If you watch the Today Show on NBC, you likely know the Scotto family pretty well. If you watch Wake Up With Al (Roker) on The Weather Channel, you likely know the Scottos. Or maybe you've eaten at their New York restaurant, Fresco by Scotto on East 52nd. Street, or at one of their Fresco To Go take-out stores. Perhaps you've enjoyed their modern Tuscan cuisine at Yankee Stadium, or have purchased one of their three cookbooks.
Point is, if you're familiar with the Scotto family you're going to want to catch them today at SBWFF, 12:45 p.m,. at the Kitchenaid Green Stage. And if you're not familiar, there is even more of an urgency: This Brooklyn clan knows their Italian cooking, and they are a hoot to be with. I know because I spent some time with them yesterday in the lobby of the W Hotel -- or at least with four of the five: Mom (Marion); sons John and Anthony Jr; and daughter Elaina (the other daughter, Rosanna, is a longtime anchor for Fox 5 News in NY, and will be on stage with the rest today).
New Times: What exactly will you be doing today at the Festival?
Mom (Marion): We'll be doing Fresco's famous dishes: Penne
gratin, eggplant & zucchini pie, and bombolini, which is fried dough. When
they told us they were going to give us 45 minutes...well you know we always
fight about time on the Today Show. 'You took a minute-and-a-half, and then thirty
minutes do you have on The Today Show?
Mom: Maybe we'll take a nap. (laughter)
Elaina: I'll get three minutes out of the 45. (laughter)
John: We'll get to cook a whole meal. We're going to get people from the audience to help us. We can show them that what we do is not that difficult.
Mom: It's all about having a good time. We have a big family...
Mom: Five kids, eight grandchildren -- so when we sit around the table we're 18 people. And we do sit around the table. It's when we get to have conversation other than about the restaurant. When we sit every day after session for lunch, it's all about business.
Do you still get together for Sunday Supper?
Mom: Always. We live near each other in Manhattan. I live in the big family house with my two daughters. John is about five minutes away and Anthony is about eight minutes away.
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Elaina: Everyone congregates at our house. We have a big screened-in patio, so we always eat outside. We have a big wooden farm table. We all cook and invite friends over - we can seat anywhere from 20 to 40 comfortably.
Mom: Not only do we all cook, but the second generation cooks as well. And the third generation is ready to come on.
John: Lee, let me tell you, she (mom) didn't start out as a good cook. But we taught her. It's hard work. (more family laughter)
Mom: That's not true.
Elena: Everyone pitches in. And sometimes while we're cooking the kids will be playing softball. It's really a great day--
Everyone: Anthony! (as he walks in)
Elaina: We leave the food out on the island in the kitchen. We have the meal, we have dessert, and then about an hour or so later we start to pick on the food that's been left out. We do this until about 8 o'clock. The meal starts at noon. It's an elastic pants sort of day.
You all seem pretty fit, though.
You work out?
Elena: Yeah. But not on Sunday.
Anthony, where do you come in?
Anthony: I come in at the last of it.
Mom: The boys are on with Al Roker.
Anthony: We go on Wake Up With Al in the morning.
John: We have to go on at 4:30 in the morning tomorrow (the show airs at 6 a.m.). You want to join us tomorrow watch us film?
Anthony: We're cooking the whole hour with him.
John: I'm showing up in a bathing suit. A 1920s one-piece like they used to wear. It doesn't fit me. I can't even breathe when I have it on. (the family laughs and groans) I'm gonna sit by the pool, I've got a book to read: How To Become A Meteorologist.
What's Fresco like?
Mom: It's a very popular restaurant. They call us the 'NBC Commissary' because we're three blocks away, and everybody from NBC comes in for lunch. It's a warm, friendly atmosphere. We're always there, and we greet everyone and know most of the customers, so there's a lot of hugging and kissing -- on the way in, on the way out, and sometimes sitting at the tables...so there's a lot of schmoozing.
When are you going to open a place down here in Miami?
Anthony: We actually thought this meeting was about you funding our next project. (laughter)
John: We're also coming out with a food line in which we have five items that are our most popular. It's based out of Minnesota by a company called Schwan's Home Service. You can order it from anywhere in the United States and it will be delivered by the next day.
Anthony: Our first cookbook came out in 1997. We had a customer who kept coming into Fresco Restaurant to brag that he was the owner of a publishing company. And he kept hounding us, from when we first opened up the restaurant, to do a cookbook. We kept saying 'There are enough cookbooks out there. Who needs another cookbook?' Needless to say, we did the cookbook and it sold great. We didn't realize until after it came out how popular we had become. I mean the guy really did us a favor.
Mom: We have two more cookbooks since then.
Have another one planned?
Mom: I'm ready to go. I've got 200 recipes. A lot of our customers go onto the NBC website and they can get 100 recipes from our shows.
Are these the exact recipes, or is it a bit different than how you make it?
John: A magician doesn't give out all his tricks.
Anthony: John doesn't even know what's in the recipes. (more laughter...)