HOW THIS ANGELINA’S KITCHEN GURU SPICES HIS GRANDPARENTS RECIPES WITH MODERN TECHNIQUES
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN PHOTOS BY AMANADA DOMENECH
Over the course of his career, Angelina’s Kitchen Chef, Vincenzo Gailia, has worked in a number of celebrated establishments bouncing around the culinary landscape in his native Italy before moving to Australia and then New York his stints including Staten Island hotspots like Casa Belvedere, The Richmond, and the French inspired Vinum.
Asked about early influences, Gailia immediately referenced the recipes of his grandparents.
“My passion truly comes from them, and my mother,” he said. “I can still remember how the house smelled when they baked fresh bread, and still envision all of the happiness as they laid a lasagna at the kitchen table. The recipes I write today are associated with those memories…moments I spent with my family as a boy and then as a teenager.”
Born and raised in Licata, Sicily, Gailia fondly recalls fishing with his grandfather for the evening meal, then picking up accompanying fresh basil and lemons in his backyard.
“For me, that’s what food is all about,” he said. “One flavor can spark a memory, which makes for an emotional connection with each one of my dishes.”
Gailia started working in the hospitality business when he was just 14, bussing and waiting tables at local restaurants before starting culinary school two years later.
“I wasn’t a wonderful student [in traditional school],” he laughed. “So my father sent me to culinary school.”
Upon graduation, Gailia worked in several restaurants in his hometown but desired something further flung. (“I wanted to discover the world outside of my country,” he said.) So, he moved to Australia and began working in a coffee shop, prepping breakfast and lunch.
“At that point, my English was not very good,” he recalled. “But I studied and learned. Within a couple of months, I could converse. I landed an interview at a 70 seat restaurant and they hired me on the spot.”
Gailia built his experience there before moving on to fine dining experiences like Taste of Naples, Rome Capoccia, and Le Montage, all in Sydney. He moved back to Italy for a time before returning to Australia to work for Navarra Venues, a catering hall that hosts weddings and other large scale events.
“There I improved my knowledge, learning new techniques and molecular cuisine,” he said. “I was very proud to work there.”
He returned to Italy for a few months before moving to New York City on July 4 of 2018.
“Massimo Felici took me in and welcomed me onto his staff,” he said, referring to the owner of the North Shore’s famed Vinum and Richmond, and who is also responsible for the fine dining experience at Casa Belvedere. “He handed me such a great opportunity. I learned so much during my time there.”
In 2019, Gailia started cooking at Angelina’s Kitchen in New Springville.
“I feel like you have to constantly keep improving yourself if you want to be the best at what you do,” he said of his most recent career change. “This work is hard and the hours are long, but it’s important to never become bored.”
At Angelina’s, Gailia combines all of this experience, especially lessons learned in his family kitchen.
“I take those traditions, and add modern technique,” he said. “It’s not easy; in a few bites you have to deliver all of the flavor and still make it look pleasing, but I’ve found wonderful ways to blend both old and new school.”
“When you work 16 hour days, a staff becomes your family,” he said. “You learn to really trust them and form a lasting friendship. We leave the house in the morning and don’t return until midnight, so together we form our own extended family.”
He credits his fiancée, Viviana Russo, with being his support system. “I’ve known her for 15 years, we met in Sicily and she came here with me to support my dreams,” adding that his staff also means the world to him.
Chef Gailia also offered that someday he hopes to merge all of this hard work into his own enterprise.
“I’m only 27 years old, and am extremely proud of what I’ve done so far,” he concluded. “This is just the beginning, though. I will only keep improving and learning, and one day I will have a restaurant of my own.”
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