For many romantics, an Italian gourmet meal with Italian love songs playing in the background would be an ideal way to spend Valentine’s Day.
For Andy Lo Russo, it would be an ideal way to spend just about any day.
But then Lo Russo not only can prepare that gourmet meal, he also can sing those melodies of love.
The Santa Barbara resident made a name for himself in 1993 by publishing “Sing and Cook Italian,” a combined cookbook and audiotape guide for wannabe singing chefs.
Since then he has demonstrated his skills at fund-raisers, private parties and other functions, and recently was hired as spokesman for Del Grosso tomato sauce company.
Next up on Lo Russo’s schedule will be a cooking class Saturday at Ojai’s Amestoy House Cooking School, where he will present “In Celebration of Amore.”
Lo Russo will prepare escarole with toasted walnuts, celery hearts, Parmesan cheese and lemon anchovy dressing, followed by bruschetta and a pasta fagioli. For the main course, he will prepare linguine with shrimp and scallops in a light tomato cream-basil sauce.
Dessert will be a double-chocolate hazelnut biscotti with chocolate sauce and chocolate-dipped strawberries.
“I very much consider this a romantic meal, especially if everybody is singing the love songs,” said Lo Russo, who will serenade his guests with “That’s Amore,” “Arrivederci Roma” and other Italian favorites.
But with or without the crooning, Lo Russo said, the meal should warm the heart and stir feelings of love.
“Pasta fagioli has always been a warming experience for me. It’s always reminded me of grandmother and love,” he said. “And of course the finale is chocolate, how it stimulates the body. To have chocolate with chocolate sauce is sort of recapturing that experience again of falling in love.”
Lo Russo’s class will run from 1 to 4 p.m. Cost is $40. The school is at 8950 Highway 150. For reservations, call 646-7970.
A couple of other local food experts had some suggestions for a romantic Valentine’s Day meal.
Robert Garcia, head chef at Capistrano’s restaurant in Oxnard, would start his menu with a salad with truffles, followed by a passion fruit sorbet. For the main course, he would prepare filet mignon and lobster, washed down by a Bordeaux.
As elaborate as the early portion of the meal would be, however, Garcia said it simply would be a prelude to the dessert.
“Dessert is always the part that does it,” he said, “and for that I would have a chocolate decadence cake and maybe chocolate-covered strawberries with light and dark chocolate, and finish it off with a glass of cognac and chocolate truffles.”
Filomena D’Amore (that’s her name year-round), owner of Filomena’s Italian Pizza & Kitchen in Oxnard, provided the female perspective on the perfect romantic dinner.
The meal, accompanied by a bottle of Chianti, would open with bruschetta--one with pureed black olives with garlic and olive oil, and the other with tomato, garlic and basil. The main course would be angel hair pasta with artichokes, white wine and garlic, complemented with garlic focaccia.
“Everything has to have a lot of garlic,” D’Amore said. “To me, it is very romantic.”
For dessert, D’Amore would suggest a tiramisu or a cannoli, with a single red rose to top off the meal.
Sitcoms of the ‘60s have made their way off the TV screen and into the kitchen. There are cookbooks based on “The Brady Bunch,” “Gilligan’s Island” and, now, “Bewitched.”
Mark Wood and Kasey Rogers, authors of “The Bewitched Cookbook: Magic in the Kitchen,” will sign their book and provide tastings at 1 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble in Thousand Oaks, and at 4 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in Ventura.
Rogers played the role of Louise Tate on the sitcom. Sandra Gould (who played Mrs. Kravitz) is scheduled to be on hand, and Bernard Fox (Dr. Bombay) may also drop by.
Wood, who scoured the 254 episodes of the series for food references, said cast members supplied most of the book’s recipes, but dishes from the show are included.
“We realized on ‘Bewitched,’ Samantha and [husband] Darrin were always having clients over for dinner,” said Wood of Calabasas. “She was always cooking in a mortal way and [Endora, her mother] would come and change a pot roast into lobster Thermidor.”
There are recipes for the pot roast and the lobster, as well as other dishes including oat-currant scones, herbed-sausage dressing, chicken cacciatore and foie gras.
Wood and Kasey, with help from Barbara Eden, plan to release an “I Dream of Jeannie” cookbook in May.