South Jersey is probably not the first place that comes to mind when we think about eating in Italy. When we imagine eating in Italy, we tend to think of pasta, pizzas, aged cheeses, and cured meats.
If you enjoy the seasonal, fresh produce available in the area, you share the same ingredient with many Italians.
South Jersey offers a bounty during the growing seasons.
Laura Vitale, a local food content creator, agrees.
South Harrison Township resident, also a best-selling cookbook author, hosts a digital food series on Cooking Channel, appears on morning shows, and frequently guest hosts on Food Network.
She knows exactly what she is talking about.
Vitale, who is a native Neapolitan and immigrated to America at the age of 12, explained that Italian and American food and cooking are very different.
She began by saying, “The main difference between Italians and Americans is the way we cook. We love seasonal ingredients.”
You won’t find strawberries in Italy in winter, just as you wouldn’t see an orange in summer. “We thrive on cooking using fresh ingredients in season and I am trying to teach my daughter the importance of this,” she said.
She and her family will feel at home here because they can enjoy the local seasonal products.
We’ve lived in South Harrison Township now for six years. The peace of the area, as well as the local farmers’ markets and wineries, attracted us. It felt like mini Italy, and I knew I wanted to raise a child here.
She added, “On Saturdays during open season we always buy fresh produce for our week. I get so inspired by what I see to create content.”
Vitale’s culinary career began in her teens when she worked in her father’s pizzeria. But her passion for food and cooking started much earlier.
She said, “I was raised in a home full of wonderful cooks and have been inspired by them my entire life.”
Vitale has a very close relationship with her grandmother. The two of them made gnocchi as their first cooking experience.
“My nonna was the best cook that I have ever known.” She is a true cook who can tell stories with her food. “She’s my greatest inspiration in the kitchen and outside.”
Vitale left Italy for the first time in 1998. One Sunday, when she was particularly homesick, Vitale called her nonna over the phone, and together they prepared Sunday sauce.
Vitale said that cooking, in general, helped her to connect with her family. When she was old enough to start cooking in her father’s restaurants, this connection became a passion.
Vitale wasn’t sure what she would do in 2008 when her father was forced to close his restaurant.
“I was lost, not knowing how to return to the world of food without working in a restaurant. My web series was born out of this need. “I wanted to share with everyone who would watch my passion for food.”
Laura in the Kitchen, Vitale’s YouTube phenomenon, was born in 2010. Over 1,000 recipes are available with interactive video instructions from the self-taught cook. Nearly four million subscribers prove the success of this series.
Vitale doesn’t use a script to film, allowing for spontaneity and improvisation. Her easy charm and upbeat demeanor make her videos enjoyable. Her instructions are easy to follow and well-paced. Her recipes are diverse enough to inspire both novices and seasoned cooks.
After the success of Laura In The Kitchen, Vitale was recognized by the television food industry and hosted a two-season Cooking Channel show.
Simply Laura. She has appeared on Beat Bobby Flay, the TODAY Show, the Rachel Ray Show, and Chopped. She also has a best-selling book.
Vitale’s favorites are not included in Laura In the Kitchen but are still available.
She said, “My heart is drawn to Italian food, perhaps because that’s what I was raised eating, and it brings back happy memories.”
“Some of the things I love are a simple tomato-basil sauce made with garden tomatoes and lots of fresh basil, infused with garlic and good olive oil. It’s simply delicious!”
“Chicken cutlets are another favorite that I prepare regularly. I serve them with arugula and parmesan salad. She said, “They are hard to beat!”
Vitale and Joe, her husband whom she married in 2008, are a great business team. Joe edits and shoots Laura In The Kitchen and is also her manager.
She explained, “He is the one who directly contacts my agents and facilitates brand deals, as well as doing all sorts of work in the background nobody sees. But he is essential to our business.”
Joe’s love of delicious food may have inspired him to be a talented designer and builder. He most recently created Vitale’s home studio.