Italian Wedding Soup


Chef Len

*Enjoying our blog and recipes? Check out my book, CHASING THE HEAT where you will join me on my 50 year adventure in the restaurant business. Sprinkled with some of my favorite dishes so you can cook them on your own too! Consider this your back stage pass to how restaurants run. Click here to purchase at a killer deal. Great for the foodie in all of us!


Potato Gratin with Roasted Garlic and Manchego



Stick to your ribs good! Enjoy!

Chef Len

*Enjoying our blog and recipes? Check out my book, CHASING THE HEAT where you will join me on my 50 year adventure in the restaurant business. Sprinkled with some of my favorite dishes so you can cook them on your own too! Consider this your back stage pass to how restaurants run. Click here to purchase at a killer deal. Great for the foodie in all of us!


*photo credit La Cucina di Lorendana*

Today we’re going to cook one of my favorite recipes. Easy to prepare and always loved by the guest. Flatten the meat mixture on a sheet of cello wrap for easy handling when folding over. With cooler weather approaching this makes for a wonder dinner main course. Keep cookin’!


1lb. ground beef
1lb. ground pork
1 medium onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, chopped
4oz. raw bacon, diced
3 slices sourdough bread
1/2 cup (scant) heavy cream
3 whole eggs
3oz. parmesan cheese
5oz. crushed pistachio nuts
5 slices ham
5 slices provolone cheese
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste


Saute onions and garlic with the raw bacon, cool and hold on side.  In a large bowl, soak the bread in the cream. Add the seasoning, beef, pork, eggs, cooked onion, garlic, bacon, parmesan cheese and mix. Flatten mixture and place slice of ham, provolone cheese and crushed pistachios down the center. Fold sides over to make a stuffed loaf. Rub lightly with olive oil and back at 375 degrees approximately 45 minutes or when internal temperature is 160 degrees.

Serve and Enjoy!

Chef Len

Chef Len’s Famous Sub

I grew up in Claymont, Delaware just 20 miles south of Philadelphia. Long before fast food became popular, subs, meatball and cheese steak sandwiches were the staples of the day. My favorite sub shop, as they were called back then, was “Sharpies” on the Philadelphia Pike. A sub sold for about $1.00.  Add a Tasty Cake, Grape Soda and small bag of Wise Potato Chips and you had a great meal.

After my service in the Army, I moved to Taft to teach food services (ROP) for the Taft and Maricopa school district.  In 1973 my cravings kicked in for a good east coast sub.  I invited eight of my closest friends to the house for a sandwich tasting party with the sub shop favorites I grew up with. My mom shipped a dozen rolls to me from Phili so that the finished sandwiches were as authentic as possible. The party was a huge success with everyone encouraging me to open a shop in Taft.  In August of that year, Gentieu’s Pantry was born and launched my restaurant career.  After an investment of just $7,000 with our opening day sales of $128, we were off and running. The little 800 sq. ft. shop on the corner of North and Third Street serving these east coast delights was an immediate success.  Our six foot sub, delivered on a motorcycle, was the talk of the town.  Two years after opening, we made the world’s longest sandwich listed in the 15th edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. The mammoth sub, 464 feet long weighed in at over 1600 pounds. Watch Video on You Tube: search World’s Longest Sandwich 1975. The rest is history.
1.  Very important — the roll: Purchase rolls or french bread wrapped in paper or sold loose.  NO cellophane or poly bag packaging. For this demo, I purchased individual Mexican Torte rolls at Albertsons. If using a whole french loaf, scoop out some of the inside after slicing open as it usually is too much bread.
2.  Meats and Cheese: All sliced very thin but not shaved. Provalone cheese, Cotto or Genoa Salami, Capacola and boiled ham. Have the deli person give you a sample slice to determine thickness.
3.  Other ingredients:  Thinly shredded Iceburg lettuce and brown onion. Sliced dill pickle, Pepperoncini, Roma Tomato, Oregano, Olive Oil, dill pickle vinegar and salt and pepper.  NO MAYO OR MUSTARD!  Never used on authentic east coast sub — it would ruin it.
4.  Very important: Cut the roll 3/4ths through hinged at the back. This allows meat and cheese to be placed on both sides with the rest of the ingredients in the center.  It creates better texture and mouth feel when eating. This simple step makes a huge difference compared to what many sub sandwich restaurants do by cutting the roll totally in half. They place the meat and cheese on one half with the rest of the ingredients on the other. When taking your first bite, the layer of meat and cheese don’t mix well with the other ingredients and often times will cling to the roof of your mouth.  The results are not a good texture or good mix of all the flavors in the sandwich.
CHEF’S NOTES:  Prepare your subs as close to serving time as possible. Better yet, set up a prep station with all the ingredients and make a party out of it. Make them to order with your guests. Subs should not be made more than 15 minutes ahead as the bread will begin to get soggy (not a good texture).  If you want to have the best outcome, make them to order then serve.  It’s worth it! Good eating – yumm!

