A Quick Bite with John Catucci from You Gotta Eat Here!

A Quick Bite with John Catucci from You Gotta Eat Here!

When you live in a house with children you get used to a steady diet of children’s programming. However, that little tid bit is not one of the millions of things veteran parents warn you about when you’re pregnant. “Hey, sorry. Forgot to tell you something. You will never again remember where your keys are because that space in your brain will get taken up with the name of the red Wiggle and the Spanish word for alligator thanks to Diego.” Instead you have a kid and then suddenly realize there is all of this programming (what the hell are Toopie and Binoo by the way?) for them that becomes your tv time as well. It’s why I’m grateful for the fact Scarlett has become completely addicted to the Food Network. We have the best time watching what Anna Olson is baking up, what farm chef Lynn Crawford has been dumped at for Pitchin’ in or making a list of places we want to visit based on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Although, Scarlett’s favorite show has to be You Gotta Eat Here! since it’s based in Canada, and hosted by the adorable and hilarious John Catucci.

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You Gotta Eat Here! features Catucci criss-crossing Canada visiting the countries most beloved neighborhood restaurants. And, even though he’s not a chef, you can tell this actor-comedian-singer is passionate about food and has a genuine appreciation for the chefs, regulars and staffs of all the restaurants he rolls up his sleeves in. Ironically, Catucci also played Bus Driver Bob on the The Doodlebops so maybe that’s Scarlett’s attraction. Or maybe it’s just some really fun programming that not only gives you some great tips for in the kitchen but also a few ideas on where to eat when you ditch making supper all together.

We chatted with Catucci just before the launch of the show’s newest season and we found out the one dish that reminds him of his childhood, his favourite You Gotta Eat Here! spot and the secret to any great dish.

Sweet Potato Chronicles: What’s your earliest food memory?

John Catucci: My dad taking me for a panzerotto at Bitondo Pizzeria in Toronto. Such a simple delicious dish: pizza dough stuffed with cheese and tomato sauce, and then deep fried. It’s amazing. I’ve been going there with my family for nearly 40 years.

SPC: Do you cook at home? If so, what’s your specialty?

JC: I really enjoy cooking and do a lot of it when I’m home (which is not very often these days because I’m on the road ALL THE TIME). Italian would be my specialty. I make a mean penne alla vodka!

SPC: What is your idea of the ultimate comfort food and why?

JC: It really has to do with an emotional connection to childhood. That dish your mom or dad made for you after you came in from the cold or when you needed something quick so you could go back outside and play with your friends. For me, it was (and still is) a grilled cheese sandwich.

SPC: We love how you roll-up your sleeves and throw yourself into helping prepare some of the dishes you feature on You Gotta Eat Here!. Do you have a favourite spot or dish you tried for the show?

JC: Dr. Laffa in Toronto was one of my favourite places from season 2. The owners, Yoram Gabay and Sasi Haba, are such great guys. They make an Iraqi bread called laffa. Think a pita on steroids and you get the picture. The Dr. Laffa hummus plate was incredible–Fresh, delicious homemade hummus with seasoned ground beef and pine nuts in the centre of the plate. Comes with a huge laffa on the side. It’s an amazing appetizer.

SPC: You’ve mentioned on the show that you’re not a big spicy food fan. Does that mean you have a sweet tooth instead? If so, what’s your guilty pleasure?

JC: It’s true. I’m a wimp when it comes to spicy food. I’m starting to enjoy it but still…HUGE wimp. I’m more of a salty guy than a sweet one but if there is apple crumble on the menu, I’m all over it. Oh, and add some vanilla ice cream on the side, thanks.

SPC: Is there any one great kitchen tip or trick you learned from one of the chefs you’ve interviewed that you’ve borrowed for your own kitchen?

JC: People will eat anything that is deep fried and wrapped in bacon!

SPC: Your humour and enthusiasm is what makes You Gotta Eat Here! such a fun show to watch. What do you love best about visiting all those restaurants?

JC: It has to be meeting the owners and customers. I love when I can just sit down and talk to people about why they love each specific restaurant. It’s amazing seeing that connection customers have to their favourite restaurants. They become more like family than just customers.

SPC: Is there any food/cuisine that intimidates you?

JC: It would have to be Indian food. I would love to learn more about it. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to shoot in an Indian restaurant soon.

SPC: How much of those dishes do you eat (some of those burgers look huge)? Do you ever finish your whole plate?

JC: I eat only a few bites of each dish. Sometimes I just want to destroy the plate but if I did I’d never be able to fit into my plaid shirts. I’ve had to ask my director and field producer to gently remind me to put my fork down. I listen…most of the time.

SPC: You’re also an accomplished comedic actor. What do you think is the secret to acquiring a man’s heart? Food or laughter?

JC: It has to be food but making him laugh is a very close second. Also, if you can make him laugh while he eats dinner, even better. Just be prepared to give him the Heimlich maneuver when he starts to choke.

You Gotta Eat Here! is on the Food Network (check listings for times in your area) and enter their contest You’re Gonna Eat Here.

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1 Comment

  1. Lisa
    March 27, 14:15 Reply

    Thank goodness for the Food Network. We are enjoying the same shows.
    We actually checked out a Diner in Vancouver that we had seen on
    john’s show.

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