mary and Joe Spillane and Peter and Karen Rondinelli.