Chef To Share Culinary Secrets

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Welcome to Gerardo's Italian Bistro.

No, it is not the Rim Country's newest eatery. Chef and owner Gerardo Moceri simply changed the name of Cucina Paradiso, the Italian restaurant he opened six years ago.

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Chef Gerardo Moceri teaches cooking classes each month at his bistro. The next classes are March 24 -- Gnocchi, March 31 -- Pizza Dough and April 14 -- Desserts.

"One of the most common question was, ‘What does Cucina Paradiso mean?'" Moceri said. "Also, a lot of people couldn't pronounce it -- there was that from the beginning."

There are three kinds of restaurants in Italy, the very fancy "residente," the middle range "trattoria" and the "ostaria" or wine bar.

"A bistro is closest to the trattoria," Moceri said. His bistro includes a small wine bar.

Like someone saying, "Lets go see our friend," for years a number of his customers have said, "Let's go to Gerardo's."

Pictures of his wife, Maria, daughter, Natalie, and son, Gerardo Jr., adorn the brick walls.

Eleven-year-old Natalie helps out once in a while, making salads.

Repeat diners know they can expect a family atmosphere. With the new name, new customers will know what to expect.

Sharing his love of life, food and wine with others brings a broad smile to Moceri's face.

There are evenings when the white linen tablecloths come out and he hosts special wine tasting dinners.

And, because he believes, "If you don't pass on what you learn, it remains stagnant," Moceri teaches a couple of cooking classes each month.

Classes begin at 10:30 a.m. and last two hours. There is room for eight to 12 students. The cost is $40.

Gnocchi and other kinds of Italian dumplings are on the menu for March 24.

Recipes for gnocchi evolved as they were adapted by cooks in different regions of Italy.

The Sicilians liked their gnocchi with ricotta cheese, while the Northern Italians were fond of potato dumplings.

Students will also learn how to make pesto gnocchi and different sauces.

Students can be hands-on as much as they want or just watch Moceri work his culinary magic.

Then, everyone gets to eat what they have made, and, of course, students love getting recipes.

Many of the recipes Moceri shares come from a cookbook he created in honor of his mother when he was a chef at the Hyatt Regency in Hawaii. With an eye on the future, he is putting a new recipe book together for his children.

Gerardo's boasts one of the few wood-burning ovens in the state.

Students at the March 31 class will get to "really feel the heat" when Moceri fires it up. He will teach them how to make pizza dough and sauces -- a light and healthy whole wheat crust, the regular Neapolitan crust, a flat bread and a gluten-free crust, so those with allergies to flour can enjoy pizza. The sauces he will demonstrate are regular, white and Sicilian.

The deep-dish, thick Sicilian-style pizza Moceri makes in class has olives and Romano cheese pressed into the crust.

As the dough rises, the olives and cheese sink into it.

The sauce is made from whole plum tomatoes, basil, garlic, onion and a "secret ingredient" -- anchovy paste.

"The Italians didn't hide secrets from me when I was (learning to be a chef) in Italy," Moceri said.

For more information, call Gerardo's at (928) 468-6500.

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