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Still cooking

Restauranteur at home at Maris Grove

Created date

July 27th, 2010
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PA-0810_restaurant-guy_amerigo-coccia-2_adj_web

[caption id="attachment_13542" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Amerigo Coccia loves to cook for his granddaughters in his one-bedroom apartment home at Maris Grove. "][/caption] Amerigo Coccia is a man who knows what he wants and goes after it. Two years ago, he was tired of keeping up with his house on an acre of land, so he rustled up his two daughters, who live locally, and toured Maris Grove. All three of them instantly liked what they saw, and Coccia found his new home in a Dawson, one of several one-bedroom apartments in the community s portfolio of floor plan styles. Coccia s new apartment home offered deep counters where he could prepare his signature dishes. Plus, he could rest assured that if any of his major kitchen appliances were to go up in smoke, so to speak, Maris Grove would replace them. So he moved in and got cooking. Coccia wasn t always a cook. After he got out of the service, he and his brother had actually planned to open a liquor store; but in 1946, it was difficult to get a liquor license unless it was for a restaurant. So he and his brother opened Pompeii in New Castle, Del., an eatery featuring authentic Italian cuisine and homemade pasta along with beer, wine, and spirits. Good thing my mother was a talented cook! Coccia says. Equipped with two kitchens one in the restaurant and another in the basement Pompeii was an innovative dining destination. At first, Coccia s customers didn t understand the concept of fresh pasta; all they knew was pasta from a box. He took patrons down into the basement to show them the process of mixing and kneading the dough and then feeding it through the spaghetti cutter. Another innovation: Pompeii was the first to offer the historic town of New Castle (population 4,900) Italian wedding soup. And while the town was small, Pompeii got its fair share of diners; it was in a prime location, on the ferry route of the Ocean Highway that connected North Carolina to New Jersey.

Where the hearth is

Since then, Coccia has been cooking and continues to do so atMaris Grove. His hearth is always warm as he prepares his granddaughters favorite dishes of pasta with meatballs and meat sauce and shrimp marinara. My freezer is always loaded, he says. That way, when his granddaughters visit, he s ready for them. He cooks for himself, too, even though there isn t much need while living atMaris Grove, where one meal a day is included in his monthly service package. Coccia serves onMaris Grove sDining Services Committee, which meets regularly to ensure residents have a voice in what happens in the collective kitchen. He even handwrote a manual, Maris GroveTraining Manual for Dining Services Personnel, to offer input based on his experiences as both a resident and a restaurant owner. Having been in business for myself, I m concerned about food cost, the quality of food, and service, he says. He wants the dining experience to be the best it can be for everyone involved. Yes, Amerigo Coccia is a man who knows what he wants and goes after it. I wouldn t live any other place but here, he says. I m never alone; there s people around me all the time, and I m always making new friends and doing interesting things like being an assistant to one of the chefs at the recent Iron Chef demonstration on campus. And he gets to keep cooking up food and adding to the pot of his life every day.

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