What's Cooking: Realtor Is Known for His Italian Cooking

By Selbert, Pamela | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 30, 2016 | Go to article overview

What's Cooking: Realtor Is Known for His Italian Cooking


Selbert, Pamela, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Though Tom Fanara is a Realtor by vocation and serious bowler by avocation (he's been a member of various leagues since he was a kid and consistently averages in the 220s, he says), he is probably better known around the neighborhood for his culinary skills.

That's because he's also a member of an unofficial committee that provides the meats and other entrees for his street's annual block party, an event generally held in September that draws as many as 125 friends and neighbors. His lasagna and other Italian dishes are "amazing," a neighbor says enthusiastically. But Fanara doesn't stop there: he also does nearly all the cooking for his family.

What prompted your interest in cooking? I like to eat! My mother was a good cook, and when we were young, my brother, sister and I would watch and learn as she prepared the various Italian dishes. She was actually German and grew up on traditional German food that was either fried or boiled. But after she married my dad, who is Italian, his mother taught her to cook Italian. Every Sunday morning he'd take us kids to visit his parents, our grandparents, and my mom stayed home to cook. She'd have spaghetti and meatballs ready when we got back.

Have you always done the cooking for your family? Yes my wife doesn't like to cook; I do. But my repertoire isn't limited to Italian dishes. I make what I like to eat and what sounds good on the TV cooking shows I watch. I'm a big fan of the Food Network. If a particular dish sounds appealing and I have the ingredients, I follow the recipe and if I don't have all the ingredients, I improvise. I have a lot of fun with cooking.

How long have you cooked for the block parties? Well, we've been here about 10 years. The committee tries to prepare a different meat every year such as pork steaks, pulled pork; one year we had a whole roast pig. Everyone else brings a side dish. It's a fun time. We get a permit and close off the street. Kids get to ride their bikes and not have to worry about cars. We rent a bounce house for them.

What's important to you in cooking for your family? I try to make meals that not only taste good and appeal to all members of the family but also have some nutritional value. And being Italian, I never prepare only enough for one meal I make plenty extra for leftovers. I also make my own sauce.

Where did you get the recipe for the sauce? My wife and I both grew up in St. Louis, but before we moved to this house, we lived for two years just outside Omaha, Neb. There was an Italian restaurant nearby called Buca di Beppo that we especially liked I remember it had a bust of the Pope in the dining room! and whenever we invited friends out for dinner we took them there. The restaurant also had a few tables in the kitchen, where diners could watch the cooks at work. Once the manager gave us a tour of the kitchen starting with the 25- or 30-gallon pots where the pasta sauce was simmering. He explained that his sauce consisted only of crushed tomatoes and chopped onions sauteed in olive oil. …

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