The Great Ones is a celebration of humans we admire — and an exploration of why they cook, not just how. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we’re featuring three couples who express their love through cooking. Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli met while working in the same restaurant in 2008 and married (in Florence, no less) seven years later. They are now the co-owners and chefs behind Don Angie, an acclaimed Italian-American restaurant in New York’s West Village. At their apartment in Brooklyn, Scott and Angie showed us how to cook their most popular dish: lasagna for two.
Angie: We met working together in a restaurant on the Upper East Side called Park Avenue Seasons. Scott was just out of culinary school and a line cook, and I was working in the front of the house. Shortly after, I moved to the back of the house and started cooking — and never looked back. We instantly bonded over our love for food, but specifically our love for Italian-American food because we both grew up in Italian-American families.
Scott: It bloomed pretty quickly! We knew each other for a month before we booked a trip to backpack through Spain. And the rest is history.
We instantly bonded over our love for food, but specifically our love for Italian-American food.
Angie: We worked separately for seven years after that. There was one year where we were working in separate restaurants, and we literally had two days off together the entire year. It was crazy! One of the many reasons that we love doing what we do now, working together, is because it's an opportunity for us to spend time together. We're both super passionate about what we do, and if we did it separately, we would never see each other. It enables us to spend all our time together.
We're both super passionate about what we do, and if we did it separately, we would never see each other.
Scott: We had a similar heritage and upbringing. We find inspiration eating at old-school red-sauce places, and then think about ways that we can update those recipes or bring in different ingredients from other cultures to give them a modern feel.
Angie: We typically go to Italy once a year. We got married in Italy; we're obsessed with Italy. But my grandma freaks out when she hears about some of the combinations we make. She's like, “No, no, you can't do that." But, you know, we’re trying to see that food through a different lens.
Scott: For us, cooking at home is a much simpler process. You don't have so many ingredients at your disposal; you don’t have a team of people that will clean up after you. That's why, when we cook at home, we always make one-pot dishes because we don't want to clean!
Angie: We’re usually cooking late at night, so it’s something simple like soup, or we make ditalini pasta, little pastina — practical things that come together quickly.
Scott: My favorite thing that Angie makes is actually this soup that's a very, very simple recipe from her grandmother. It's basically garlic and broccoli and broken linguini. And not even chicken broth — water — but you just cook the garlic in it.
Angie: I think cooking in general is for other people; it’s so much about sharing. You put a lot of love into your cooking, and it's a way of showing your love and care for another person. Doing it with a person that you love makes it even more special.
Angie: To make the lasagna, start with two sheets of fresh pasta. The first sheet gets a layer of béchamel, a layer of Parmigiano. We use Parmigiano-Reggiano and a really good amount of shredded mozzarella, and then put the second sheet of pasta on top. That gets topped with our Italian sausage Bolognese, so it's sort of like traditional Bolognese sauce but you add Italian sausage into it along with pancetta, ground veal, and star anise.
Scott: Then we roll it up, and we seal it shut with a little bit more of the béchamel on the edge. We slice it up, and then we put it into a pan along with a tomato sauce that we make with San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Bake that in the oven till it just starts to get golden brown and the cheese starts to melt. We pull it out, and we add dollops of robiola cheese, which is a fresh Italian cheese, almost like cream cheese. Then finish it in the oven. In this case, we finished it under the broiler just to give it some color. Once we took it out, we finished it with a little olive oil and chopped parsley, and that's it.
Angie: It’s definitely our most popular dish. Lasagna is the ultimate comfort food. The inspiration actually came from a photo of cinnamon buns. I saw this photo of cinnamon buns baked together in a pan, and I was like, "Oh, that's really pretty. What if we do it with pasta?" We use a Bolognese sauce, but as I mentioned, we add some atypical ingredients into it. We bake it in a tomato sauce, which is not traditional. We use Italian sausage in our Bolognese. It bridges that gap, marrying the traditional regional cuisine with an American twist.