Staten Island Advance


Cookbook Contest: 10 Staten Island restaurants to inspire home chefs

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By Pamela Silvestri |
January 12, 2017

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — By the likes of news stories this week, you might be thinking that Staten Island is going to Hades in a hand-basket. Having visited many restaurants and chefs around the brough just this past week alone, I insist this is not the case.

In fact, much of the good news you should be consuming are those vittles generated from our hometown’s constantly evolving restaurants.

So, let’s look at the glass half-full for just a little while because, fair warning: There will be no talk of chef-on-chef violence, restaurant websites overtaken by porn, saucy customer feedback or fictitious food news thereof.

Instead I’d like to talk about how nice and supportive the community has been of How Greek It Is!, a restaurant we just wrote about in Grant City run by two entrepreneurs struggling with health issues. The story of Sophia and Dimitri Georgiopoulos themselves is a touching one — but the readership’s response just in the comments’ section alone were rather pleasant to read. (Thank you.)

And, then I visited with chef Stephen Lee and business partner Danny Ippolito over at Bin 5 in Rosebank where the enthusiasm over the nitty-gritty of flavors and service was, frankly, a beautiful thing. We’ll get into what Stephen is doing with a pig’s head below– don’t snub the snout until you see the outcome.

If a quote from the bistro can be shared from today it will be this from Stephen: “If you’re going to do something, do something you’re going to enjoy. If you’re not going to do something you enjoy, then don’t do it at all…” words to be heard if you’re a chef, a novice cook or someone who just has a lot of passion about food.

Stepping over puddles in Tompkinsville the other day to check out its handful of budding new places near Corson Avenue, it is hard to ignore glimmers of excitement over The Wheel. It is hard not to be happy for Angelina’s Ristorante of Tottenville, one of the few upscale restaurants left on Staten Island, to establish a more casual version of the brand at the Staten Island Mall while not dumbing down its flagship location.

It is easy to appreciate Rosario Macri’s love for Christmas decorations at Panini Grill which now features a new brunch menu. The appreciation continues diehard farmers like Dan Torisson and Laurie Churchill who trek each Saturday to the St. George Greenmarket winter market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to sell their goat cheese and soaps.

I hope the joy and optimism of new entrepreneurs spills over from the likes of Veronica Silvestro at Duzer’s Local in Stapleton and that you can spring out of bed into the kitchen like 87-year old John Dorman does each day at Philip’s Candies in Port Richmond.

There is great hope to see more restaurant owners like Jody Scaravella and his crew of nonnas to share their recipes, as their collective restaurant Enoteca Maria did in St. George with the well-received tome “Nonna’s House: Cooking and Reminiscing with the Italian Grandmothers of Enoteca Maria” (Atria Books).

This article calls out chef/proprietors but it makes an ultimate appeal to you, the home cook, to seek inspiration in the professionals around you. And, perhaps, like Enoteca Maria, let the world know of your passion to cook and to share food thoughts.

On that note, there is the 2017 Advance Cookbook and recipe contest about which to think. The annual competition has become a seasonal one built upon your inspiration with the seasons, with your garden, as the chilly weather sets in and as the traditions in your family have dictated. Join us as a contestant. And soon look for an opportunity to score tickets to our Taste-off in the spring.

SILIVE photo

Here is a nice recipe from Dinah Surh of Richmond, a finalist in former Advance competitions who has since made appearances on the Rachael Ray Show and Food Network. The question is: When will she be coming out with a cookbook of her own?


(Serves 3 to 4)

For the pork:

4-8 thin boneless pork chops

1/4 cup tamari

1/2 cup apple cider

1/2 cup chopped yellow onions

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced (about 3-4 teaspoons)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or vegetable oil


1/2 cup apple cider

1/2 diced whole jalapeno pepper, seeds and stem removed

Juice of 1/4 lime

1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 ear of corn, kernels cut off (about 1/2 cup)

5 whole cherry tomatoes, cut in half and seeds removed

4-5 quartered fresh figs, or dried figs, if necessary

1 bunch of washed arugula

Diced jalapeno and tomato with lemon wedges, for garnish

To prepare pork chops: Combine the tamari, apple cider, onions, sugar, black pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic and oil; marinate the pork in the mixture in a zip-type bag, or shallow dish for 5 to 10 minutes.
Preheat the grill. Remove pork chops from the marinade and place on the grill to cook for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Remove the cooked pork from the grill and keep warm.

