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February 27, 2008 > Impress the chef

Impress the chef

Martinez resident Maryetta Falk hoped to win with her Prawns Alfredo, a dish she's prepared for some of the disadvantaged in her neighborhood; Paul Scipio of Lafayette came armed with his grandmother's hundred-year old ravioli maker; Amy Van Artsdalen of Pinole prepared Braised Pork Chop in marinara sauce, a dish she had created as a young women when she was raising four young children and money was tight. These are just a few of the memorable stories shared by contestants in the East Bay Regional Semifinals of Pasta Pomodoro's "Impress the Chef" culinary contest, held Sunday, February 17 in Pleasant Hill. Home cooks with a passion for Italian cooking had been invited to participate in the contest, taking place at all Northern California Pomodoro restaurants.

Kathleen King of Hayward was selected as the first-prize winner from the Pomodoro restaurant located in Union City. Her Biscotti di Prato, which she considers an honor to the Italian grandmother she never met who moved to San Francisco from Piemonte, Italy in the 1920's. She was awarded a $250 gift certificate.

Newark resident Kelly Miller won a $25 Pomodoro gift certificate for her Chicken Cacciatore, which she made in a crock pot. Debi Henson of Newark won a $25 gift certificate for the story of a pizza her grandmother used to make from scratch every Friday night while Debi was growing up. Union City's Vickie Watson won a $25 Pomodoro gift certificate for her Vegetable Lasagna, a recipe inspired by her sons and their wives.

It was six-year-old Stefano Padoan and his grandmother Lucia Falcone of Walnut Creek and their preparation of Aunt Emma's Gnocchi filled with Chicken and Prosciutto that most impressed Pomodoro Owner and Chef Adriano Paganini. Padoan and Falcone move on to the finals, to be held Saturday, March 8 at Pomodoro in Pleasant Hill.

To enter, participants originally had to provide a written story describing their favorite home-cooked Italian specialty dish and explain why it is so special to them.

From each of the 28 Northern California Pomodoro restaurants, five local winners were selected based on their written descriptions. Those contestants were invited to bring a sample of their dish to their regional event. Entries were judged on the basis of taste and originality. Contestants did not have to disclose any closely guarded recipes.

The grand prize is a $5,000 shopping spree at the winner's favorite store. The four winning regional finalists will each receive a prize of a "Pomodoro Dinner Party for up to 25 Family and Friends" (a $590 value). The 28 first-prize winners from each restaurant win $250 Pasta Pomodoro gift certificates, while the other four local winners from each restaurant receive $25 Pomodoro gift certificates.

The four finalists - one selected from each regional semifinal event in Novato, the East Bay, South Bay and Sacramento - will have one hour to prepare their Italian specialty dish, with the help of a chef assistant. If the dish takes more than an hour, they will be able to prepare some of it in advance.

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