It all started with a move. Entering into retirement, Luis Somoza and Robert Gray decided to leave behind the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and flee to the country. They settled into the sprawling rural landscape of Southbury, Connecticut and, for a moment, relished in their provincial idyll.
New Yorkers to the core, they eventually started to get restless. What exactly were they going to do with all this time? As they discussed it over dinner, the answer was right in front of them on the table—share their love of cooking with the new community.
Luis and Robert’s cooking had always been a fusion of Spanish and Italian influences, inspired by their maternal grandmothers who cooked Old World recipes with New World ingredients. The first recipe they decided to show off to their Connecticut neighbors was a riff on salsa verde, a sauce long made by Luis’s side of the family. The riff isn’t in the ingredients themselves, but how the ingredients are cooked. They slow-cook peppers and onions on low in olive oil using the Italian soffrito method, whereas most Spanish sauces call for everything to be boiled and blended. It’s a more patient technique hailing from Robert’s side of the family, and it draws out a richer flavor.
The sauce was such a hit with Luis and Robert’s neighbors that they started selling it in local stores along with prepared salads and other Italian-Spanish fusion goods. They’ve even written a cookbook, Uncomplicated Tuscan Cooking… which has a light Spanish influence.
Looks like “retirement” is treating them to la dolce vita… or should we say la vida dulce? Whether Italian or Spanish, it’s pretty sweet.