side dish - what's stirring in indie kitchens
head chefs: erica ungerleider and syndi kisthardt
location: lo scopo gelateria & caffé, boonton, nj
recipe: lemon sorbet
the difference between gelato and ice cream
Erica: My major focus here is on the gelato, so I would say my influences come straight from Italy. The first time I tasted gelato, I was in Venice, and since then, I've been making sure that I everything I do is authentic, from the machinery to the ingredients. I even weaseled my way into the kitchen of a Gelateria in Treviso, Italy so I could look at the machinery and get the name of a manufacturer!
As far as our other menu items, like the panini, we basically use imagination, and listen to our customer suggestions so we are constantly coming up with new specials. Our soup business is really taking off, toosomehow in 90-degree weather, we are selling out of soups! Syndi is our soup maker creates everything from scratch. She has some southern influence from her mother's side, so all of her soups have to be heartya bowl is a meal. So, to sum it up, I would say we are influenced mostly by tradition, imagination and demand for what consumers want to see.
Where did you learn to cook?
Syndi: I never really tried or had any type of formal training. I would always watch my parents or grandmother when I was young and then had various jobs in restaurants and foodservice.
Erica: I never had any training either, but big family gatherings were important in my family, so I was always involved in the cooking.
Erica: I don't really follow any cookbooks, but I do remember using the Better Homes and Gardens one to find cookie recipes as a kid.
Syndi: Um...Betty Crocker! Haha!.
What's the one ingredient you could not live without?
Syndi: Butterit makes everything taste better!
Erica: Well...I guess I would have to say milk, because without milk, there would be no gelato! What a horrible thought!
Favorite Microbrew beer or wine?
Erica: I enjoy a good red wine. If I am going to drink a white, I like a good Prosecco.
Syndi: I'm not too much of a beer drinker, I am more of an Asti Spumante girl!
Favorite music to listen to while cooking?
Syndi: I like to listen to the TV in the background, either cooking shows or true crime stories!
Erica: I have about 11 days worth of music on a playlist, with everything from Italian music to classic rock, rap, easy listening, anything you can think of really. I do admit that I flip tunes though until I find one that I can dance around to while making gelato!
What is your favorite type of food?
Syndi: I enjoy very simple steak or fish dishes.
Erica: I love any type of food that has lots of vegetables in it...especially beans and legumes!
Most memorable meal?
Syndi: One of my all time favorite dishes is a walnut encrusted halibut that I get in a restaurant in PA.
Erica: I had a meal in Ravenna, Italy that consisted of what would be considered "Peasant food" a long time ago. They served handmade flat bread, with fresh sliced meats, fresh spinach and excellent red wine. It was so simplistic, but really wonderful.
Most memorable dinner guest?
Erica: Well, we haven't really had anyone famous come to Lo Scopo, yetwe have to change that. We do get a lot of great people coming in, like the folks that run that awesome Dine Indie site!
Most irritating celebrity chef?
Syndi: Martha Stuart bothers me because she will come out and sort of make something but you know that she has a bunch of people doing all her grunt work!
Erica: I'm really irritated at Paula Dean right now because she hasn't come to cook for me yet and talk to me with that awesome accent of hers!
What makes indie food better?
Syndi: The food at an indie establishment doesn't have that mass-produced taste, and the menu tends to have a lot more personality.
Erica: I agree. I know we really like to listen to our customers, and if they want to see something on the menu or suggest a gelato flavor, and we can do it, we will! That's something that would never happen at a big chain.
Know a chef that would be great for Side Dish?
Contact Robyn Jasko, Side Dish Editor, at [email protected]