To prepare glaze: Pour the apple cider in a small saucepan; cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes to reduce to about 3 to 4 tablespoons. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn.

Add jalapeno pepper, lime juice, vinegar and sugar; cook for 1 minute. Remove glaze from saucepan and pour into a small bowl; add butter. Heat a nonstick skillet on high heat. Add corn and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and quartered figs; continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the heated tomatoes, corn and figs to the glaze.

To assemble: Place arugula on a platter. Place grilled pork chops on top of the arugula. Spoon the tomato, corn and fig glaze on top of the pork chops. Garnish with Crazy Corn Parmesan Chips and additional diced jalapeno, tomatoes and lime wedges.

— Dinah Surh, Richmond


Advance Cookbook Taste-off 2016: Behind the scenes on Staten Island

Dinah Surh Staten Island Judge

I served as a one of the cooking contest judges in the Staten Island Advance Newspaper Taste-Off 2016 on March 19th, 2016 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Staten Island, New York. Being asked to be a judge for a second time in a row was truly an honor! Excitement was in the air and eager taste buds ready for the judges and then the audience to taste twenty-eight (28) tasty dishes ranging from cocktails and appetizers to main dishes and desserts. One of my favorites was the Pear Tart that also won the People’s Choice Award. It was a cheesecake-like macadamia nut crumb dessert with pears. The contestants decorated their stations and dishes like professionals.

There was a caramel apple toddy cocktail presented in a cored out apple drizzled with caramel with a caramel lollipop topped off with a mini apple. It tasted like a hot toddy but nice and cold! I also enjoyed the chicken shawarma made with chicken marinated in Middle Eastern spices, served in homemade mini pita bread with red pickled daikon, garlic aioli, yogurt sauce and green salad. It was colorful and showed a lot of effort on the cook’s part in originality and creating the dish. The ultimate winners will be announced in the Staten Island Advance Cookbook that will be printed on April 17th, 2016. Until then congratulations to all the finalists you all did a fabulous job! We look forward to congratulate the winners to be announced! (I am pictured in the center wearing a black and white floral print outfit.)


After a taste of tradition, new flavors linger after Staten Island Advance’s 2015 Cookbook Taste Off


Dinah Surh – named one of the judges for the 42nd Annual Staten Island Advance Taste Off Cookbook Contest 2015 – January 31st, 2015 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Staten Island New York

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When I first moved to Staten Island 30 years ago, I did not know what to expect but one of the things I knew I liked right away was the fact that Staten Island had it’s own newspaper. Every week I particularly enjoyed reading about local businesses, the dining scene and various food articles until one day I saw the Advance had a cooking competition and produced an annual cookbook. I could not wait to enter and enter I did. I was disappointed for years submitting recipes until finally I was chosen as a finalist. I ended up winning the grand prize in 1999 for my Scallop Up appetizer dish and that hooked me for life. I went on to national cooking competitions: I won on the Rachel Ray Show Cooking Contest. I became a three time finalist in the million dollar Pillsbury Bake-Off. Most recently, I became a Food Network Chopped Champion. I owe it all to my beloved Taste Off right here in Staten Island where it all started!

But today it was my honor to sit on the other side of the scoring pad! For this year’s Taste off finalists – I congratulate each and every one of you. I also know the excitement and the stress you were feeling so the other judges and I did our very best to be fair and objective and enjoyed tasting all your fabulous dishes. The results will be tallied and announced in the SI Advance Newspaper Cookbook in March 2015. Good luck to all the contestants! -Dinah Surh


Staten Island Advance
Taste Off Cooking Contest 2013

Dinah at the Staten Island Advance Newspaper Taste Off Cooking Contest Feb 2013 displaying her All Day Breakfast Sliders



All Day Breakfast Sliders made with hot Italian sausage and ground beef, Pillsbury Buttermilk Grand biscuits, bacon jam, sunny side up egg, arugula and crispy potato strings.