Frank Talerico was born the son of an Italian goat herder. His father provided fresh ricotta and mozzarella cheese for a town in their native Calabria before moving the family to America in the ’70s. They held onto their Italian culture – homemade sausage, soppressata and prosciutto hung from the rafters in their basement. Frank’s parents made original tomato sauces and pasta from scratch. The family’s vegetables were grown from their garden.
The oceanfront view of Casa Calabria, Talerico’s new restaurant in Galt Ocean Mile’s Ocean Manor Beach Resort, parallels the scenery of Calabria. Surrounded by sea at the southern end of mainland Italy, the region is known for pristine beaches and beautiful landscapes. Casa Calabria provides both the authentic Italian food and the southern Italian experience.
“We came (to America) at an early age,” Talerico says. “As kids we were always raised on Italian home cooking. Close to a third of our menu are authentic family recipes that comes from my mom but also from Calabria.”
To prepare the menu, Talerico and his family took several trips to Calabria to gather authentic recipes. Each dish had to be approved by Talerico’s mother and his family.
“We have gone back two to three times to get the authentic recipes, which you would find in Calabria,” Talerico says.
Head chef Adriano Serra and sous-chef Salvatore Spina were born, raised and studied culinary arts in Italy.
“I have a lot of different dishes, it is impossible to have one favorite Italian dish, especially when you understand your food,” Serra says.
Don’t bother looking for canned tomato sauce in Casa Calabria’s kitchen. Every sauce is freshly made in-house every day. “We have authentic Italian cooking,” Spina says. “Everything that we have is made from scratch, even our pasta.”
Another unique characteristic is the small marketplace inside the restaurant. The marketplace provides a variety of cheeses and meats, olives, eggplants, mushrooms, breadsticks and more, all imported from Italy.
The authentic taste of Italian food is just as important as the atmosphere. “Buonasera!” is the warm welcome you receive as soon as you walk through the doors – nearly all Casa Calabria staff are from Italy. As you walk to your table you can’t help but overhear Italian spoken amongst hostess, waiters and bartenders. On some evenings there is more Italian lingo for customers to listen to. On Wednesday to Sunday nights, Casa Calabria has live Italian entertainment by the Fazio brothers, who were born and raised in Palermo, Sicily. They perform Italian classic folk music and modern contemporary Italian hits.
“We want our customers to feel as though they are eating in southern Italy,” Talerico says. “If you were to actually take a flight to Rome and then take a train to Calabria, and walk into a restaurant, this is what you would experience.”
The Dish: Orecchiette
Serves: 2 people
- 1 cup orecchiette
- 1 broccoli rabe
- 3 oz. sausage
- 1 garlic clove
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- 1-2 tbsp breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
- Oregano to taste
Pour olive oil over a high-heat saucepan, then add diced garlic to cook until slightly golden brown. Add sausage and season with salt and pepper, then cook until brown. Add chicken broth and broccoli rabe, and cook for 5 minutes. / In a different pot, boil the orecchiette pasta for about 8 minutes, then drain. / Toss the pasta with the sausage and broccoli rabe, and add a little chicken broth and salt and pepper (according to taste). / Make the breadcrumb topping by heating olive oil in a pan on medium heat and adding diced garlic to cook until golden brown. Place breadcrumbs into the pan and season lightly with salt, pepper and oregano according to taste. Cook the breadcrumbs until slightly brown. / Place the pasta and sauce in a shallow bowl and add the breadcrumb topping with pecorino/Parmigiano cheese over the pasta.