Chef Joey Campanaro reflects on his culinary beginnings and Italian roots

Chef Joey Campanaro may have American roots but he’s a master of Mediterranean cuisine. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Campanaro was inspired by the foods of his childhood — especially what came out of his Italian grandmother and mother’s kitchens.
After studying restaurant management and spending a semester in Italy, he worked at top venues around the country. 

In 2006, he opened his dream restaurant, Little Owl, in New York’s West Village. It generated plenty of buzz and paved the way for two more dining hot-spots in the same neighborhood: Market Table and The Clam.  

Here are some of Campanaro’s signature recipes: 

Tequila pineapple punch BBQ ribs


1 c. ketchup
1 c. water
½ white onion peeled and chopped
4 coins peeled fresh ginger
1 sm. can pineapple juice
1 sm. can of tomato juice
3 t. butter
4 cloves of peeled smashed garlic
¼ c. brown sugar
½ c soy sauce
1 t. cumin
1 t. cayenne
1 t. curry
2 c. tequila-soaked grilled pineapple, roughly chopped
1 bunch cilantro cleaned and picked, save the stems
1 t. coriander seeds
1 t. mustard seeds
1 t. salt
1 t. aleppo pepper
1 rack of peeled pork spare ribs


1.Mix the cilantro stems, garlic, ginger, chopped pineapple, cumin, cayenne, curry, mustard seeds, and brown sugar and salt. Submerge the full rack of ribs in the marinade and refrigerate overnight. After 24 hours, remove the ribs and place on baking sheet and roast in a 420-degree oven for 45 minutes.

2. Remove the ribs from the oven and cool in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. In a sauce pot, add the butter and diced onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Then add the marinade liquid and all its components, the water, and the pineapple and tomato juice and the remaining butter. Cook this mixture for 40 minutes on a medium simmer stirring occasionally.

3. When the ribs have cooled down, slice them in between every other bone to separate them from the rack and place in an ample size mixing bowl. Strain the sauce and pour over the ribs to thoroughly coat them. Place the individual ribs in an ample size baking dish, cover with foil and return to the oven, lower the heat on the oven to 320 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour moving the ribs around occasionally to insure sauce coverage. Serve with picked cilantro leaves, thinly sliced radishes and an rocks glass of tequila pineapple punch.

Cacio e pepe popcorn


Use real corn kernels
¼ c olive oil & canola oil blend:1/2 c real corn kernels
1c grated pecorino
2 tbls. Fresh cracked black pepper
3 tbls. Melted salted butter
Place oil in a deep heavy bottom pot that has a lid
Add the corn kernels
Cook over high heat constantly moving the pot.
Use a towel or a kitchen mitt 


1. After a few minutes the corn will pop, have the lid nearby, top the pot, and keep shaking it, lower the heat, continue cooking. The whole thing shouldn’t tale longer than 5 minutes, after you hear the pop diminish, remove lid, add melted butter, grated pecorino romano and fresh cracked black pepper.

2. Turn the popcorn out into a very large bowl/vessel, big enough to toss thoroughly and evenly and quickly because you must distribute all the ingredients while the pop corn is hot.

Broccolini and cecci beans 


1 bunch broccolini
1 t. honey
1 t. tahini
A splash of hot water
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
¼ c crispy crunch garbanzo beans, reserved <you should buy these>
Salt and pepper to taste 


1. Mix tahini and honey and olive oil and hot water. Toss the raw broccolini, turn out onto a sheet pan with foil, bake in a 450 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, garnish with garbanzos.

Arugula and strawberries 


Robiola fettunta, peaches, figs, balsamic
¼ # arugula
1 white peach
4 strawberries
1 head frissee
1 pc robiola or any soft funky cheese
1 loaf of crusty bread
1 pint of black mission figs
1 minced shallot
3 t. balsamic
1/2 t. rice wine vinegar
1 t. agave syurp
¼ c. extra virgin olive oil 


1. For the vinaigrette, whisk together minced shallots, vinegars, olive oil and syrup. Cut the bread to allow equal parts crust and center. Spread the cheese on top of the bread. Drizzle a small amount of oil and toast the bread until the cheese melts slightly. Trim, wash thoroughly and dry the lettuce. 

Ricotta cavatelli kale pesto and fried salami


2 c. fresh ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1 c. all purpose flour 
2 qt. Baby kale
3 garlic cloves
½ c extra virgin olive oil
1 c pinenuts
1 c parmesan 


1. In a kitchen aid mixer whip cheese and eggs together until smooth. Slowly add the flour until the dough pulls together but remains a little sticky. The dough needs to rest at this point for at least 25 min. Wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. It is then rolled out with flour, cut into 1 inch strips and then fed through a cavatelli cutter (available in specialty import stores) spread out the pasta on a floured sheet pan.

2. In a large skillet add oil and garlic and slowly heat over medium high heat stirring occasionally until right before the garlic browns, add the pine nuts, continue over low heat until your house smells like heaven, then add the cleaned baby kale, cook until all the kale is bright vibrant green and slightly tender, remove all by turning out unto a sheet. Allow to cool for a few hours. Then put everything in a food processor and add parmesan. Mix until smooth. Reserve it kept cold.

3. Finely chop up your favorite salami, this also can be soppressata, or even genoa salami, put it in a non stick skillet over low heat and keep it moving until renders and crisps, remove from the heat and store in its own oil.

4. Heat up the pesto, boil the cavatelli, mix those together, plate, top with extra cheese and fried salami.

Apple pie 

8 c peeled and thinly sliced granny smith apples
½ c sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest 
1 tablespoons lemon juice 
1 tablespoons picked thyme leaves, roughly chopped ¾ tsp. 
Cinnamon ¼ tsp. 
Freshly ground nutmeg 
2 tablespoons calvados 
3 tablespoons flour 
2 c flour
1 tsp. Salt
8 tablespoons lard, cubed and chilled
8 tablespoons salted butter, cubed and chilled
½ c ice water 


1. In the bowl of a food processer, combine the flour and salt and pulse a few times. Add the lard and butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. While continuing to pulse, add the water until the dough comes together.

2. Turn out onto a table, divide in half, wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Brown butter caramel ingredients: 1 c sugar ¼ c calvados ¼ c heavy cream 3 t salted butter, cooked over high heat until virtually burned. Pinch of salt place the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepot over medium heat and cook for about three minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and is an amber color.

3. Turn off the heat, slowly whisk in the calvados, then the cream. Return to a low heat to melt back down if necessary, then whisk in your butter and a pinch of salt. Set aside to cool. Roll out one half of the crust to fit the bottom of an 8-inch pie tin, with some dough hanging over the edge.

4. Add half of the filling to the bottom crust. Add half of the caramel, then the rest of the apple filling, then top it off with more caramel. Roll out the second crust, then place it on top making sure to tuck in the edges.

5. Whisk together 1 egg with 1 tablespoon heavy cream then brush it over the top crust.Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let set for as long as possible.

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