Colorful frutti di mare is a crowd-pleaser for holiday meals

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From the Holiday 2018 issue

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As the holidays approach, many Italian-Americans along the coast are planning the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Christmas Eve meal. But ask Francesco Agostino, a native of Italy, about the meatless feast and you’ll get a puzzled look. “I’ve never heard of it,” says Agostino, the chef at Azzurro Italian Oven and Bar in Rehoboth Beach, which he owns with wife Tonya.

Perhaps that’s because Agostino comes from Turin in northern Italy, and the feast — also known as La Vigilia (“The Vigil”) — is a southern Italy inspiration. Though unfamiliar with that meal, he is well acquainted with seafood. There are meat dishes on his Azzurro menu, but seafood is the star.

The couple chose Rehoboth Beach for the restaurant’s location because it reminds them of walkable beach towns in Italy. They selected the 19th-century building — best remembered as the former home of Chez la Mer — for its character. “We didn’t want anything modern,” he says.

Combining grilled fish with autumnal ingredients creates a ‘shoulder’ season of taste

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From the October 2018 issue

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By October, many chefs are overhauling their menus to feature seasonal ingredients such as butternut squash, pumpkin, kale and chard. Entrees are hearty, and sauces get richer.

But Chef James “Jamie” Parsons, who grew up in Lewes, isn’t ready to give up on grilled fish, a summer staple. He marries swordfish with such fall flavors as maple syrup, apples and Brussels sprouts.

Given Parsons’ background, it’s not surprising that he would create such a novel dish. He’s worked for the British-born Jonathan Cartwright, a Five-Diamond awardee from AAA, at the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk, Maine, and celebrity chef and TV personality Todd English, who’s owned multiple restaurants in Boston.

“I’ve cooked my whole life, even when I was a little kid,” he says. In part, he enjoyed bringing recipes from magazines to life. But he also wanted to help his working parents. His father was in the shipping and receiving department of Barcroft Chemical, now SPI Pharma, and his mother sold manufactured homes for Colonial East.

To elevate this fall favorite, add fennel

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From the September 2018 issue

recipe-appletart-sept2018Maggie Cellitto’s culinary career has been a little bit sweet and a little bit savory. The Indian River High School graduate is one of the rare chefs who is adept at making desserts, including pastries and pies, as well as entrees, including pork chops and crab cakes.

Along the Culinary Coast, Cellitto has worked on both sides of the kitchen. She previously oversaw the Big Fish Restaurant Group’s in-house bakery. Earlier this year, she became the executive chef at Matt’s Fish Camp in Bethany Beach.

Cellitto’s background gives her the ability to look at local ingredients from many angles. Consider fall squashes. “I love them,” she says. “There are so many different ones, and they all have such different flavors. You can use them in desserts. You can grill them, saute them and make soups out of them.”

Apples are another versatile autumnal favorite. An ordinary apple pie, however, won’t do for Cellitto. She incorporates fennel. Also known as sweet anise, fennel is typically tossed into soups, stews and salads — not desserts. But in Cellitto’s pie, it adds a licorice-like flavor that is a pleasing counterpoint to the fruit’s tartness. “You caramelize it down with the apple, and it comes out really nice,” she says.