“You cook the pasta in the water, but then take it out a bit early, then finish it in the sauce,” he said. “That’s the key.”
Harnessing those time-honored techniques and using only the freshest ingredients are why Woodstock’s foodie phenomenon has been selected to trek to the Big Apple in December to cook for colleagues and guests at the former home of one of the most world-renowned chefs in history, the late James Beard.
“Imagine stepping on the tiles he stepped on,” Bologna said of who he called the “icon of this industry.”
The Dec. 1 charity event at the James Beard House will benefit the not-for-profit James Beard Foundation, which administers educational programs, dishes out scholarships and maintains the historic residence in Greenwich Village as performance space for visiting chefs.
“To be tapped for something like this is a high honor … I am both honored and humbled to be selected as the featured chef,” he added.
Bologna, 59, is no stranger to accolades. He has won numerous culinary awards, trained, consulted and lectured all over the world, oversaw a culinary school in Marietta, managed the food service of the Olympic Village in Atlanta in 1996, and his downtown Woodstock restaurant seems to be a mainstay on various publications’ Top 10 lists.
So has all that notoriety gone to his head?
“It’s a wonderful thing. I appreciate it, but I am humble,” he said.
The most important thing to remember, he said, is to make sure to keep those sitting at the table happy.
“Work hard. Do it correctly. Try to be a perfectionist. Do right with your crew and the community,” the Woodstock resident said. “And try to help young culinarians. There have been many who have helped me.”
Bologna’s parents relocated from Italy to New York, where he was born and graduated from the Culinary Institute of American. He said he was cooking with his mother at age 7 and his father ran a retail meat market.
When asked what the most important thing about food is, he said, “respect for the ingredients.”
“You can tell it’s in one’s soul,” he said. “They way they touch the ingredients, feel them — you can tell it in their eyes.”
And Bologna lives by his words. He and his crew, including Katie Haggard and Yoichi Yamazaki, make Vingenzo’s dishes from scratch, daily, using only traditional methods.
For the Dec. 1 event, Bologna is preparing three separate hors d’ oeuvres, including asiago encrusted baby artichokes, white bean stew and assorted house-made crudo. The main course will feature hand-crafted Burrata, osso buco-filled tortelli, and two other dishes. For dessert — Semplicemente in Bianco e Nero, or Simply Black and White, which consists of bufala mozzarella, chocolate mirror glaze and chestnut honey balsamic strawberries.
About 80 guests are expected to attend the event. There are a limited number of tickets available to the public for the banquet-style dinner at a rate of $170 per person. Call the James Beard Foundation at (212) 627-2308 for more information.