by Dave Kubacki
For Moussa Salloukh, chef-partner at La Scola and owner of Burger Bar 419, two things have always mixed well in his life: food and family.
“Growing up in a Mediterranean household, it was love is food and food is love” Salloukh said. “Everything we did was over food.”
Salloukh, born in Lebanon, moved to the United States when he was three. While his father, Faouaz, was in the restaurant business, Salloukh’s intentions were to finish college and pursue physical therapy as a career. When his father passed away suddenly, Salloukh made a decision for his family.
“So at 21, I took over one of the properties and turned it into a bar with a little restaurant in it,” Salloukh said. “At 21 years old, I just kind of jumped right into it. That’s the last thing I remember; I don’t think I ever looked back.”
From there, Salloukh gained experience in a variety of settings, working for a corporate chain as a general manager and a kitchen manager. Soon after that, he paired up with his current partner and fellow restaurateur, Gus Nicolaidis, to open an authentic Italian restaurant, La Scola.
“Gus is half Italian and half Greek and I’m 100 percent Lebanese,” Salloukh said. “I joke with some of the Italian winemakers we work with. I’m always saying, ‘what’s the difference, we all share the same pond, the Mediterranean.’ That whole region is just so infused, whether it’s Greek or Italian or Lebanese.”
There’s sincerity in Salloukh’s effort to infuse his Mediterranean background into his Italian cuisine. He discusses items he plans for his menu with passion.
“The grape leaves that my sisters and I were taught how to make will be on the new menu as an appetizer,” Salloukh said. “I also recently made my mother’s baklava.”
Making People Healthy
“It’s a cool feeling to be able to put out good food and make people happy,” Salloukh said. “If you can make someone happy, especially someone who is out there working hard, that chooses to spend their valuable time at your restaurant, it’s a really powerful thing to see.”
Though Salloukh has experienced success in the Toledo restaurant scene, it hasn’t come without a fair share of stress and uncertainty, which, Salloukh harnesses and uses as motivation.
“When you are passionate about something and you like coming to work, it’s a different story than when you are working for someone else and feel that daily grind,” Salloukh said. “It’s different when you’re doing it for yourself and you have to go back into that office and try to keep everyone employed and keep the utilities on.”
As Salloukh works on plans for opening his second Burger Bar 419 location, in Rossford, he remembers fondly where his initial inspiration came from.
“When my grandmother was alive, you could see her and a bunch of her friends gathered together making Lebanese flatbread or rolling grape leaves,” Salloukh said. “It was more of a social event for them. Food has always been a big part of our lives. It just continues for me and the passion grows.”
This quantity is about right for 4 or 5 hungry people.
Light tomato sauce base
To begin, heat a good sized skillet, and add:
1 Tbl Butter
Tbl Olive Oil
When butter sizzles, add:
2 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 med onion, chopped
carrot, thin slice
1/2 green pepper or 2-3 Jalapenos, chopped
Stalk celery with chopped leaves
Sauté until till onion is transparent, then add, preferably fresh:
A fair bit basil, bit of oregano, wad of parsley, nice bay leaf, 1/4 tsp fennel seed, a clove, a grind black pepper, a tsp or more of ground red chili.
Sauté this around a bit till you can smell the spices. Then add:
A splash of white wine, a good dash of Tabasco, and a good shot of both red wine vinegar and Worstershire Sauce.
Toss this around a bit then add:
Five 8 oz. cans of tomato sauce.
Simmer this all up for an hour or two, and reserve. This will keep on the stove for a day or two, and refrigerates well. It will freeze for future reference for up to a couple months.
FISH STOCK, OR FUMET
The second part of the Cioppino is the stock- fish flavored soup base. To do this, wash a couple pounds of fish bones, a couple fish heads, and a few shrimp, lobster or langostino shells if you have them. Put them into a stock or stew pot, add a couple quarts of water, a chunk of onion, stalk of celery, carrot chopped up, maybe a grind of black pepper or a turnip and simmer a couple of hours, strain, cool well and reserve.
For a nice serving of Cioppino you should have a good selection of seafood types. The only good seafood is absolutely fresh seafood, so let what is available best be your guide. You do want a mix of a bit of fish, a few shellfish, maybe a shrimp or two or a nice fat langostino, and maybe a bit of squid, octopus or abulone thrown in a the last moment.
For each serving, a typical seafood mix might include any three or four of the below:
2 one ounce pieces of nice,
White fish like rock bass or halibut
2 medium sized shrimp, or a medium langostine, or 3 crayfish
2 thumb sized pieces of well pounded octopus
Couple nice chunks of lobster or monkfish
A few small scallops.
Couple halibut cheeks.
A small crab, or a couple pieces of a bigger one
TO DO THE CIOPPINO:
In a large pan, for each serving add:
One ladle tomato base
One ladle fish stock
A good handful of seafood, must include both fish and shellfish
Splash of white wine
Simmer Cioppino gently till shell fish shells open. Discard the occasional one that does not open. Take Cioppino off fire. At this point, a bit of finely sliced squid or abulone can be added to Cioppino, the residual heat will cook them sufficiently.