Celestino Drago Teaches Kids to Cook + FREE EATalian Kids Meals + A Recipe
The bar for field trips and group lunches has been set very high for a class of third graders at Larchmont Charter West school in West Hollywood.
J. Ritz Chef Drago demonstrates a different kind of guitar.
As one of the many events sponsored by the Club EATalian campaign, the class was treated to a lunch on Monday at Drago Centro they prepared themselves alongside chef Celestino Drago and instructors from Piccolo Chef, a cooking program for kids. This wasn't just any meal. Chef Drago led a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen and the dining room before the onset of the midday rush. The students, in turn, impressed him with a platter of vegetables they grew in their own Edible Schoolyard garden. (Some also wondered why there's so much wine visible in the restaurant.)
In the restaurant's kitchen, pizza dough was rolled, pasta was pressed over the chitarra, fresh tomatoes were stewed (see recipe below), basil leaves were plucked and fresh pizza toppings were delicately laid out.
J. Ritz Not your average school project: part of Larchmont Charter West's Edible Schoolyard yield.
Chef Drago extended a cordial invitation for students to return. "If your parents want to take you here, make sure you call Stefano," he said, pointing to general manager Stefano Trampetti and giving this group the kind of direct access that would make some downtown movers and shakers envious.
Drago, a father of two, seemed to have fun while taking this mission seriously. "Kids love pizza, but we have to teach them pizza isn't just lots of cheese on top and ham or pineapple," he said, and talked about "the importance of ingredients, and how important it is to eat at the dining table."
The Italian Ministry of Economic Development in association with the Italian Trade Commission and the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce West is sponsoring the Club EATalian initiative. Previous events included a symposium and tasting at the Italian Cultural Center in Westwood with Evan Kleiman and Aida Mollenkamp, and a cooking demo at Le Cordon Bleu Hollywood with Piccolo Chef.
Rich Kane, the lead teacher, said a highlight of the downtown excursion was "the hands-on experience for the kids." The day was an outgrowth of classroom lessons that have focused on "the Mediterranean diet and family recipes." His students were recently assigned to complete a family meal that included food shopping, cooking, and perhaps most challenging of all, no distractions from outside media or communications technology. The last part is hardly a minor feat in this age -- and likely harder for the parents than the third graders.
[Deals and recipe on the next page.]