A Q&A with Therese Maisano Schneider, chef/owner at That Little Italian Kitchen
The popular Italian Chicken Breast at That Little Italian Kitchen in Jackson Township has quite a history. The restaurant’s owner/chef Therese Maisano Schneider first made it as a teenager in 4-H.
“My chicken won at the Stark County Fair, then I took it to the state fair,” Schneider said. “It’s the same chicken that I make today—chicken breaded lightly and seasoned, that is flash-fried then baked.”
Schneider has been cooking Italian food most of her life and winning plenty of fans along the way. In addition to her 9-year-old restaurant at 5730 Fulton Drive NW in Jackson Township, she is a busy caterer for weddings, graduation parties and other events.
Q. Being Italian, did you grow up around a lot of cooking as a kid?
A. “I did. We lived with my grandparents in the southeast part of Canton. They lived on the first floor and we lived above them, and there was a kitchen on each floor. Everything was food-related. You pretty much ate pasta every Sunday. There was homemade soup on Monday because that was laundry day. It played a big part in my upbringing.”
Q. It seems like most people like spaghetti and lasagna and garlic bread.
A. “Now they call it comfort food. Sometimes that’s all you might need, something that makes you feel better, something that brings back memories. I know from the catering world that food means everything. If the food is no good, it’s a bad thing. People don’t talk about the chair covers at a wedding, they talk about what they ate.”
Q. What are some of your most popular items?
A. “People seem to love our pasta bakes, which is pasta with our red and white sauces mixed together, with your choice of meat or meatless, mozzarella on top, then baked. Our gnocchi and stromboli are really popular. Our meatballs are really popular. People come in and buy two dozen at a time. We got a new pizza oven, and it’s been a big hit. We make our marinara sauce every day, sometimes three or four times a day. People say they could drink it.”
Q. You make your own gelato, right?
A. “We do, and it’s selling like crazy. We’ve got Bailey’s Irish Cream, orange creamsicle, salted caramel, limoncello, many flavors. In the fall, we bring out cinnamon and pumpkin. At Christmas, we do spumoni. We make everything fresh, and it’s not around for long.”
Q. Between the restaurant and your catering business, are you working some very long days?
A. “About 60 to 70 hours a week. I was here 16 hours yesterday. It’s a labor of love or I wouldn’t do it. I pay my bills, pay my people and a little bit left over. I’m here to make friends, not money.”