From dining room fare to special event catering, this shrewsbury chef and Restauranteur is inspired by his storied culinary past
By Jessica Jones-Gorman • Photos By Premiere Digital
Long before he was trained in the art and refinement of sophisticated French cuisine, Casey Pesce found his love for cooking in an even more traditional culinary setting.
“My grandfather was a butcher; he owned his own butcher shop and delicatessen, and my grandmother was a caterer for some time,” Pesce said. “So ever since I was 12, I have been in the kitchen.”
As a kid, he would make French toast and scrambled eggs, learning all the basic recipes and necessary skills, and took a job as a dishwasher when he was still in high school.
“I was always curious, and just simply enjoyed the whole process,” the chef recalled.
So, he attended the Academy of Culinary Arts and started working as a short order cook at the Windjammer to pay the bills. Upon graduation, he worked at the Grenville in Bay Head and then David Burke’s Fromagerie, and within three months was named executive sous chef at the posh French/American eatery.
“I love home style cooking…very casual simple and fresh, but I love the refinement of French cuisine, and respect it,” he said. “Fromagerie gave me a lot of creative freedom, and so I was able to truly explore that style.”
In 2008, Pesce was inspired to open a Red Bank café and gourmet catering facility titled d’jeet?
“My grandfather used to ask everyone who walked through his door ‘D’jeet?’ [Did you eat?]…because he always wanted to share one of his home cooked meals,” Pesce said. “For him, food was about family, friends, and memories, so when we were thinking of a name and a theme for my restaurant, my grandfather was a big influence. My passion is to relish in the delight of providing people with food they can feel good about…cooking traditions passed down from our ancestors…natural, flavorful foods using seasonal and local ingredients.”
Pesce’s cooking style is eclectic—his menu featuring everything from an organic Scottish salmon burger to a wild asparagus flatbread pizzetta, yet his one cooking constant is the use of local ingredients and organic meats and veggies.
“We have a high standard of product: all of our chicken is certified from Maine, the meats are never treated with antibiotics or hormones, and we pride ourselves on that,” Pesce said. “We want to take a flavorful product and not do much to it…create something seasonal and local while also featuring elements of world cuisines. In addition to my grandfather’s classic recipes, there is also some Asian, Italian, French, southern, and Moroccan flavors represented.”
“I like braising meats and steaming vegetables,” Pesce said. “Artichokes, broccoli rabe, seasonal mushrooms, and peas are some of my favorite ingredients to work with.”
D’jeet, which has since moved from Red Bank and is now located in the Grove at Shrewsbury, is the perfect representation of Pesce’s culinary training and traditional Irish/Italian upbringing. A mix of forest mushroom pizza and vegan coconut carrot ginger soup coexists with Grandpa’s sopressata, roasted pepper, and fresh mozzarella sandwich. Helpings of fresh ricotta ravioli and spinach gnocchi also play a part.
The biggest selling item on the menu is The Joey: a crispy chicken cutlet sandwich topped with provolone cheese, baby arugula, tomato pesto aioli, and balsamic, served on a thick wedge of Italian bread.
“It was one of first things I ever cooked at my grandfather’s butcher shop,” Pesce recalled, laughing. “He taught me how to fry the cutlets until they were golden brown, and then yelled at me for eating more than my pay.”
The Angus burger is also one of Pesce’s specialties: served with tomato marmalade, onion relish, boursin cheese, and horseradish aioli on a brioche bun. The owner is also continually inspired to make fresh seasonal salads, appetizers and soups, and also maintains a catering business which hosts a variety of events, from private barbecues and company parties to weddings and local charity balls.
All of the chef’s menus are a reflection of his roots.
“No matter what I cook, I’m always inspired by my grandfather’s recipes,” Pesce concluded.
637 Broad St., Shrewsbury / 732.224.8887 / djeetcatering.com