Giuseppe’s chefs key ingredient in ‘KCTS Cooks’

From left, Chef Tyrell Chamberland and Paolo Mauro of Trattoria Giuseppe in Clinton will be featured on the 20th KCTS cooking special “KCTS Cooks: Favorite Recipes” that premieres live Saturday. - Cynthia Woolbright
From left, Chef Tyrell Chamberland and Paolo Mauro of Trattoria Giuseppe in Clinton will be featured on the 20th KCTS cooking special “KCTS Cooks: Favorite Recipes” that premieres live Saturday.
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright

Tucked into the back edge of the Ken’s Korner Shopping Center is an encapsulation of a land far away — a taste of Italy on Whidbey Island. Like so many of the streetside cafes from the land its menu items originate, many first time customers simply stumble upon Trattoria Giuseppe Italian Restaurant in Clinton.

“People are still discovering we’re here,” said owner Jennifer Mauro.

This weekend, two chefs from Trattoria Giuseppe will introduce the greater Puget Sound area to cuisine many locals have already found to love. Chefs Paolo Mauro and Tyrell Chamberland will show KCTS viewers a taste of Italy — Giuseppe’s style.

Giuseppes’ chefs will be included in this weekend’s live broadcast of “KCTS Cooks: Favorite Recipes.” The special consists of live and taped segments with chefs featuring recipe favorites for entrees, desserts and more, as submitted by viewers.

KCTS launched the popular series of live viewer cooking specials in 1996. Eight years and a hundreds of recipes later, “Favorite Recipes” will mark KCTS’s 20th cooking special. During pledge breaks, hosts will share background on the featured recipes and cooks and will offer sneak peeks at some of the over 250 recipes that will be included in the companion cookbook.

Mauro said inclusion in the show has special meaning to her, her chefs and her staff — it was a family effort.

Trattoria Giuseppe opened nine years ago and since day one its key ingredient to success has been family. Shortly after asking about that day’s specials, customers check to see who’s in the kitchen.

“They’ve always been like little celebrities,” said owner Jennifer Mauro of her children — Luciano, 16, Paolo, 20, and Gina 23. “’How’s Paolo doing at school, how’s Gina, where’s Luciano’ is always some of the first things to come out of their mouth.”

For Mauro, cooking and family have gone together for as long as she could remember. Her father was a counterintelligence officer during World War II, and after the war he dreamed of one day returning to Europe with his family. This dream grew into a passion for European culture and cooking. He took his family on vacations to Sicily and would watch Julia Childs every day before heading off to the market to buy fresh ingredients to prepare that night’s dinner. A small-town lawyer by trade, he opened a continental restaurant in rural Wisconsin in which Jennifer and her siblings worked.

After studying French, English and Italian in college, and traveling Europe, she returned to the U.S. and met a young waiter — Giuseppe. They married, they traveled, and together, Jennifer and Giuseppe opened about a dozen restaurants in Texas, California and Washington.

Seven years ago Giuseppe went on to start his own restaurant in Bellingham and his recipes have now become a Mauro family tradition that has been passed along to Luciano, Paulo and Gina.

“All three of them are fabulous cooks,” Mauro said of her children.

All three began cooking when they were mere teenagers.

“People are always amazed, but they’ve been cooking for years,” she said.

From bookkeeping and accounting, serving and busing, making salads and hosting, the Mauro children have now grown to help their mother with all aspects of the family business.

“It’s great for our customers because we can offer a personal touch that is so often lacking,” she said. “It’s been good for them also because they’ve gotten to work together.”

If not by blood relation, many of the Giuseppe’s employees have been working at the restaurant so long they’ve become adopted family. Clinton resident Chamberland, 25, began working at Giuseppe’s eight years ago making salads. Today he’s an accomplished chef with a strong customer base.

While the Giuseppe menu has a Sicilian flair, Mauro said Giuseppe’s classic Italian dishes and continental cuisine has no borders.

“It’s not just regional and we’re always working with customers to expand our current offerings,” she said.

It’s flavorful, authentic Italian cuisine. Case in point: the seafood ravioli in smoked salmon-cognac sauce that Paolo will be seen cooking this weekend.

The dish is a variation twist on the seafood ravioli special that is served Saturdays at the restaurant. The KCTS dish comes from a customer request that Paolo Mauro helped create and then once again helped modify for the show.

“I don’t usually try to combine too many things in one dish because if you use quality ingredients they are enough on their own and you don’t want them to overpower each other,” Paolo Mauro said. “But I was pleasantly surprised at how this turned out.”

To add to the chef’s recipe roster for the show, the Spaghettini al Pomodoro was selected.

“It’s a basic staple dish with classic characteristics that will be easy for people to cook,” Jennifer Mauro said.

Chamberland, who prepared the dish for the show, considers it a “light dish, something to eat on a warm day,” but apparently it’s good anytime as it is consistently a customer favorite year round.

And as famed as Giuseppe’s has become for its food, its ambiance is just as tasty.

“We always have people come in and ask to be tucked back into a romantic corner,” Mauro said.

And the Giuseppe’s crew is more than happy to oblige. Decorated in warm tones and with a rustic flair sure to bring visions of Italia, locals have found that Giuseppe’s is the place for romance.

Live piano music, cocktails and a vast selection of wines are offered nightly.

“It seems like there’s a proposal, wedding, anniversary or people here for a date just about every night.”

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