Veteran Columbus chef John “Guido” Magnacca felt it was time to share his cooking techniques with the public.
The executive chef of Cimi’s Bistro at Pinnacle Golf Club did just that by releasing a cookbook, “Not Your Dinner for Two: Feeding the Whole Damn Family Italian-Style.”
It is not a typical cookbook, such as those capitalizing on diet trends, the same-old dinner for four or 15-minute cooking, he said.
Magnacca said his book, published by Life-Rich Publishing, catalogs Italian recipes dating back 50 years and beyond. Many were developed from his family’s recipes, to which he applied his own touches, he said.
“So much of my life has been about volume cooking, and that’s what this cookbook is for,” he said.
The book retails at $37.99 for hardcover and $24.99 for softcover and is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.
Magnacca, 65, is a veteran of such establishments as Paul’s Fifth Avenue, long known as Paul’s Pantry, and the defunct Salvi’s Bistro. He was a partner in several restaurants over the years – Guido’s Speakeasy, Giovanni’s and Vito’s Italian Pub – all of which were sold, he said.
His interest in cooking came early in life, when his grandfather, Luciano Cenci, opened a general store with his brothers at the corner of Glenn and Fifth avenues in the Grandview Heights area.
“I grew up in a kitchen,” he said.
Working long hours at the store, the family also would eat there, making spaghetti and meatballs and occasionally feeding hungry customers, Magnacca said.
The food got so popular, his grandfather opened Cenci’s, where the young Magnacca became inspired with food preparation.
“It was kind of cemented at that point I was going to follow the restaurant business as a career,” he said.
His first job was at David’s Buffet in Graceland Shopping Center, working for his stepfather, Charles “Pops” Heaton, who was executive chef and from whom Magnacca learned the basics.
Magnacca honed his family recipes, sticking to Italian classics, which are featured in the cookbook: eight sauces; ideas for chicken, veal and seafood; pastas; salads; dressings and desserts, among others.
One item noticeably missing in the cookbook: Magnacca’s twisty rolls. He said he’s selling the knots wholesale to other restaurants and trying to get them in grocery stores.
By often catering large events, and growing up in a big extended family, cooking in big batches became second nature to Magnacca.
Surely, he said, home cooks often entertain large groups but don’t have a lot of experience with that kind of preparation; for example, how to keep sauce hot without burning it.
“There’s always a reason – holidays, graduation, birthdays, whatever,” he said.
Other chefs in town have penned cookbooks. For example, chef Richard Blondin of the Refectory was a co-author of “The Hunter’s Table,” released in 1999.
He recalls signing copies at a local bookstore and seeing a lot of familiar faces.
“I was very proud when the book came out,” Blondin said. “I was excited when I sold my first book.”