Restaurant romance

Get to know the couples behind 91 Wood Fired Oven and Pileggi’s Italian Cafe

Get to know the couples behind 91 Wood Fired Oven and Pileggi’s Italian Cafe
Greg and Amy Goehring | 91 WOOD FIRED OVEN

Running three restaurants and raising four children doesn’t allow a lot of time for romance, but Greg and Amy Goehring try to squeeze it in.

“For us it’s about being together, and when the food is great, it’s even better,” Amy said.

One way to add a romantic spark to a meal is to share.

“When Greg and I have a meal together, we share everything,” Amy said. “We share an appetizer, maybe buffalo shrimp or flaming cheese, share a salad, then maybe the black and blue steak, or steak au poivre. If you share, you can taste more things, and you don’t eat so much that you want to go to sleep.”

goehrings_foodThe Goehrings opened their first restaurant — The Irish Exchange — after being married for just one year. Ten years later they closed it, took a quick breather, then opened 91 Wood Fired Oven in North Canton in 2001. That was followed by 91 in Jackson and 3 Brothers Corner Tavern. (See menus, hours and addresses at www.91oven.com.)

Does being in business together hurt or help the romance?

“I am truly blessed to go to work with my best friend each day,” Greg said.

Amy said it’s had another, unexpected benefit.

“It’s taught us how to argue. Our arguments no longer end in a slammed door or someone walking away. We can agree to disagree,” she said. “It’s also taught us how to say I was wrong, like, ‘I have a brilliant idea. OK, not so brilliant,’ then laugh about it.”

For a special meal at home, Greg said he would grill up a New York strip steak. Amy said she’d make Greg roasted chicken and mashed potatoes.

What food is perfect for Valentine’s Day?

“Molten chocolate cake with red wine,” Amy said. “A bottle of wine changes the entire mood of a dinner, makes it special, a treat.”

Like all restaurateurs, the Goehrings will celebrate Valentine’s Day at work.

“It’s our single busiest day of the year,” Greg said.

But they will grab time for themselves after the holiday.

“We try to get away every couple months, go to Chicago or someplace,” Greg said. “And we try to do a date night every week or every other week.”

MOLTEN CHOCOLATE CAKE

1/2 lb. bittersweet chocolate
1/2 lb. butter
4 eggs
4 egg yolks
1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 T vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C flour

Melt chocolate and butter in a metal bowl over a double boiler. While chocolate is melting, combine the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl. Use the whip attachment on the blender and beat the mixture until pale yellow and thick, about 10 minutes. Add vanilla and salt. Add the chocolate mixture slowly and beat until just mixed. Add the flour and beat until just mixed. Divide chocolate mixture into six ramekins. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-23 minutes until set around the edges.The center should still be liquid. Serve warm with ice cream and fresh whipped cream.

pileggis

Silvio and Ferna Pileggi | PILEGGI’S ITALIAN CAFE

Food has been an integral part of the love affair between Silvio and Ferna Pileggi since they met 25 years ago.

“It’s how he wooed me,” Ferna said. “We were both working at a law firm and he’d take me out to lunch every day, introduce me to new things. I had never had Middle Eastern food before. He’d cook for me at home, take me out, we’d have wine with our meals — he expanded all of that for me.”

Food also has been the theme of their business life together, most recently as owners of the cozy Pileggi’s Italian Cafe, at 2664 Easton St. NE. Their combined skills make a winning combination.

“Ferna’s the first impression. She makes it warm and friendly,” Silvio said. “My part is to make sure the people enjoy the food.”

Does working together every day dim the love affair? Not for these two.

“You hear people say, ‘I don’t like to work at night.’ I don’t mind it because my husband’s there,” Ferna said. “I like knowing I can walk back to the kitchen and give him a kiss. Then he’ll feed me a bite of something, then I can go back out to work.”

And if the patrons want to share a smooch, Silvio says that’s fine too.

“Other places hang mistletoe. We’re Italian, so we hang basil,” he joked.

Away from the restaurant, the couple still romance each other with food.

“Sil loves when I cook for him — it doesn’t matter what I make. When someone is always cooking, they love to be cooked for,” Ferna said. To surprise him, she’ll make matzo ball soup or his favorite chicken dish.

“I have a special recipe — lightly fried chicken with tomatoes, artichokes, onions, sherry and broth. I make it with yellow rice on the side. He loves that.”

Sil raves about Ferna’s desserts, especially the flan.

If they didn’t have to work at the restaurant on Valentine’s Day, what would he cook for his wife?

“Without a doubt, some type of lobster dish,” he said. “Maybe my lobster Alfredo.”

What should Pileggi Cafe customers order on Valentine’s Day?

“Any kind of seafood he makes,” Ferna said, “With Asti Spumanti champagne on the side.”

SILVIO’S LOBSTER ALFREDO

1⁄2 cup butter
1 pound ricotta cheese
1⁄4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
Pinch garlic powder
Pinch white pepper
1 quart heavy cream or half-and-half
1 pound lobster (or crabmeat, refrigerated, not canned), chopped fine

Melt butter in heavy pan. While on medium-low heat, stir in ricotta until melted. Stir in Parmesan, eggs, seasonings. With whisk or electric mixer, stir constantly while adding slow stream of cream. Allow to thicken over low heat, adding more cream if necessary for desired consistency. Stir in crabmeat and warm. Serve over fettuccine.Yields 4 servings.

FERNA’S CHICKEN AND ARTICHOKE SKILLET

1 whole chicken, cut up
Flour seasoned with salt and pepper
Oil
1 cup sherry
1 cup chicken broth
Onion
Green pepper, optional
Artichoke hearts, frozen or canned
Tomatoes, preferably fresh

Heat oil. Dredge chicken pieces in seasoned flour. Brown chicken in oil, turning once (360 degrees in electric skillet). Pour off any remaining oil. Reduce heat to medium (230 degrees). Add sherry and broth and cook for about 45 minutes, covered, but with lid slightly tipped to allow steam to escape. Chop onions and green peppers if using. Cut the artichokes and tomatoes into quarters. Artfully arrange vegetables on top of chicken as follows: onions in the center, artichokes in a ring around the onions, and tomatoes in a ring at the outer edge. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Serve from the skillet at the table.

Where to buy

The Repository
Select Rite Aid Stores
Spee-D Foods
Buehler's Fresh Foods
Fishers Foods, including 44th Street NW, Tuscarawas St. W, Fulton Drive, Lincoln Way E. and Cleveland Ave. NW locations
Aultman Hospital Gift Shop
Mercy Medical Center Gift Shop
Gervasi Vineyard Marketplace
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, downtown Canton and Belden Village Mall locations
News Depot
Avenue Arts Marketplace
Yum Yum Tree Alliance
Grapes in a Glass