Our New Executive Chef is Family
Abbie Amato takes the helm at The New England Pasta Company and BeanZ & Co. kitchen.
Our new executive chef, Abbie Amato, has long been a member of The New England Pasta Company and BeanZ & Co. family and has stepped into the role with both ease and excitement. She is just beaming! Our “Everyone Belongs” editor sat down with Abbie to chat about what’s on her new Fall/Winter menu, the energy she brings to the kitchen, and her unwavering commitment to personal customer service.
Q: Tell us a little about your background and how you came to Pasta Co. and BeanZ & Co.?
A: I grew up in Harwinton, Conn. and attended Johnson & Wales in R.I., graduating with honors and degrees in culinary and food service management. I worked in Rhode Island for about 9 years after graduating and then moved back to Conn. where I worked at Carmen Anthony’s in Avon for five years on the 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. shift. I’m a mom and was looking for a daytime shift and saw an ad for Pasta Co. The rest is history. I will be part of the Pasta Co. and Morrison family for 10 years this month.
Q: Can you share the work you’ve done in the Pasta Co. kitchen prior to becoming executive chef?
A: I started in the café when it was located in the building behind Battiston’s Dry Cleaners. I did all the prep work—making soups and chili, sauces, quiche, and so on. I also worked the line preparing lunch for customers. When we came to our current location, with The New England Pasta Company and Café under one roof, I started to do the baking, making desserts and cakes, and did all the corporate and local business catering.
Q: This seems like a perfect next step for you!!
A: The opportunity to step into an executive chef role came up before, but I wasn’t able to commit to the responsibility and hours until my son was in school full-time. So when Kim approached me last month, we both knew the timing was right—and it’s been an easy transition. I now order all the ingredients for the food we prepare and serve at Pasta Co. and BeanZ & Co. I also make a lot of the food and desserts for our catering service and our Pasta Co. cases (except pasta and ravioli, that’s Scott Morrison), and I do all the baking, soups and chili for BeanZ & Co. Sometimes I step in on the line at BeanZ from 7 a.m. – 8 a.m. if needed to make breakfast.
Q: Wow, you’re amazing! How do you do it all?
A: That’s the life of an executive chef. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun! I am surprised how much energy I have. I come in around 6 a.m. and leave around 4:30 p.m. or 5:00 p.m., unless it’s a big catering week, and then I work longer. I love hearing from customers they enjoy my food, or when the Pasta Co. staff gets excited about new entrees and desserts in the case. And I have my own definition of “prep,” so I am able to get a lot done at once.
Q: Ok, now we’re curious! What is prep for Abbie Amato?
A: Prep for me means having 25 things going at once: two ovens full of food, two soups or a soup and a chili on the stovetop, three tables with things started, two or three timers going. I love it! And the secret to my multitasking? Sharon of Team BeanZ makes me the best hot chocolate and always keeps me stocked with the latest M&Ms ;).
Q: So tell us about the new Fall/Winter menu launching today!!
A: We’re really excited about our new Fall/Winter menu! Step one for me in preparing our new menu was going through our Pasta Co. cookbooks—these are gold! They are our own recipes, each one with chef’s notes in the margins and on sticky notes with tweaks. I retyped them all, so each recipe is always made consistently the Pasta Co/BeanZ & Co. way. No one else makes food the way we do. I’m bringing back old favorites, some new dishes—and even a few of my family recipes.
Q: I love that! Can you preview a few of the new items for us?
A: I’d love to spotlight our new Butternut + Black Bean Quesadilla, our Mile High Meatloaf Sandwich served hot on a kaiser roll with cheddar, bbq sauce, bacon and frizzled onions, and our Harvest Chopped Salad with dried cranberries, apples, carrots, cucumbers, walnuts and avocado. My family recipes this season are my grandmother’s Grape Nut Pudding and my Mom’s Fruit Cake—a simple and delicious recipe with cherries, walnuts and brandy. Perfect at the holidays.
Q: Do you plan to add to your recipe book, or do anything different?
A: I am always experimenting with our basic recipes for BeanZ bakery and for our Pasta Co. cases. There are our customer favorites I always do, and then I mix it up. Our recipes let me be creative. So, for example, with our scones at BeanZ & Co., I like to do a savory, a sweet, something seasonal, and gluten-free. This week, I’ve been playing with a new scone: pumpkin and white chocolate!!
Q: So it’s sounds like you are offering customers something really special here?
A: Absolutely. We’re offering food that is housemade fresh everyday from our own recipes that consistently tastes as good as it looks. When you walk in our doors you can smell our food cooking because we make everything on site—that sets us apart. We also do as many special requests as we can, including gluten-free options and being creative in what we offer in our cases and on our menus, as well as customization when working with our catering clients. We help deliver on your vision to make your event special—with groups from 2 to 200—even a weekday or Saturday dinner for your family with our Family Meal Deals matters to us. We cook for you, so you can focus on your family. And we do it all with great food, great integrity, and a lot of love. Striving to make customers happy—that’s what we’re here for.
BeanZ & Co. is an inclusive coffee café employing people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities and demonstrates the possibilities in all of us. The coffee café serves breakfast, lunch, hot and cold beverages, and bakery items for take-out or eat in, and also offers catering services. BeanZ & Co. is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 300 West Main Street, Avon, Conn. For more information visit beanzandco.com and friend them on Facebook and Instagram.