Ron Suhanosky, former chef/owner of Italian restaurant Sfoglia on NYC’s Upper East Side, is not only an experienced Italian chef, he’s also an expert cookbook author. Suhanosky, who grew up cooking traditional Italian Sunday suppers under the tutelage of his great-grandmother “Big Nonna,” looks to impart his knowledge of family-style Italian cooking to the masses in his new cookbook The Italian Table, available October 16. Considering that his 2010 cookbook, Pasta Sfoglia, won a James Beard Book Award, we have high hopes for his upcoming project — and for a new batch of Italian recipes.
Suhanosky talked to us about what he eats on Sundays, ingredients he can’t live without and the biggest mistake people make when cooking Italian food.
In your cookbook you mention your great-grandmother “Big Nonna”—what dishes of hers inspired you to become a chef?
All of her pasta dishes made me fascinated with cooking. More so her spirit is what inspired me.
Unlike your first cookbook (Pasta Sfolgia) which adapted restaurant recipes for home cooks, The Italian Table stems from the tradition of Italian family-style cooking. What has been challenging this go around?
Actually, Pasta Sfoglia was more of a challenge. I feel The Italian Table was easier for me to write as the recipes brought me comfort in knowing they mainly come from home cooks so cooking them at home would be easy.
What made you decide to write another cookbook?
Writing this cookbook specifically, I feel the need to express the importance of the table. We always take for granted the table but it really dictates what we cook and for whom we are cooking, so to be able to express this was the driving force of writing another cookbook. Winning the James Beard Award also helped.
What is the biggest mistake people make when cooking Italian food?
Not keeping the ingredients as pure as possible. When preparing Italian food, it is important not to cover up the flavors with other flavors. For example, some Italian dishes prepared here in America you might see drizzled with truffle oil….this is a strong flavor that takes away from what the dish should really be about.
What ingredients can you not live without?
Olive oil, parmigiano, eggs and tomatoes.
A whole chapter of the book is dedicated to Sunday Specials—what are you eating in your house on Sundays?
I like to make big pasta dinners with fresh salads, imported cheeses and cured meats.
What do you feel is the newest trend in Italian cooking?
I feel that gluten-free pasta/ravioli is coming on strong right now.
Do you ever “cheat” and use store-bought tomato sauce?
What dishes have you seen and admired in Italy that haven’t gained popularity in the United States?
The use of smaller animals—rabbits, quails, pheasant. They seem not to be that interesting to the Americans as they are to the history of Italian cuisine.
What’s next—any plans to open another restaurant?
Yes! Making a 360-degree turn and re-inventing myself. Stay tuned…