This article also published on Baristanet.
Anyone who has a vault in their basement dedicated to pork curing and wine, is a friend of mine – and Lou Palma, The Gastro-Mechanic of Montclair, is a dear, dear, friend of mine.
Lou has lived on Summit Avenue in Montclair, with his wife, Susan, for 31 years. Summit Ave is home to a few formidable Montclair foodies: Lou Palma, Christina O’Neill (pictured above), Alison Bermack, and Laura Schenone, to name a few. After spending time in the Palma kitchen, the term “genius” seems a fitting moniker for this untrained, yet consummate gastronome.
Lou was drafted during the Korean War and trained in Fort Bragg as a Military Policeman. He was then assigned to Hawaii, where the sergeant in charge of the kitchen, Conrad Hoffmeister, took him under his wing. Hoffmeister, a graduate of the Chicago Institute of Culinary Art, taught Lou the basics of preparing roasts, making desserts, and baking bread.
When Lou returned home from the service with his new culinary education in tow, he began experimenting with recipes he had learned from his mother who was born in San DiAgata, Italy. Through years of trial and error, Lou became a master of all things pork and pasta. He expanded beyond his mother’s recipes, and continues the Italian Christmas Eve tradition of “Seven Fish” (“seven fishes” for those who speak Brooklynese), although he humbly admits to preparing well over seven seafood dishes.
Lou’s approach to food is very scientific, and very mechanical. While some, myself included, will just heap dough into a ball and hope for the best, Lou measures with a digital scale – to the tenth – every time! After he showed me a few of his self-designed, custom kitchen tools, and explained how semolina is used to ease “surface tension,” it came as little surprise when I learned Lou worked for many years as a superintendent at a precision printing plant.
Want to watch Lou, Christina, and me make raviolis? And take a peak at Lou’s proscuitto? Watch the video:
Lou and Susan Palma are more than just foodies. They are hospitable, charming, warm, welcoming, jovial, and very humble. I would like to thank the Palma’s for welcoming us into their home; I consider it a personal honor to know them.
Want to cook up Lou's Ravioli? Visit the Cookbook for the recipe! Have you ever tried to make your own raviolis? How did it go? Do you know any other extraordinary local foodies we should visit?