Tune into any show on Food Network and you’re likely to see a particular Ramsay-esque type of chef: angry, yelling, a drill sergeant in the kitchen. For a long time this has been the norm in American cooking, especially in a competitive market like New York City. But for Vincenzo Galia, the 29-yearold executive chef at three Staten Island restaurants, there’s no time for drama. It’s about the food, and plenty of it.

Born in Sicily, Galia grew up on the fresh seafood and bold flavors the island has long been famed for. For an aspiring chef, it’s the equivalent of winning the lottery, and Galia found himself working in restaurants at a tender age.

“I started cooking when I was fourteen,” he said. “I started on the floor, then after a season I was a help cook. I started to understand that I was good at finding a balance of ingredients. My chef used to give me my duties every day. I would do my job then spend the rest of the day making other things.”

This culinary curiosity led Galia to leave Sicily and Italy altogether. He moved to Sydney, Australia, working weddings as part of a diverse kitchen that included chefs with French and Japanese backgrounds. In 2018, Galia found himself in New York City, where he met restaurateur Vincent Malerba of Angelina, Incorporated. Here, he rounded out a journey that began with one island and ended with another: Staten Island.


Galia’s restaurants, Angelina’s Ristorante in Tottenville, Angelina’s Kitchen in New Springville, and Flour and Oak in Tompkinsville, are an interesting cross-section of the contemporary restaurant world. Angelina’s Ristorante is housed in a waterfront mansion with a classic Italiano menu. Angelina’s Kitchen is a more casual dining experience with a focus on pastas and wood-fired pizzas. Flour and Oak, tucked in a buzzy new development on Minthorne Street, features a trendier menu, exposed brick, and a bustling bar. With three menus under his control, Galia is able to craft recipes that are traditional, modern, and most importantly, all his own.

“In all my recipes, there is always a fusion of Italian and French cuisine,” noted the chef. “Plus all the background that I get from my mother, my grandmother, and the traditional Sicilian plate. I just invent it in a new key. I get a lot of technique from the French and the nouvelle cuisine, and I mix it all together.”

Galia splits his recipes among all three restaurants, debuting new specials every Thursday in order to offer a new menu each weekend. These menus are firmly Sicilian: you’ll find arancini and spiedini and pistachio-crusted Chilean sea bass with a limoncello and caper sauce. You’ll find agnolotti, a stuffed pasta from the Piedmont region of Italy. Then there’s the global stuff: a tempura burger, for example, or a spectacular dish called Ippoglosso Agli Agrumi, a pan-seared halibut with zucchini scales, Sicilian couscous, citrus saffron sauce, and bok choy.

These restaurants share a spirit of creativity (at Flour and Oak, the specials menu is titled “Whatever They Felt Like Cooking Today”) and Galia credits his team for that, especially his chef de cuisine at Flour and Oak, Olivia Tiedermann, and his chef de cuisine at Angelina’s Kitchen, Oswaldo Guzman. Galia’s not interested in hoarding secret recipes or bossing people around; for him, collaboration breeds better cuisine.

“I like when we all work together on dishes,” Galia said. “We’re a kind of family. We discuss the problems we have. We pass hours and hours together. I spend more time with them than with my family.”

But you don’t have to work for Galia to spend time with him in the kitchen. On top of running three restaurants, he finds time to host cooking classes at Angelina’s Kitchen, teaching students how to make ravioli, tortellini, and tomato sauce from scratch. He hosts wine tastings, too, taking the opportunity to expand diner’s palates, exposing them to new combinations of wine and fare. Galia admits there’s a selfish motivation, too: at these tastings he gets to cook whatever he wants.

The chef explained that after years in the business and countless plates of ravioli later, he still feels the same rush of happiness every time he’s working in one of his kitchens or experimenting with a new recipe.

“To me, cooking today is equivalent to contemporary art,” Galia said. “When I plate, I always try to be dynamic and colorful. Because for a customer, the first bite is not even a bite. The first impression is with the eye.”

It’s a style of cooking based on intuition and experience, not on rule books. In one of Galia’s latest creations (not on any menu, at least not yet) he takes the clarified butter often used in a Hollandaise sauce and pairs it with sea urchin, olive oil, and Thai chili over a bed of spaghetti topped with dill and clam tartare. It’s an unexpected combo, drawing on all sorts of traditions, and yet it works. It’s a prime example of the culinary artist’s creativity at work.

Galia creates a couple new recipes a week. Sometimes he workshops them for weeks or months; sometimes they don’t work out at all, or the final product is something totally different. Yet it’s always a way to tell a story, to reflect on his Sicilian heritage or the chefs he’s worked with over the years. And for him, once that dish comes to the table, it’s always worth it.

“In the end, your dish disappears in a couple bites,” Galia said. “The face that you see on your customer on their first bite, it pays back all your hours of work. It’s not an easy job. But you do it if you love it. And I love it.”