Hot Chef: Laura Frangiosa marries Jewish and Italian cooking
Last summer chef Laura Frangiosa and her husband, Josh Skaroff, opened Avenue Delicatessen in Lansdowne. Frangiosa drew from here Italian heritage and her husband’s Jewish background — two cultures that love to feed you — and re-imagined the typical deli combo platter. And it worked: Avenue Delicatessen has been well received by locals and food critics alike for creatively pairing Jewish and Italian cuisine.
How did you figure out that Jewish and Italian foods would work together so well?
Well when I envision an Italian family and a Jewish family there’s always an abundance of food. Forget about Italian and Jewish, we all want some comfort food. When it comes to Jewish delis and Italian delis, we got ’em in spades in Philly. New York and Chicago and any metropolis has that. We wanted to do both and offer a marriage of the two. So we make Jewish wedding soup, for instance. It’s one of our signature dishes because it combines the two. It’s Italian wedding with no pasta. We use matzo instead. And we make a reuben arancini, which is a traditional Italian dish, but with all the ingredients of a reuben inside.
You’ve worked in pretty much every position within a restaurant, including sales. Which was your favorite?
I loved being a bartender. I was always in the food business. At 14 I was working at a bakery, then a deli in Suburban Square. My first restaurant job was at a place called Frangelica, which is now Tabu. I worked there for a while in college. I loved bartending in the Gayborhood. Then I moved on to a couple of other things — a server, then sales. I was always around food. I worked for Samuel and Sons Seafood for a long time; that was a great job. I loved working with the chefs and helping them figure out the right thing for their menu. That’s how I reconnected with [chef] Peter Woosley. He and I have known each other since we were 15 or 16 years old. When I found out that he was the opening Bistrot La Minette I knew I wanted that account.
And then you started working with him, right?
We were talking one day and I said to him that I screwed up. I said I should have been a line cook, I should have gone to school for that. And he said, ‘Maybe you want to work for me?’ A few months later I worked for him. I was like a sponge and I tried to learn everything I could while I was there. I felt as if I was really thriving there, and really enjoying it.
Do you have a favorite ingredient to work with?
It’s vague, but I love herbs. I use a multitude of herbs in almost everything I cook. I have a tattoo of herbs on my shoulder, and I always have at least, like, seven different kinds of fresh herbs in the restaurant. But never dried herbs.