CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The lasagna served in the Italian restaurant opening in October in Power Park might taste vaguely familiar to people who dined in South Charleston in the 1970s.
Paterno's at the Park will feature some of the classic Italian recipes Mary Jo Paterno prepared for Paterno's Little Italian Seafood Inn, the cozy restaurant she and her husband, Andy Paterno, ran for several years.
Fast forward to 2012 and find their daughter, Niki Kurten, managing the family's foray back into the restaurant business. Paterno's at the Park, opening in early October, will again feature classic Italian food prepared from Mary Jo's family recipes, as well as new entrees created by executive chef Brent Pauley. This time around, Mary Jo won't be cooking.
"Mom is a phenomenal Italian cook. When Dad had important business meetings, he didn't take them out to a restaurant. They come over to our house, instead. They still do," Kurten said.
Mary Jo's lasagna, meatballs, bolognese and alfredo sauces and spaghetti carbonara will be prepared by Pauley, who most recently was executive sous chef at Edgewood Country Club. Assisting Pauley are sous chefs Amie Dodson, formerly of The Barge, and Michael Aiello, a recent culinary school graduate who was also at Edgewood.
"Classic Italian dishes will be our core menu, but our chefs will have free rein to create daily and nightly specials," Kurten said.
Pauley's initial creations include a pan-seared red snapper in a spicy tomato sauce with kalamata olives, capers and fresh herbs, a 14-ounce veal chop prepared piccata style with capers and a lemon butter sauce and risotto, and an appetizer of shrimp in a light cream sauce with mushrooms, prosciutto and spinach topped with Asiago cheese.
"The veal chop will be a signature dish," predicted Aiello, who contributed some of his own creations to the menu. The house-made Italian sausage will be made fresh from ground pork and Aiello's own seasoning mix. They'll use it in stuffed peppers and a sausage patty sandwich.
Aiello and his wife, Ashley, also created an unusual presentation of the classic Italian dessert cannoli. Instead of serving the vanilla lemon/orange ricotta filling stuffed into a tube-shaped pastry, they offer the filling along side pastry chips. The chips solve the messy dilemma of whether to pick up the crispy shell with fingers or eat it with a fork, which tends to scatter the pieces of broken shell all over the table.
Wild mushroom risotto, polenta and meatballs and rigatoni and meat sauce will also be on the menu, as well as Mary Jo's unique eggplant parmigiano recipe. In it, she layers slices of eggplant with meat sauce and cheese, lasagna style.
Paterno's has some nearby Italian competitors in Soho's, owned coincidentally by Dodson's father Bill Sohovich, Fazio's and Leonoro's, but Kurten thinks the menu at Paterno's is different enough to bring in a crowd.
"Every Italian family has its own meatballs and sauce recipe. They make their lasagna their own way. I think our family recipes will set us apart," she said. "There's a lot of tradition in it."