Melt-in-your-mouth memories

They’re eating better in Heaven today. Biagio Dente has arrived.
“Pittston’s Chef” died Wednesday at his summer home in Florida. He was 78.
A Certified Executive Chef and member of the Chef’s Hall of Fame, Biagio fed us all during his long career in the catering business. And when we wasn’t feeding us, he was helping us feed ourselves through his weekly column “Table Talk” and his regular radio stint punctuated with his signature sign-off “Buono appetito.”
During my early days as a reporter I knew Biagio was always good for a tasty story on a slow news day. One that often comes to mind involves a little trek to a farm in Harding in search of, of all things, zucchini flowers.
It was harvest time. “Come with me,” Biagio said to photographer Kenny Feeney and me when we knocked on his door. We piled into his van and off we went. “Hey, Biagio,” the farmer yelled as we stepped into a patch of plump zucchinis ready to be picked. “Back for flowers?”
“Just flowers,” Biagio answered.
“Help yourself,” the farmer shouted.
To say we were intrigued hardly describes our curiosity.
Back in his kitchen, Biagio whipped up a light batter, dragged the zucchini flowers through it and dropped them into boiling oil to deep fry. They melted in your mouth.
Biagio wrote down the recipe for our readers, but only after we agreed to stay for lunch.
“Heat up those tornadoes of beef from yesterday’s party,” he called to his lovely wife Emma Jean, and soon we were dining like kings.
Over the years, Biagio also became known as the unofficial chef to every bishop of Scranton. A running gag around the diocese was if you saw the Dente Catering truck parked at a rectory, you knew the bishop was coming.
Those bishops who arrived in Heaven before him were probably reaching for their napkins the minute they heard Biagio was on his way.
Buono appetito.

Ed Ackerman