Authors: Sal Scognamillo
Tags: #Cooking, #Regional & Ethnic, #Italian
ITALIAN FAMILY COOKBOOK
SAL J. SCOGNAMILLO
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEFFREY GURWIN
ST. MARTIN’S PRESS
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This book is dedicated to my beloved Aunt Anna—sweet, caring, and always generous. Love was the main ingredient in every dish she served.
And to my father, Joe Scognamillo—my inspiration and my hero.
by Ben Stiller
“What can I make for you tonight?”
Joe Scognamillo at Patsy’s in the early 1980s.
When I think of growing up in New York, one of the brightest, happiest memories that comes to mind is of a warm, loving Scognamillo asking me what I wanted to eat. “Would you like pasta? Veal Parmigiana?” I was in heaven.
As a kid, I spent a lot of time at Patsy’s. In fact, we were there for so many dinner and family celebrations that I don’t actually remember the first time I stepped through the doors of the famed restaurant on West Fifty-sixth Street.
My mom and dad, Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller, introduced my sister Amy and me to Patsy’s, the place where they held court, like scores of other entertainers, after an appearance in a nearby theater, studio, or nightclub. It became a ritual for them after performing live in front of 40 million people on
The Ed Sullivan Show,
whose theater was right around the corner. The waiters were impeccably dressed, moving like locomotives through the dining room, and everyone paid incredible attention to detail. Titans of industry, entertainers, people on a special first-time trip to New York, all came through, and all, it seemed, felt the same way—
Despite its formality, the overwhelming feeling I got whenever we visited Patsy’s was one of
. Even as an eight-year-old, I could see that the warmth and gratitude exuded by Patsy, his wife, and their children (Anna and Joe) weren’t reserved exclusively for us.
who came to Patsy’s for dinner was treated like family.
In a world where the importance of history and tradition seems to have diminished, I’m delighted that the Patsy’s of my youth endures. For years, my parents and the Scognamillos have enjoyed a genuine affection for each other, and many important memories from my childhood are rooted in the time we shared at Patsy’s. That personal bond is important to me especially now as I am able to take my kids there for special occasions. I guess it is not surprising my kids love the food there as much as we did. And it’s comforting to know that Joe, Rose, Sal, Frank, and the staff—many of whom were very young waiters when I was a child—are still there. This remarkable continuity, and our lifelong friendship with the Scognamillo family has created a wonderful bridge of connection that all our families share.
And so, the tradition continues … and with it, a delightful new cookbook illustrating more recipes from Patsy’s extensive menu. And the collection includes dishes from the family’s personal recipe file. I hope you’ll cherish and enjoy this book as much as I do!
Even as other things in New York City change from day to day, I can rest easy knowing there’s a good chance that one thing will always stay the same: the exceptional “family-first” philosophy at Patsy’s Italian Restaurant. I look forward to many more years of friendship. I am sure that one day in the future I’ll arrive at Patsy’s to have Sal greet me at the front counter, and see his son Peter emerge from the kitchen wearing a chef’s cap to ask the question I’ve heard so many times,
“What can I make for you tonight?”
Joe Scognamillo and Ben Stiller
Patsy’s has stood on West Fifty-sixth Street near Broadway for over seventy years and counting, owned by the same family for the entire period, which must be some kind of a record in the “here today, gone tomorrow” Manhattan restaurant world. Four generations of Scognamillos have worked here: My grandfather, Pasquale (everyone called him Patsy); my dad, Joe; me; my cousin, Frank; his son, Paul; and my sons, Joseph and Peter. (Actually, Peter is still too young to be working, but he spends an awful lot of time hanging out in the kitchen.) You’ll find Joe in the front of the house, and my mother Rose answering the phone. Patsy’s is about the food, but also family. Of the parade of celebrities who have dined at Patsy’s, many have literally become family. And of these, no one was more an honorary Scognamillo than Frank Sinatra, who my grandfather met in the early forties at the beginning of “Old Blue Eye’s” singing career.
When people ask me the secret to our business’s longevity, I say that, along with the food, it’s because we’ve stayed small—and that people know they will be treated like welcome friends. Don’t be confused by other eating establishments in New York with similar names. Our Patsy’s Italian restaurant is and always has been, owned by the Scognamillo family.
Patsy’s Italian Family Cookbook
expresses that sense of tradition. I share two kinds of recipes, the ones that have made us one of the best “red sauce” restaurants in New York City and our favorite family dishes that we serve at home. You’ll find special fare that we make for holiday feasts as well as the simple food that we make on our nights off. Some of these were transcribed from handwritten index cards that have been handed down from a dear relative. These recipes make me smile—when I taste my Aunt Anna’s Chicken Gravy, I can see her at the stove.
Postcards of the restaurant, used from the 1950s through the early 1980s.