Caffe Anello’s John Vitale visits PHHS for Farm-to-Table Week

Photo Credit: Cindy Wagner

Photo Credit: Cindy Wagner

A few weeks ago, the students in Cindy Wagner’s class were treated to a special guest.  John Vitale, the owner and head chef of Caffe Anello in Westwood, spoke to her class about owning a farm-to-table restaurant.

Wagner teaches Culinary Arts, Fashion Design, and Family and Consumer Sciences at Pascack Hills.  Her class learned about the concept of farm-to-table and teacher Julianne Downes from Pascack Valley had connections to chef John Vitale.  To enhance the lesson, it was arranged for him to speak to the Family and Consumer Sciences Classes at Hills and Valley.  

“It is a farm-to-table restaurant, “said Wagner. “So, he talked to the students about how he goes to the farm and picks the tomatoes and uses free-range chickens and natural ingredients.”

Farm-to-table restaurants are all about natural, locally grown ingredients being used in dishes. Farm-to-table chefs will often head out to farmer’s markets and buy their fruits, vegetables, and other fresh foods from the source where it was grown.  

“If you were to hang around a lot of restaurants, you might see a big truck pull up… and they deliver things like frozen vegetables,” Wagner said. Many other restaurants order prepackaged, frozen, or factory-made ingredients.

Vitale also spoke about the way his restaurant differs from other restaurants in the area.  His restaurant is a small place that holds up to twenty-six people and has an “open kitchen” concept.  This means that the kitchen is open to public view and you can witness the chefs preparing your meal fresh and see what ingredients they use.

In addition, Vitale also spoke to the students about how he started his business and about following your passions.  The concept of Caffe Anello was formed after he visited Italy and noticed the farm-to-table style of many of the restaurants there.  He spoke to the students about the business and financial aspect of opening your own restaurant and what it would take.

One student said that he gave “the inspiration of starting your own business… and to not give up.”  

He also gave his life story and about how he came to be a chef.  Originally, Vitale earned a degree in broadcasting but also realized his passion for cooking.  “Follow your passion,” he had said to the students.  “You never know what you might want to do.”  

Vitale also owns the building next door, a small coffee shop named Sogno.  He also has plans to open his own market for farmers to sell their own fresh ingredients to the public.  In addition, he also plans to sell pre-made dishes in grocery stores and start making coal oven pizza.