NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chef Glenn Rolnick has cooked for celebrities, politicians and dignitaries but the author of “Carmine’s Celebrates: Classic Italian Recipes for Everyday Feasts,” said his great pleasure is watching diners mingle across tables at his New York restaurant.
“It’s fun to watch people talk and I love it. I think it’s a big part of what is making Carmine’s successful,” said Rolnick, director of culinary operations for the Alicart Restaurant Group, which operates six Carmine’s restaurants across the United States and the Bahamas.
Rolnick, 56, spoke with Reuters about cooking the simple food that people love and always keeping some marinara sauce in the freezer.
Q: Describe the spirit of Carmine’s.
A: It’s festive. Our food is served family style, basically to bring people together. We have large portions. We want people to take food home.
Q: This is your second book on Carmine’s. How is it different from “Carmine’s Family-Style Cookbook”?
A: The recipes are (still) Southern Italian, Americanized. But in this book we tried more cold and hot antipasti and salads ... We try to put in a lot of healthy options but also to keep the culture of Carmine’s: simple food that people feel comfortable eating.
Q: Did you always want to be a chef?
A: I was a baker in high school and I was cooking at home because mom and dad were working. At community college I finally decided that food was my passion and I was good at it so I went to the Culinary Institute of America and graduated pretty much at the top of my class.
Q: What’s your advice for the home cook?
A: Work from books that are simple to shop for, simple to get ingredients for, and make sure the cooking times don’t exceed what you can actually do. Also, know your family, know your guests, and work your recipes around their likes and dislikes.
Q: What’s always in your pantry?
A: Prepared, ready-to-go items that you can make and use for a couple of different things: breadcrumbs, roasted herb garlic oil, garlic butter, marinara sauce in the freezer.
Q: When you cook at home, is it Carmine’s style or fine dining?
A: I think Italian food is the most well liked, versatile food there is. You get eight people together trying to decide on what to eat, chances are most people will say, ‘Well, Italian’s good.’
Editing by Patricia Reaney and Nick Zieminski