Italian-American Cooking: Tips From the Pros

Francis Garcia and Sal Basille of Artichoke Pizza talk about Italian-American cooking
Fran & Sal's Fried Spaghetti Pie

Francis Garcia and Sal Basille from Artichoke Pizza and authors of the new cookbook Staten Italy, show you how to make one of their classic dishes, fried spaghetti pie.

Italian-American Cooking: Tips From the Pros
Staten Italy

Good food and good family go hand-in-hand in the Italian-American kitchen.

If you believe that great food and quality family time go hand-in-hand, then you probably already know Francis Garcia and Sal Basille, the geniuses behind the amazingly delicious Artichoke Pizza and authors of Staten Italy: Nothin’ But The Best Italian-American Classics, from Our Block To Yours. Staten Italy is a book about good food and good family; Francis and Sal open the doors to their homes and welcome you to their dinner tables to share laughter, tears, and heartwarming stories of the past — and, of course, really delicious recipes like their Stuffed Artichokes.

Want to know more about Italian-American cooking? Here’s what the pros have to say:

You emphasize that your food is Italian-American. Can you talk a little bit about how that differs from traditional Italian fare?
Italian-American is what we grew up eating. Things like chicken parm and baked ziti. If you go to Italy and ask for chicken parm, they'll think you're nuts; it's cuisine that's indigenous to New York City. Or spaghetti and meatballs — some Italian living in New York (probably our grandfather and his friend Joe) decided to put the spaghetti with the meatballs. That’s what we consider Italian-American. 

What are some of the biggest influences on your food?
Family, the New York restaurant business, emotions, and holidays.

If someone wants to cook Italian-American at home, what are a few of the things she or he should have on hand?
Olive oil, pecorino, garlic, breadcrumbs, parsley, basil, Ronzoni pasta, and a can of good tomatoes.

Any specific cooking techniques that you rely on for Italian-American fare?
Pan fry everything, don't be scared to use a lot of salt, brown the garlic so you don't get agita (indigestion), and burn your pizza. Good background music is especially important, too.

Good news — Francis and Sal love New York City (and say they aren’t finished building here yet) and have just opened up another Artichoke Pizza location. It’s in Astoria, underneath the tracks at the Astoria-Ditmars stop.

Want even more from Artichoke Pizza?
Share images from your next homemade Italian-American feast by April 6, 2015, and tag #StatenItaly on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to be entered for a chance to make pizza with the Cooking Channel’s own Pizza Masters, and invite up to three friends for dinner at Artichoke Basille's Pizza!

And if you order a copy of Staten Italy and submit proof of purchase to this link, Fran and Sal will share bonus recipes (which are insanely good).

Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.