Food For Thought

Rosie tells us about 13 year old Hunter Zampa who is hosting a charity Cook Off Contest and the Al Tiramisu Restaurant Cookbook by Luigi Diotaiuti.

Calling all future chefs for a Cook Off Contest to help Hunter make a difference in the lives of kids battling cancer. Hunter Zampa, who is 13 years old, and won the Teen Chopped Championship on Food TV and was the Rachel vs Guy Kids Cook Off competitor, is hosting this event on Sunday, June 8, which will be held noon to 3 PM at the Italian Center of Stamford, 1620 Newfield Avenue, Stamford, CT. Proceeds will benefit, The Schwartz Family whose son Eli is being treated at Yale New Haven Hospital, New Jersey based Kula for Karma’s therapeutic yoga and Go4the Goal’s programs at Yale New Haven Hospital’s pediatric oncology division.

If you love to cook, are of high school age and from around the area, enter by submitting your video clip cooking or describing your favorite recipe. The top 10 winners will be partnered with one of the areas restaurants to showcase a recipe that will be served on June 8th at the Italian Center of Stamford. For rules and guidelines visit the event website. All entries should be sent to [email protected] and must be received by midnight on April 8.

Teen Chef Hunter Zampa working on his appetizer on Food Network’s Chopped.
Photo courtesy of Food Network.

In The Al Tiramisu Restaurant Cookbook, Chef and owner Luigi Diotaiuti tells us his life story from growing up on a farm in Basilicata Italy, to opening his restaurant, Al Tiramisu, Washington, DC, in March of 1996. In between we learn about his experiences as a chef, famous people he has cooked for, and his philosophy that Italian cooking should be simple with dishes made with a handful of ingredients. Each of the 100 of his restaurant’s most popular recipes provides interesting background information and chef tips along with a wine recommendation. Unfortunately the photographed dishes are not as enticing as the recipes. The name Al Tiramisu was picked for the classic Italian dessert and tiramisu means “cheer me up” in Italian, a goal Chef Diotaiuti set to achieve with his diners.

Some recipes include: sausage and mascarpone crostini; cream of chestnut soup with herb-coated goat cheese; quenelles shrimp and cranberry bean salad; radicchio and ricotta gnocchi with sweet gorgonzola; tuna with onion in Parmigiano-Reggiano cups; and classic tiramisu. This Tuscan Tomato soup was a hit at the Saferstein’s.

Tuscan Tomato Soup (Pappa Al Pomodoro)
Serves 4

Recipe reprinted with permission from
An Elevated Approach to Authentic Italian Cuisine

by Luigi Diotaiuti
December 2013

This rustic tomato soup is Tuscan comfort food at its best. So popular is this dish that it inspired a hit song in the 1960s called “Viva la pappa al pomodoro!” sung by Italy’s beloved recording star Rita Pavone. One of the original “green” recipes, pappa al pomodoro was traditionally made by frugal casalinghe, or housewives, to make use of leftovers. Today this homey and satisfying dish is found on the menus of Florence’s trendiest restaurants and is craved by Italian ex-pats around the globe. Its flavors intensify as it sits so it’s a good option for a buffet table. Pour it into individual-portion glasses for an original and modern presentation. Serve it hot or at room temperature.

Note that you will need good Italian bread that is at least two days old, as well as the end rind of either Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese.


4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups tomatoes, peeled and chopped or pureed
10 basil leaves, shredded
1 cup good quality Italian bread (at least 2 days old), cut into 1-inch pieces
3 ounces rind from a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
4 cups vegetable stock


Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add garlic. When it is golden, add the tomatoes and cook for 4 minutes, allowing the flavors to blend.

Add basil, bread, cheese rind, and a pinch of salt. Stir well. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer.

Stir every 10 minutes, adding 1 cup of stock at a time. Be sure to stir firmly from the bottom to prevent sticking. Cook until soup is thick and has a uniform consistency, about 40 minutes.

Before serving, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat.

When soup is ready, remove the cheese rind, stir, and drizzle hot olive oil over the top. Serve warm or cold.

Italian Cooking Primer

Leftover bread and cheese are the basis of many Italian home-style dishes. Bread that is a few days old can be used to make breadcrumbs or croutons. You can soak it in milk and add it to ground meat to tenderize meatballs, or mix it with other ingredients to create croquettes or bread puddings. Add cheese rinds to sauces, soups and stews for extra richness, flavor, and complexity.

Sommelier’s Pick:
Chianti Classico

Please send press releases and restaurant news, including information on staff changes, wine tastings, and cooking classes, to [email protected]

Click here to leave a comment
Read more Table Hopping articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown