It's New to Us by Jean Stratton

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PRIVATE CHEF: "This is a new concept. It's catering at 'eye level'. That is, I do the cooking at the client's home or office. They can watch me cook. There's a lot of interaction." Camillo Tortola, chef/owner of Il Cuoco Italiano, Inc., looks forward to introducing authentic Italian cuisine to Princeton clients.

Executive Chef Camillo Tortola Specializes in Personalized Dining

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well,if one has not dined well." Virginia Woolf

That opinion is emphatically shared by Camillo Tortola, chef/owner of Il Couco Italiano, Inc. It is his hope to bring the authentic aromas, flavors, sights and sounds of Italy to your home or office.

"We will offer our clients "everything Italian'," explains Mr. Tortola. "This will include homemade Italian foods with the purest of ingredients, combined with consultation on the best of Italian wines. People can watch me cook and even have a lesson. We can also provide Italian music – it's the whole ambiance, even to basic lessons in the Italian language."

Arriving in Princeton a year ago, Mr. Tortola has worked for Mediterra and The Ferry House. Previously, he had lived and worked in London and Scotland, and owned two restaurants in Scotland, including in Edinburgh.

Born in Italy, and brought up by his grandmother in the small village of Miranda, he became fascinated by his grandmother's cooking.

"I fell in love with her cooking style, from Naples," he recalls. "I remember tasting the most fresh, pure ingredients, combined with the right colorful presentation. And the taste and aroma were very appealing. She fed me very well! I'd watch her, and that's when I decided to become a chef."

He trained for two years at Roccaraso Cooking School in Italy, and worked in a variety of Italian restaurants as a chef before moving to Scotland, where he worked with well-known Italian chef, Enzo Ripa.

Perfect Setting

Mr. Tortola believes that Princeton is a perfect setting for his specialized private chef service.

"America is the land of opportunity!" he says, with a smile, adding that it is his hope to introduce Americans to authentic Italian cuisine. In addition, and importantly, he wants to help people recapture the wonderful dining experiences in the home that were once the norm.

"I love Princeton," he says. "It is very international, and many people here are knowledgeable about food and wine and enjoy it. Many people have traveled. But I think there is a lack of very good Italian food in Princeton. I want you to be able to enjoy it in your own home.

"Everyone loves Italian food," he adds, "because it is so tasty, and it's good for you. The Mediterranean diet is the best diet."

Mr. Tortola can accommodate any size event, from 2 to 200 guests. He recently created unique dining experiences for a charity event, a business function for 150, and a party for 65 at a private residence.

"It can be a special event, such as a birthday, anniversary, etc., or just friends getting together," he explains. Whatever the occasion, the focus is always on personalizing it to the client's tastes and wishes.

Tuscany Night

"I do any kind of Italian food," he points out. "Perhaps, people will want a 'Tuscany Night'. We can do that – have a particular theme. If the client has an idea of what they want – fish, chicken, meat etc.– we will work from that. Otherwise, I'll suggest a menu. Also, I'll suggest wine, dessert wines, and liqueurs.

"We'll do as many courses as customers want. Bread, vegetables, salad or pasta will be a part of the meal. Also, desserts are popular. Americans like desserts! My ricotta and chocolate cheesecake is a real favorite, and my tiramisu is a 100 year-old recipe, handed down from my grandmother. Poached pears with masala and sugar reduction and mascarpone cheese is another specialty and a big favorite."

Mr. Tortola will shop, prepare the food, and serve. He is definitely there to help every step of the way, to ensure the evening is a success. If the dinner is scheduled for 7, he will arrive at 4 to begin the preparations.

"Everything is fresh from that day and freshly cooked," he explains. "My food is all special Italian recipes that are not available in Princeton. They are exclusive to me and are authentic Italian recipes. I can also accommodate people who are on special diets, or who have food allergies."

Clients are responding to Mr. Tortola's specialties, including veal chop stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese, "caciucco livornese" (fish stew), cannelloni, with spinach, ricotta, and nutmeg, and "vitello tonnato." (veal scaloppine with tuna dressing).

Costs are based on the size of the dinner party and the complexity of the meal, he adds. The client pays for the food.

Way of Life

Mr. Tortola says his business is off to a great start, and he is pleased to meet so many people in Princeton and the surrounding area. "I enjoy giving them pleasure. It's wonderful when they say how much they enjoy the food.

"You know, an Italian chef is like an artist," he reports. "Italian food is so popular because of the culture of the country – the music, the way of life, the atmosphere. That is what I want to bring to my clients here – I want to bring the romance of Italy to you!"

He looks forward to making Princeton his home, while still keeping a house in Italy for visits once a year.

Most of all, he is eager to share his special culinary skills and knowledge of Italian culture to help clients "have that special kind of party everyone wishes they could have, and in the personal environment of their own home."

For more information on Mr. Tortola's personalized chef service, or to make an appointment, call (609) 921-6131.


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