Tiramisu | Wonderful Italian dessert

This week we’re bringing a bit of Italy right to your kitchen. Let’s get cookin’!

Make a Zabaione ( Italian egg custard):

7 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups sugar
1Tb. Vanilla

Place in stainless bowl and cook over double boiler Aprox 10 minutes hand whipping the whole time. The mixture will thicken and turn a pale shade of yellow. If you don’t whip you will end up with sweet scrambled eggs. Let cool and hold on side.

Other Ingredients:
1  1/2  cups room temp mascarpone cheese. ( May sub. softened cream cheese with little heavy cream whipped in to thin couple Tb’s )
2  cups whipping cream ( cold and a cold bowl to whip it in)
3 packages of lady fingers
1 cup cold espresso or extra strong brewed coffee.
1/2 cup dark rum or Marsala wine.
Coco powder for dusting.

After making the Zabaione hold on side
Whip the cream in strong peaks
Dip portion of lady fingers in coffee and lay on bottom of baking dish ( Aprox. 9in square or suitable baking pan glass or stainless)
Mix wine or rum with cheese and fold into cooled Zabaione
Take small amount of whipped cream and gently fold into mixture with rubber spatula ( this method is called a liaison and prepares the mix for the adding of the rest of whipped cream)
Add the remaining whipped cream by gently folding it in to keep the mix airy. DO NOT WHIP ! Use rubber spatula
Pour portion of mix over lady fingers , gently smooth out. Add another layer of coffee dipped lady fingers and pour remaining mix over top, gently smooth out. Dust with little coco power using fine mesh hand held strainer as pictured.

Chill at least 4 hours before serving.

Chef’s Note: can be made in individual service ware.

Optional : served with drizzle of chocolate and dollop of whipped cream.

Great dish for anyone’s sweet tooth, enjoy!

Looking for a great dinner to pair with this dessert? Check my amazing lamb dish here!

Gentieu’s West

August of 1978 Gentieu’s West was opened in the Safeway shopping center in the former Tims Steak house location. It was quite the expansion from the Pantry on third st. From the start it was a huge success. We actually opened on Thursday and had to close on Sunday to restock food due to the volume of business.

The ice cream creations were introduced and named after the local school mascots. Our ice cream sales were so great Dryers out of Fresno delivered two upright freezers at no charge to store the large inventory of ice cream needed to satisfy demand . Close to the high school and college sports venues we were always busy after local sporting events and football games. Those were the days we would have lines out the door with a waiting list durning dinner and again at 10:00 pm after a game. Our staff was remarkable rising to the occasion everyday to serve the people of Taft and surrounding area. Many have commented to me years later that working at the restaurant was a great experience and it taught them how to work, preparing them for work experiences later in life.

It was a big financial investment for me borrowing close to $200,000 by the time we added the two spaces next to us expanding our square footage to almost 6000 sq ft. Our first years sales projection summited to the bank to help secure the loan was $750,000 we closed the first full years sales at $785,000 and the following years sales eclipsed $1.1 million. With the highest priced item on the menu a T-bone steak at $9.95 these sales were incredible, securing our place as the top restaurant in town .

A look back for me and sharing this with you, I realize what a special time that was within a wonderful town filled with great customers and friends. I will always remember, cherish and appreciate that wonderful group of people that comprised the staff at Gentieus. Truly a place in time that cannot be duplicated but can always be remembered with fondness and warm feelings.

Thank you all for being part of those memories.

Chef Len

Fruit platter | Go Big or Go Home

Summertime is a great time for bar BBQ’s and outdoor entertaining. Fresh fruit always a favorite and the quality and availability is much better this time of year. Rather than place the typical  platter of cut melons, grapes, strawberries and pineapple etc. I decided to make a display the focal point of the buffet.

This display was for a fundraiser being held at the Biddel House in SLO (Biddle House pictured above). Owned by Adrian Lena, it is a beautiful Victorian home located just off the business district. Adrian was such a gracious host sharing her home for an event for Gods Haven for Children (foster family agency) . The kitchen island topped with granite was spectacular and I decided (with her approval) to create the display on one end of it, no platters. I began by placing large leaves of romaine down to create a base for the fruit to rest on. On top of that placing watermelon basket filled with strawberries then adding  apple birds, citrus crowns, grape clusters, pineapple tops and assorted other fruits displaying some in their packing boxes.

photo courtesy Jim Davis

The colors and shapes can’t help but be pleasing to the eye. The point here is not how good you might be at fruit carving but rather to create a WOW! factor when the guest step up to the buffet to begin service. People also eat with their eyes! Have fun with it , when complete you can step back to view it and be proud of what you created.

So when time permits and good quality fruit is in season leave your platter in the pantry and set up right on the counter or table top. Use my photo for ideas. This display was the hit of the party and will be at yours too.

Let’s get cookin!

Chef Len

Check out my abalone recipe to go well with this display!

Looking to be inspired weekly? Make sure you hit subscribe for some culinary inspiration delivered right to your inbox! Or, click here for my book!

