Bruno Costa of Park Ridge makes Frittata con Patate

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Bruno Costa learned to cook by watching his Italian mother prepare dinner every night. Now he makes most of the evening meals for his family.

 

George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Cook of the week Bruno Costa's Fritatta Con Patate in his kitchen in Park Ridge

 

George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Bruno Costa cooks potatoes before adding them to a cheesy frittata.

 

George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Cook of the week Bruno Costa's Fritatta Con Patate.

 

George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

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Bruno Costa of Park Ridge makes Frittata con Patate

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print story Published: 9/15/2010 12:00 AM

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No doubt you've seen the oft-run commercial for high speed Internet featuring a smug high school student, certain his mother believes he is spending three hours in his room doing homework at the computer.

Savvy mom is on her PC in another room, well aware that her son is getting his work done and able to Skype with his friends because their Internet service is so fast.

That scene is a technological epoch apart from the way 50-year-old Bruno Costa grew up, one of five children of Italian immigrant parents.

"My mother would have the five of us sitting at one end of the huge kitchen table doing homework; she was at the other end preparing dinner," he says.

Anyone whose attention strayed from their studies earned a sharp rap to the knuckles with a wooden spoon, or whatever mom happened to have at hand.

Bruno no doubt earned his share of raps because his eyes often wandered to the pre-Food Network culinary "show" underway.

"You couldn't help but watch and learn," says Bruno, a father of five and avid home cook. "I absorbed some technique and the love of cooking."

His mother embraced the rustic, peasant cooking she learned growing up on a grape and tobacco farm in Naples, where she helped feed the hired hands.

Bruno brings that same style to his table in Park Ridge, where he cooks for his wife, Jennifer, and their three young children. (Two children have already flown the coop.)

Like his mother, Bruno respects simple, easy, inexpensive dishes that are delicious, like pastas with fresh vegetables, legumes, garlic, cheese and extra virgin olive oil.

"Today a lot of these rustic dishes are featured at high-end restaurants where you're paying big money for something that's easy and inexpensive to make at home," he chuckles.

A banker for 32 years, Bruno has been laid off since June, but has always cooked most of the family's evening meals.

"It takes my mind off my day," he says. "My wife sits at the island, we start drinking wine and everything is good."

His mother never used a written recipe, and Bruno likes to ad-lib it too.

"I enjoy creating my own dishes with what we have in the refrigerator," he says. "Of course, you need to keep a pretty decent supply of staples on hand."

His must-haves include pastas, canned tomatoes, eggs, fresh vegetables, such canned legumes as cannelloni or white beans, garlic, onions and fresh or dried herbs.

Recently he threw together a pasta and asparagus dish with cream sauce that he committed to paper for us. You can watch him demo a quick potato frittata at The Daily Herald website, too.

"You can add anything you want," he says. "It works for breakfast, brunch or dinner; it's packed with protein."

Eggs star again in Penne Con Uovo - "it's fantastic" - where they cook in the hot pasta with nutmeg and cheese.

We've got our homework assignments for the week.

-Laura Bianchi

• To suggest someone to be profiled here, send the cook's name, address and phone number to Laura Bianchi c/o Cook of the Week, Daily Herald Food section, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or to food@dailyherald.com.

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