Pasta Perfect

City Man Precise When Cooking Dishes

Joe Conti has been serving pasta for more than 30 years. Conti cooks various pastas, but he is especially known for his spaghetti. P-J photo by William Mohan

The best place to find Joe Conti is often in the kitchen of venues in which he cooks spaghetti.

For nearly three decades, the Jamestown resident has been making spaghetti and other pasta dishes the way his family once did for community events.

Conti has learned and perfected techniques once used by his family. In particular, he learned from his mother who had been taught by his grandmother. All of the techniques are what he uses to ensure excellent spaghetti every time.

The first venue Conti helped out with was the Fluvanna Boy Scouts in 1986. During that time he also volunteered at events with his mother.

“I used to watch her, help her and with time you learn,” Conti said. “I used to help my mother at St. Joseph’s table.”

Over time, Conti has helped at events and venues ranging from St Joseph’s table, Chautauqua County 4-H, the St. James Italian Festival, Jamestown High School Band and Falconer High School baseball and softball teams. Conti also participates in various personal fundraising events.

However, Conti admits that he enjoys working at youth events in particular. He usually has great turnouts at these events with as many as 150 attendees. Conti also regularly cooks at the Marco Polo Club once a month.

“I like helping kids,” Conti simply said.

For cooking, Conti only uses certain meats and spices. After nearly 30 years, he said he is not sure why his spaghetti is so good. However, he says one thing is especially needed for the best quality cooks.

“You have to know what you’re doing,” Conti said.

For Conti, cooking spaghetti or any pasta is more than putting sauce and noodles all into a pot and warming it up. Conti measures exactly what to put in each dish to ensure the product is of the best possible quality and taste.

For meatballs, Conti strictly uses beef and pork; pork is only used in very small amounts.

“It’s for the taste,” Conti added.

In total he uses 20 to 30 pounds of beef and 5 pounds of pork for each batch of meatballs. They are all homemade prior to an event.

Conti’s main component he strives to perfect everytime is the sauce. He readily admits that the sauce has to be done just right.

“If the sauce is not right it’s not going to taste good,” Conti added.

In total Conti usually takes five to six hours to cook sauce. Both sauce and meatballs are cooked in roasters and pasta is cooked in a separate pan. The reason the three components are separate is to prevent premature separation of the meatballs.

“If you stir with meatballs you break all the meatballs,” Conti said.

Occasionally, Conti will cook more than just spaghetti. Rigatoni is another dish he serves during functions for JHS Band events

“We cook over 300 pounds,” Conti said.

The recipe for Conti’s rigatoni is also the result of hard work and attention. It is also uses prime ingredients.

“We use mozzarella cheese We put it in a tray. We put in sauce, mozzarella cheese, sauce again, pasta, grated cheese.” Conti said.

He regularly receives requests for the rigatoni exclusively. Even though the cooking takes more time, Conti is always willing to help so venues have more time for their events.

“They want to make it. Its more work for them,” Conti said.

Every second Saturday of the month, Conti and his friends Sam Boscia and Gary Kindberg serve at the Marco Polo Club in Jamestown. Other members also help them in cooking.

“It’s a lot of work involved,” Conti said.

Most of the time, Conti and Boscia cook the pasta, meat and sauce. When asked how to make good spaghetti Conti responded with veteran advice.

“The more you cook the better it is, the better it tastes,” Conti said. “You also have to put in the right spices too.”

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