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Monday, June 10, 2013

Culinary Kings & Queens: Mover and Shaker Sal Scognamillo of Patsy's (the One and Only!) Kicks Off Culinary Kings & Queens As Our First Feature in this New Whom You Know Column Our Coverage Sponsored by Fresh Origins

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Since he was featured originally as one of the very first Movers and Shakers in March 2009, Mover and Shaker Sal Scognamillo has been moving and shaking on a variety of television appearances, in a literary sense by working on a new cookbook and most importantly, literally in the restaurant on West 56th Street. As you already know, Patsy's Italian Restaurant is the legendary eatery made famous by Frank Sinatra and has been run by the Scognamillo Family since its inception in 1944. It is well-known throughout the world for its outstanding Southern Italian cuisine and its celebrity clientele, but what make this restaurant so special is its emphasis on tradition, family and loyalty. There have only been three executive chefs at Patsy's: the original Patsy, his son Joey, and now Sal, Joey's son, runs the kitchen. For the past three summers, Sal has been teaching his son Peter, now 14, the ropes in the kitchen. Sal's older son, Joseph (age 17) has also been working at Patsy's the past several summers and school vacations. Both boys have a passion for the restaurant and intend to carry on the family traditions once they finish their education. 

Chefs Sal and Peter have made numerous television appearances, both together and individually. Sal has been on CBS's national program DISH, various local television news cooking segments, and radio programs, such as Seriously Sinatra hosted by Ron Della Chiasa. Peter has appeared with Sal several times (along with wife Lisa and older son Joseph) on Telecare, a Long Island religious network hosted by Monsignor Jim Vlaun for a segment called "Real Food," as well as Telecare's annual fund-raising telethon. When Peter was 9 years old he appeared, all by himself, on Mary Ann Esposito's Ciao Italia. Peter made his famous Maddalena Raspberry cookies for Mary Ann, and Mary Ann shared her recipe for Amaretti Fini cookies (thin Amaretti crisps).

Loyalty also reigns supreme at Patsy's. You can sense it immediately when you walk in the restaurant. The Wall of Fame showcases Patsy's celebrity clientele, and these are long-time steady customers who are a familiar face at Patsy's. Each has a story to tell about Patsy's, whether it be about when they first visited Patsy's as child, their favorite dish, or why they keep coming back to Patsy's. Some of these exciting celebrity stories were told in Patsy's first cookbook, written by Sal, which came out in 2002. More of these celebrity stories will be told in Patsy's second cookbook due out in the fall of 2014. This second cookbook, written by Sal and featuring his son Peter (who is also a budding author and gifted poet), will highlight more of Grandpa Patsy's recipes with a new twist by Sal and Peter. Patsy's is also gearing up for a gala celebration in 2014 in honor of its 70th anniversary. 

Sal is also loyal to his customers. As much as Sal loves the kitchen, he loves the dining room more. He can be seen there nightly, going from table to table making sure everyone is happy and everyone has what they need. He remembers your face and your name. More importantly, he remembers your favorite food and the way you like it cooked. Going to Patsy's is like visting Sal at his home. He wants you to feel welcome, and you do. When Sal is not at Patsy's he likes to fish, bowl and spend time with his family. We are absolutely thrilled to present Sal as our first feature in this column.  Peachy Deegan interviewed Sal Scognamillo for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: 
You said your first memory of Patsy's involves espresso. What kind was it and do you still use the same brand/what brands are best?
Sal Scognamillo:  It's a special custom blend created by Grandpa Patsy and made exclusively for Patsy's by Amarati. We still use it today. 

What did you eat at home growing up or did you always eat at Patsy's?
My mother is a great cook. Some of my favorites include pasta and meatballs, veal cutlet Milanese and baked chicken with onions and peppers. 

What is the best Patsy's story that is not included in the first cookbook that everyone should know and is fit to print?
 How my father, Joey, foiled a mafia hit at Patsy's. For the details, you"ll have to read the second cookbook. 

How do your specials differ from the two previous chefs at Patsy's?
I like to use classic ingredients and give them a modern twist, such as my stuffed asparagus rolls. 

What television shows have you not been on that you'd like to be on?
 Good Morning, America and The Chew. 

What does everyone not realize about Frank Sinatra that they should know?
He did hundreds of good deeds, if not more, anonymously. 

When does your new cookbook come out and how will it be different from the last one?
Fall 2014, to celebrate our 70th anniversary year. This will include over 40 color photos of the food, and discusses how the 4th generation of Scognamillos will carry on the family traditions.

What day will Patsy's turn 70?
January 2014. 

How is your diet going?
I've adopted a healthier lifestyle which includes eating better and exercising. The pounds are slowly coming off. 

As health is such a big concern today (Peachy herself has been trying to eat 8 fruits & vegetables a day since knowing someone she is close to was diagnosed with cancer) what is Patsy's doing to the menu to enhance the nutritional aspects?
We now have whole wheat pasta, many gluten-free options, and we added more main course salad options such as chicken tre colore and shrimp with mixed greens. As always, everything is cooked to order, so we are happy to accommodate dietary needs. 

Is Patsy's coming out with any new home products?
Right now, the focus is on the cookbook, but we do have some ideas for down the road. 

What should Boston College know about your sons?
They are both bright, hard-working and enjoy a challenge. Also, they are very loyal to the family.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
 My grandparents, Patsy and Concetta Scognamillo. 

What are you proudest of and why?
The way my lovely wife, Lisa, is raising our two sons. They are truly fine young men with great values. 

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
Open more restaurants, in addition to the Original New York location and our second location in Atlantic City. 

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
Friars Club, WHERE Magazine, NASFT (Fancy Food Show), Sisters of Mercy, Italian Board of Guardians, Telecare. 

What one word best describes you and why?
 Family-oriented because my family is the most important priority in my life. 

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
Mary Esposito, host of the PBS cooking show Ciao Italia, because she is a wonderful person and has such a vast knowledge of Italian cooking. 

How do you remember all your customers what is your secret-and how on earth can you remember how each person likes something cooked do you catalog it?
It's a team effort. My family and employees all have been working at Patsy's a long time. 

What is your favorite red wine?

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
I don't go to many cocktail parties because I am always working!

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature?
 I have a tabletop book with photos of the twin towers that I enjoy. 

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
Frank Sinatra, and not just because of his voice. He was a man with great character. 

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
An aquarium. I love fish. 

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
The Marathon. I don't participate, but I love how it brings so many different people together. 

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
 The Broadway shows. Nothing else compares to that kind of entertainment. 

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
Will Smith. I've always admired his work and would love to meet him. 

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
Seeing Frankie Valli on Broadway in October 2012 with my wife. 

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I've always donated my time and Patsy's products to various charities. The one thing I look forward to doing is the annual Telecare Telethon every January with my wife and sons. As part of this fund-raiser, we do a cooking segment together. Telecare is a religious network on Long Island headed by my good friend, Monsignor Jim Vlaun. 

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
I love them all!

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 
No, but I plan to soon. 

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I love to meet new people, so come by Patsy's and say hello. 

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Through my cousin who handles emails:

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