Coast Monthly sits down with local cooks and food lovers for a chat.
For Joey Smecca, food is a family affair.
“We like to get everyone around the table together,” said Smecca, a partner in Galveston Restaurant Group. “Both my mom and dad always cooked, and my wife and I carry on that tradition of cooking together. I love creating dishes that everyone enjoys.”
Smecca, the son of renowned Galveston restaurateur Anthony “Tony” Smecca, said his interest in food began when he started working at family businesses when he moved to Texas in 1973.
Along with his brother, Johnny Smecca, and Danny Hart, Joey
Smecca co-founded the Galveston Restaurant Group, which owns eight area restaurants.
“Cooking is second nature and I find the process meditative,” Joey Smecca said. “I think the best part is sharing the end result with family, friends and neighbors.”
My signature dish is … steak pizzaiola — a one-pan dish. Thin cut rib-eye steak, fresh tomatoes, olive oil, onions, cilantro are all broiled in the oven, making its own sauce, then served over spaghetti.
My favorite kitchen gadget is … the flexible tube garlic peeler.
I’m addicted to … cold cuts. I love a good ham and cheese sandwich on fresh bread.
My guilty pleasure is … stepping into the kitchen at any of our restaurants, especially Mario’s Seawall, and trying something new. Creating new pizza combinations in the wood-fired oven is fun, and I always get excited about the possibilities.
My favorite restaurant is … depends on my appetite. I’ll go to different restaurants for my favorite dishes. However, my all-time favorite is still Mario’s Seawall because the food is excellent and it reminds me of growing up there with my mother and father doing the cooking with original family recipes.
My favorite food memory is … eating homemade pizza that my mom would make for my dad to take to work when we lived in New Jersey. My dad worked shift work and went to work late (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) and sometimes she made pizza for him to take to his work buddies. Best pizza ever! I think I’m going to add it to Mario’s Seawall menu — Grandma’s Pizza coming soon.
Red or white? Red wine with a splash of 7UP or Sprite.
The dish I can’t live without … my mother’s eggplant Parmesan.
Olive oil or butter? Olive oil, but you can’t beat the combination of both to sauté with.
Celebrity I would most like to cook for … Bruce Willis. I don’t even know why, but that’s who came to mind.
My biggest food failure … not a thing. I don’t attempt anything I’m not 100 percent sure I can deliver.
One thing I’d never eat … smelly seafood.
Sweet or savory … savory.
Lobster-stuffed Deviled Eggs
Yields: 24 egg halves
12 ounces lobster, fresh or frozen (thawed) or jumbo lump crab
12 large, hard-cooked eggs halved
1⁄3 cup mayonnaise
1⁄3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1½ teaspoons hot pepper sauce (Cholula or Tabasco)
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1½ tablespoons parsley, chopped
1½ tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
24 small tarragon sprigs
Salt and pepper, to taste
Paprika, as needed
Chop lobster meat, saving 24 small pieces for garnish.
Place yolks in mixing bowl. Add mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce and garlic powder; mix until yolks are smooth. Fold in lobster, parsley and chopped tarragon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate mixture, if desired, up to 2 hours.
Fill each egg white with a heaping spoonful of lobster mixture. Top each half with reserved pieces of lobster and sprig of tarragon; sprinkle with paprika. Serve immediately.
Tip from Smecca: “You can also garnish with caviar. Just place a jar of caviar next to the deviled eggs with a tiny spoon and your guests can garnish their own eggs with a little bit of caviar. It’s a great touch.”