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posted: 12/10/2013 5:45 AM

Cook of the Week: Octogenarian shares recipes, tips on social media

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  • Cook of the Week Louis Margiotta of Streamwood shows off his raspberry pound cake and his pasta with chicken gravy.

      Cook of the Week Louis Margiotta of Streamwood shows off his raspberry pound cake and his pasta with chicken gravy.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

By Sally Eyre
Daily Herald Correspondent

We don't meet many octogenarians with Facebook accounts. For Louis Margiotta of Streamwood, Facebook is just one way he shares his love for cooking. On his page you may find a photo of his latest, scrumptious cake, or a posted about the merits of Italian cooking. Louis does not spend a lot of time online because he's usually in the kitchen.

"I have nothing else to do!" jokes Louis, who retired eight years ago after running a beauty salon in the Chicago for 55 years. "I didn't want to retire; I had fun."

Much of his passion for cooking is purpose-driven. Every week he cooks meals, which he freezes and delivers, for his aging aunt and her caregiver, He does the same for his newly divorced and very busy son, who is a doctor.

"He comes for dinner every Friday and I load him up. I have so much time. I don't like to be idle! When you cook for people -- when you bring them joy -- it's all about showing them love."

"I do mostly Italian cooking. That's what I learned when I was very young. I make all the Italian that's from the province near Naples." Both of his parents' family roots were from there.

"When my father spoke Italian it was like he was singing. But we weren't allowed to speak it! My father would say, 'you were born in America, you speak American!' My parents would speak Italian when they didn't want us to understand what they were saying. They didn't know that Grandma talked to us in Italian all the time and we understood them!"

Louis grew up in an Italian Chicago neighborhood near Taylor and Bishop. avenues.

"On Sundays you could walk all the way to Pope Street and gain 10 pounds without eating; just from the smells!" he laughs. "Everyone was cooking Sunday dinner, making meatballs. What we did with food was outstanding."

After graduating high school, Louis joined the military and served in Germany for two years.

"I liked some of the German cooking. I had a good job -- I was an aide to a general who was married to an Italian countess who cooked!" Louis was able to travel and enjoyed the experience.

"I've been to Italy and ordered the pizza. When it came I said, 'this isn't pizza!' It's totally different. I learned how to love it and (learned) about their uses of different vegetables. You travel, you learn."

Louis often enjoys making a meal out of vegetables.

"I roll out the eggplant and stuff it like you would pasta. It's interesting. I like to create, substitute things. If you use your head, it's creative cooking." Today Louis shares his recipe for zucchini pasta that could easily serve as a main dish.

Louis particularly loves to bake, however. He started baking when he was very young."My sister was a fabulous baker and she taught me everything I know. When I had the beauty shop we would have a sweet table all through the holidays -- all the Italian cookies." Louis plans to make over 15 varieties of cookies this year.

"I'll distribute them to whatever family and friends I have left."

Louis is sharing his special recipe for pound cake with us. It can be altered to cater to your own tastes, essentially made to order.

"You can follow the recipe the way I made it or change the flavor. It all depends on what you put inside and how you decorate it."

Despite being retired there is no slowing down this 80-something. "Like I say if I was 10 years younger I'd really put on a show for you! I do what I can. I have my friends and my son is a doll."

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