Tuesday’s with Prince of Pasta

Published 7:38 pm Friday, March 12, 2010

As with anything, all good things must end.

In this instance, it’s a Tuesday night cooking class, learning the secrets of Italian Cuisine 101.

In this class, all good things come in twos. The first good thing is that the cooking class itself has been a lot of fun. Second good thing is you eat what you learn.

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First admonishment from the Prince of Pasta, Jim Gisondi, is, don’t eat dinner before class, because the most delicious event is eating lessons learned.

Now, what other educational class can make that statement?

The class is part of the continuing education curriculum of Bainbridge College. No, we don’t meet in the science lab at the college for our experiments, but rather in the kitchen of the St. Johns Episcopal Church where the only rule is leave the place as clean as you found it.

The teacher cooks, we do the dishes.

Jim Gisondi bills himself as the Prince of Pasta, learning to cook Italian from an early age from his “Ma,” aunts, uncles, neighbors, et. al., in the upstate New York berg of Gloversville, one of those many places in the northeast where Italian immigrants migrated from the old country, settling in the new world bringing their culture and cuisines, just as my grandparents did in the early 1900s.

For several years, Giz operated his own Italian restaurant, called, what else, Gizondi’s, where these recipes were on the menu.

We are learning Italian recipes handed down from ages of peasant cooking, the food of agrarian working class people, who have refined cooking and eating into an art form. You can view Italian art of the ages in museums, but there’s also everyday art still brewing in their kitchens.

If you don’t think it’s an art form, try sister Marie’s recipe for cheesecake. From this day forward, you will snub your new sophisticated nose at any cheesecake commercially offered.

This class is testimony to any continuing education class offered by Bainbridge College. It’s an opportunity to gain some new knowledge on an interesting subject. What you learn may not be your new avocation, but it’s a chance to enhance your lifestyle and meet some nice folks as well. Our class consists of Kathryn Lillethun, Sharon Willis, Frank Loeffler, Richard Smith and Darius Cannon.

The Prince of Pasta presents us with a cookbook of about 75 Italian recipes. Many are family recipes he has cooked for years, refining the dishes. Others are dishes gleaned from former Gloversville Italian neighbors, additions that probably are not found in traditional Italian cookbooks.

The fun of the class is thumbing through the cookbook, selecting a recipe, then cooking it at home, blending the ingredients according to lessons learned. Many of the dishes are to die for, as the saying goes.

At the moment, I am on my third cheesecake, made enough variations of sauce to stock the freezer, selected several soup and chicken dishes to make for all time, and have gone through about a gallon of homemade Italian house dressing, that sparks any salad.

If you are interested, watch for the next publication from Bainbridge College on continuing education classes. This class will be repeated in September. But if you are a graduate of 101, the next class, 102, a continuation of the first, begins April 6.

Wine, I have always thought, was an essential ingredient of Italian cooking. But since this is a college class, even though we are not on the college campus, anything alcoholic is out.

Now how can you cook many Italian dishes without wine? You can of course, but how can you enjoy in class a dish of chicken simmered in olive oil seasoned with garlic, adding sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, zucchini, fresh tomatoes and red wine, served on a bed of penne pasta?

It screams too for a glass of wine on the side.

Seeking a special dispensation, I am going to have to talk to college President Tom Wilkerson about this.