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Recipe for lasting memories: Good food, good wine, good friends

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Two individuals whom I haven’t seen in well over six or seven years recently reached out to me via email. They said that we had been talking about getting together to break bread for years and had never managed to make it happen. We decided it was time to lock in a date on our calendars to meet for lunch.

How often our old friends drift away from us. That wasn’t about to happen again!

We met at Gennaro’s Italian Kitchen in Aston, Pa. I had never been to this restaurant. But I knew that my friends would not lead me wrong. Our lunch date was one of the most pleasant get-togethers I have had in years. 

What made the occasion even better was the restaurant itself. Gennaro’s Italian Kitchen is a small unobtrusive restaurant. The décor is basic, straightforward and simple. Yet the restaurant clearly takes on the personality of owner Mike O’Hare, who swiftly delivered a perfect small plate of fresh mozzarella, aged Parmesan and beautiful folds of prosciutto, garnished with roasted red peppers. There was good bread that had just enough bite to keep it interesting without overpowering the flavor of the dipping oil. 

Gennaro’s is BYOB, and one of our friends had come with two spectacular bottles of wine from Penns Woods Winery in Chadds Ford, Pa. The Penns Woods pinot noir was aromatic, full flavored and quite bold. The finish was surprisingly long, and the mouth felt velvety. While the wine was big and full bodied, it was remarkably approachable and drinkable. The sauvignon blanc boasted a dramatic aroma and a flavor that evoked tropical islands with underlying hints of apple and citrus. I picked up on what I describe as earthiness while at the same time, it reminded me of the smell of a freshly mown lawn in the morning.

One of my companions ordered pasta and meatballs in a lush red sauce. My other friend ordered rigatoni in a vodka blush sauce topped with a chicken cutlet. The sauce was rich and creamy, the pasta was perfectly cooked, and the cutlet was a full chicken breast wrapped in a crisp golden-brown breading. I chose the pappardelle pasta, hand-cut pasta noodles with a rich flavorful pork ragout that instantly took me back to when I was last in Italy. The dish in front of me was on a par with the delightful meals I enjoyed at Casa Emma Winery and at Castello del Nero, both in the Chianti region of Tuscany. I have never had better.

The food at Gennaro’s came piping hot under the watchful eyes and talented hands of Mike O’Hare. The portions were quite large. But at our table and at others there was nothing left in the bowls.

When I arrived back home, I told Liz that we must get back to Gennaro’s Italian Kitchen very soon. When you find a place that is this good within 30 minutes of home, you go back again and again.

For me, there are very few things better than enjoying a spectacular meal, good wine, and old, like-minded friends. Mille grazie to Charlie and Joe for pulling this together. And the same goes for Mike O’Hare and his great team for providing such a great dining experience. If you have not tried Gennaro’s Italian Kitchen in Aston, give them a call at 610-497-3393 and tell them Chef Murray Schulman from the Italian American Herald recommended them to you. 

It is certainly worth the effort to keep up with old friends. I won’t let another six years go by before getting together again. Ciao. 

Murray Schulman

Murray Schulman, a columnist with the Italian-American Herald for 12 years, has worked in the food business for more than 50 years, sharing his expertise in kitchens, offices and classrooms spanning several states. He retired in 2017 as head of prepared foods for Delaware Supermarkets Inc. He lives in Pennsville, N.J

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