Fresh Boiled Shrimp | 2 Sauces

I had the Papagallo hauled out in Ventura for inspection. A fishing boat came to the yard with some mechanical issues and they still had some of the catch onboard. The captain handed me a container of shrimp and asked if I might prepare them for some of the yard workers. I told him of course I would be glad to. There is no comparison between freshly caught shrimp and frozen. These were going to be good eating.


In a large pot bring water to a boil with slices of fresh onion and celery , couple cans of beer and some pickling spice or old bay seasoning. Place the shrimp in when pot reaches a boil. Do not over cook! They will take five or so minutes depending upon their size. They are done when turning red in color and flesh is firm and white when you cut a sample in half. Undercooked the flesh is translucent and not real firm. After the cooking time is reached always cut one in half to check for doneness. Can be served warm or after cooled in ice water. Boil with shell on ! On this day I boiled them off right at lunch time so the guys could enjoy them hot and steamy for lunch. What a hit and a real treat they talked about during my stay in the boatyard.


I prepared two that day.

-Melted butter with squeeze of fresh lemon juice and 10 cloves of chopped fresh garlic.

-Cocktail sauce : mix : 4 cups of catsup , juice from 2 lemons, few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and 1 cup of prepared horseradish. Chefs note: I find good horseradish at the Smart and Final store. With the large amount of horseradish it will give the sauce a more orange color than a deeper red you see in most restaurants. This recipe also has a wonderful kick to it which most people like. If too hot add more catsup.

Good quality catsup and good quality horseradish are keys to getting good results.


Chef Len

Check out last week’s recipe here!

Flaming Coffee A’la Gentieu

Ready to WOW your guests?! This Flaming Coffee recipe is sure to do the trick!

To begin, you will need glassware that can withstand the heat of burning rum. I use a 17.5 ounce Libbey 8418 Bolla Grade wine glass that has worked well for me over the years. You can find them, here.


Brewed Coffee
Bacardi 151 Rum
Baileys Irish Cream
Ground Cinnamon
1 Fresh Orange
Fresh Whipped Cream

You will also need a flame, preferably from a candle. Start by quartering the orange and using one piece and rim the edge of each glass with it’s juice. Dip each orange-rimmed glass into sugar placed on a small plate as if you were rimming a margarita glass with salt. Next, pour a scant ounce of rum into a one-ounce ladle. I prefer Bacardi 151 Rum, a highly flammable variety that’s 75.5 percent alcohol.

Holding the ladle in one hand and the glass in the other, run the ladle under the open flame to ignite it. Place the burning ladle of rum halfway into the glass. Carefully lift and tilt the ladle upward and out of the glass, catching the burning rum in the glass. When the ladle empties, blow out any remaining fire in the ladle. Swirl the glass with the burning rum as if it were a red wine. Sprinkle some ground cinnamon into the fire to create a colorful sparkling effect.

The rum should burn for several seconds, but don’t let it burn too long as the glass will become too hot. Pour the coffee into the glass by resting the edge of the coffee pot or container on the edge of the glass. When you begin pouring, move the glass in a downward motion and the coffee container in an upward motion. this causes a stream of coffee to flow through the air to half fill the glass and extinguish the flame.

Add shots of Kahlüa and Baileys, a dollop of fresh whipped cream, and sprinkle with cinnamon. When handing the drink to the guests, caution them about how hot it is. This dish exists in many versions using a broad range of ingredients. Once you’re comfortable making it, experiment with coffee syrups, other liqueurs and chocolate.

This coffee service is even more spectacular performed in the dark. The rum burns with a beautiful blue flame and sprinkled cinnamon adds a “Fourth of July” effect. Just be sure there’s enough light to let you see what you’re doing!


Chef Len 

Check out last week’s recipe!

Chicken Piccata | A Savory Summer Favorite

This week’s recipe is a perfect Summer recipe. Whether you pair it with pasta, a fresh salad or something a little more savory, the blend of  flavors are refreshing and a perfect dish for Summer!

1.  4 - 6oz skinless/boneless chic breast
2.  Seasoned flour S/P for dredging 
3.  1/3 cup drawn butter for sautéing 
4 .  Juice from one lemon
5.  1/4 cup capers
6.  1/2 cup Chardonnay wine
7.  4 TB. Heavy cream 
8. Chopped parsley to finish


Place chic breast between cling film and lightly tenderize with mallet
Dredge in seasoned flour. Heat butter and sauté breast until brown on both sides, remove from pan place in 325 degree oven for 5 to 10 min. Until done. 

To make sauce deglaze sauté pan with wine, add the cream and capers and reduce by half. Finish with lemon juice and parsley. Serve chicken with ladle of sauce over top.

Chefs note:

Most recipes do not call for heavy cream , I like to add it for a little extra richness, you don’t need much. Also if you sauté pan is large enough it’s nice to return the cooked chicken to the pan with sauce and let simmer a minute or so before serving, then ladle sauce over top, giving the dish a little more flavor.

Enjoy !

Chef Len

Ps. Looking for some more inspiration in the kitchen? Check out last week’s recipe for another culinary treat!