Gianni Randazzo shows off signature items from his menu at Italian Street Pizzeria & Restaurant in Somers Point.

Gianni Randazzo doesn't speak perfect English but his passion for Italian cooking comes through loud and clear. His mother was a chef who cooked for 400 to 500 people each day.

That teaches you something about working hard, but also requires that you learn about balance in your seasoning. That means when you cook for all those people, you learn to please the palate of every one of them.

Born and raised in the town of Carini, near Palermo, Sicily, Randazzo began spending his days in the kitchen when he was only 4 or 5 years old. With six children, paying a babysitter was out of the question for his family.

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Instead, Randazzo's mother took him to work with her when the manager wasn't around. The seven other chefs in the kitchen loved having him there, always putting him to work.

Walking around the kitchen they would each give him a job. "Gianni, wash the lettuce or cut this tomato," says Randazzo.

At 14, Randazzo decided against culinary school because he had already learned so much, and because he couldn't waste any time. His financial contribution was needed by the rest of the family.

Daniela Randazo, Gianni's wife, was born in Italy but raised in Wildwood Crest, where her family had a restaurant. When they retired, the family returned to Italy.

That's where Gianni and Daniela met and married.

"Over there is beautiful but this is like my home," says Daniela Randazzo. "I wanted Gianni to come to the states to meet my brothers and the rest of my family."

Their honeymoon stretched from the Mediterranean to New Jersey. On a three-month visa, the Randazzos visited uncles in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

"The honeymoon was so long, I got bored," says Gianni Randazzo.

One night, Gianni Randazzo visited his brother-in-law, Vince Sanzone, at his restaurant, Vincenzo's in North Cape May.

Sanzone asked what he did for a living back in Italy. Gianni Randazzo responded, the same thing they were doing here, cooking in a restaurant.

"Go in the kitchen and I will give you one table, my friends for a long, long time, and you make the food for them," says Sanzone.

Kitchen Spanish was close enough to Italian as Gianni Randazzo began to turn out calamari, NY strip steaks, grilled swordfish, and white clam and pasta while the staff looked on.

Twenty-five minutes later, the waitress returned to the kitchen to ask," Who made the food for table five?" The table wanted to speak to the chef, to Sanzone or to the manager about the food.

"I got scared," says Randazzo. He quickly called his brother-in-law to say they had a problem.

While Randazzo and Sanzone stood by the table, his customers explained that in 15 years they had never had a better meal at his restaurant. Vince asked Randazzo if he would like to work the rest of his honeymoon.

Gianni Randazzo discussed it with his wife.

"Gianni, we have a house here, we have a family here, why not try," says Daniela Randazzo. "If you like it, stay, if you don't like it, go back to Italy, you have your job, and we have a house."

So, Gianni Randazzo went to work for his brother-in-law.

"The only problem was, I can't speak very well, but in the kitchen, nobody can beat me," says Gianni Randazzo. "But when you do your best, the customer knows that something is different."

The Randazzos decided to stay in the states.

Like most chefs, Gianni Randazzo, dreamed of having his own place one day and his chance came when he noticed a space available in the Kmart shopping center in Somers Point. This June, the Randazzo's restaurant, Italian Street, will be open three years.

When they opened the door, people began to come to eat and return with friends.

The restaurant was praised in a restaurant review and was busy the first year it was opened.

His wife also gave birth to their son, on Labor Day Weekend, at the end of the first summer season.

Always one who loved the sea and seafood, Gianni Randazzo, used to go fishing and diving every week at home in Sicily. It goes hand in hand when you live on an island.

His recipe for seafood pescatore is a simple one made with good ingredients.

"It's how we would cook at home," says Daniela Randazzo. "I can smell it from the garage, and when you are hungry, it makes you even more hungry."

Randazzo does not use scallops in this recipe because it makes the red sauce too sweet, but he does use them in a white sauce.

Italian Street Pizzeria & Restaurant

Somers Point Plaza, 268 New Road, Somers Point



Hours: 11 a.m.

to 10 p.m. daily


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