Lets face it, there is nothing better then a dinner party family style…and who does it better than Italians. Dina Delesa, known in the media as the “Dish It Girl”, grew up in a culture where “Sunday dinner was being treated like a weekly holiday. Family dinner is serious business and a lost art”. She’s translated that feeling by then throwing large dinner parties for her girlfriends, family- which now includes the Jonas Brothers. Appearing on the show “Married to Jonas” catapulted her into her culinary dreams where she has her own legion of fans of her website Dish It Girl
Talking to Dina, we couldn’t help but be charmed by her affable personality and made it a point to get invited to one of her infamous dinners soon! We got her to dish on a variety of topics including her cooking journey and whom she would like at her dream dinner party. With Valentines Day coming up, we needed a recipe or two to dazzle whomever we spend that special day with. Bake your own home-made lasagne or an Italian dessert called a Panna Cotta.
Big City: Tell me a little about how you began cooking and when you realized that you could make a living off it.
Dina Deleasa: I was one of those kids that always wanted to cook with whomever, my dad my grandmother, cooking was a big part of our lives, we had dinner at the same time every night, holidays, Sundays was built around what we were eating, not what we were doing. I would hang out with my dad who would pick up stuff from the bakery, food was always around. As I got older, I realized that I enjoyed it and throwing these fancy dinner parties and cooking for them and making them a four course meal.
I started my blog because I would bring a dish to somebody’s house and everybody would ask me what the recipe was and writing it down individually so I started to put it up on a blog- I guess I’m a blogger now! My friends were always asking me also if they were going to take somebody out where to go so I wrote that down to, expecting nobody to care…but turns out, people did care. After being on the “Married to Jonas” show with my family, I found out more than just family and friends were reading my blog and companies called to ask me to recipe design for them around the holidays!
Big City: What would you say your favorite cuisine is?
Dina Deleasa: Well, my family is Italian, so I have a special place in my heart for it. Back when I was in college, I was experiencing all these different cuisines and traveling a lot and wanting to experiment! I’m jealous of Anthony Bourdain who goes to people’s houses because its a great experience to do that. My cooking style defenitly has a heavy Italian influence, but I think its just good homemade comfort food kind of thing but with some sparkle! Sparkly Comfort Food is what I say.
Big City: In addition to creating a beautiful recipe, what else goes into your culinary process?
Dina Deleasa: I like to create an ambiance, I like to tie things into a theme, I love menu planning. If you have lasagne, you have to have garlic bread and a salad, you can’t have sushi with lasagne! Its fun to experiment with different table-scapes, especially with pintrest around. I mean I’m mostly a pintrest fail but it really does make people feel a little more special.
Big City: What is one of your favorite meals and what is one food you can’t stand?
Dina Deleasa: My go-to meal is lasagne and that is because it pleases a crowd and you can make different types, I made three different types for my friends when they came over. One was a classic with cheese and marinara, another oneI did was a short rib lasagne in a sage butternut squash sauce. It feeds a crowd too which is really important in my family where dinner is at least 10+ people which is normal to me! One ingredient that I have trouble cooking with is peas, I don’t like them, my husband doesn’t like peas so I don’t put them in anything. If a recipe calls for it I go “Nah, I’ll skip that”! Sometimes I’ll even omit nuts from things, they don’t seem as necessary. (Check out her Lasagne recipe here!)
Big City: Valentine’s Day is coming up, what is one dessert that would be easy for anybody to make but at the same time, make it special?
Dina Deleasa: I’m actually not that great with desserts, so if I can bake these things, anybody can! There is a dessert called a Panna Cotta which is a mix between a mousse and a pudding. I make a milk chocolate Panna Cotta with a raspberry sauce on it. It looks and sounds all fancy but the raspberry sauce is boiling down plain sugar and raspberry. The chocolate Panna Cotta is just mixing chocolate chips with some heavy cream and its very simple and put it in a little martini glasses and it looks really pretty. (Get the recipe here!)
Big City: Tell us, who would be at your dream dinner table.
Dina Deleasa: I would definitely want Lydia Bastianich. I’ve been watching her since I was little and she is a real off the boat Italian and one of the first TV chefs. She was for the Italians and she made Eataly in NYC. Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa is pretty fabulous as well, I mean I’d hang with anybody. I would say Anthony Bourdain but I might be a little afraid of him, he’s a little intense and I don’t think he’d RSVP at all!
Big City: Any tips for chefs who are a bit apprehensive to step outside of their cooking comfort zone.
Dina Deleasa: I would say that you would definitely surprise yourself. There have been times where I’ve stayed away from a technique or ingredient because I was sure it was too difficult for me. I would say read the recipe over and over again until you know the steps in your head and if you don’t know how to do it, you just do it! Once you get over that fear, it becomes part of your regular repertoire I want to say!
Visit her website at Dish It Girl for more recipes and culinary adventures!