By Kate Anslinger
One of Winthrop’s residents has recently had a touch of celebrity. East Boston’s Milano’s Deli owner and operator, Vinny Caraglia, was scouted by the hit show Phantom Gourmet. The show focuses on highlighting local restaurants that stand out for their exquisite food and cozy atmosphere.
Caraglia and his father, Giuseppe, have owned Milano’s jointly for twelve years, but he has been exposed to the restaurant industry since he was eleven years old. Starting out as a part-time job, Giuseppe had the desire and passion to immerse himself in the food industry, and Caraglia grew up following in his father’s footsteps.
After working part-time at Milano’s for several years, an opportunity arose and Giuseppe made the decision to purchase the deli. It was a dream come true for the chef who came from Italy back in the 70s.
“My dad is in his element when he’s in the kitchen,” said Caraglia, who admits that he loves working with his family every day. Caraglia’s mom, Maria, plays an important role in the business as well, as she is responsible for keeping the dining room under control and serving the well-known dishes to the loyal customers that come in day after day.
The majority of their business stems from take out; however, catering isn’t too far behind. In fact, Sundays are dedicated to catering events that range from birthday parties to Bar Mitzvahs and the majority of the business comes from East Boston, Boston and the airport.
The crew from Phantom Gourmet followed Caraglia around for the day to get a feel for what goes on in the restaurant that has been described as “Grandmas’s Kitchen.”
In the midst of filming, East Boston City Councilor Sal LaMattina stopped in for lunch, but first he made sure to greet the staff that he has grown to know so well. “It’s like eating in your grandmother’s kitchen. This is the only place I will go outside of the house for meatballs.” said LaMattina between bites of the Italian fare. Having grown up in an Italian household, LaMattina was always taught to only eat meatballs at home, but Milano’s Deli is the exception to his rule.
And there is no lack of décor that will bring you back to your grandmother’s kitchen. In fact, a local neighbor donated a table straight from their own grandmother’s kitchen, and it has become known as “Nonnie’s Table,” a staple of the restaurant.
There is no shortage of appetizing dishes on the menu, but when asked, Caraglia points out a few of the local favorites. The stuffed pepper shooters are perfect for a quick appetizer while you’re waiting for your meal, 1940s style bakery pizza that has a subtle olive oil flavor and balances out the marinara sauce and grated cheese is always a favorite, and Arancini, which Caraglia describes as having a “beautiful crunch on the outside with a burst of flavor on the inside.”
“I believe we make the best Italian sub,” says Caraglia, who only uses authentic cold cuts. “It hits the spot.”
The chicken parmesan special is a huge favorite as well, with its crunchy cutlet and savory middle. The restaurant is known to go through at least 100 chicken cutlets a day, so that certainly says something about customer loyalty to the chicken dishes. However, some customers have built such a bond with the restaurant that they let Caraglia decide on their daily lunch order. Evidently, when the customer says, “Vinny Knows,” the staff gets to decide, and no one has been disappointed.
“I don’t know if I can picture myself doing anything else,” said Caraglia. “I love being in the community and working with the customers.”
The Milano’s Deli episode of Phantom Gourmet is scheduled to air on May 20th at 11 am on WSBK myTV38.