I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun, sitting and talking about food. That describes the coffee I had with Dan Gallo recently, owner of Little Pig Catering. When you get two people passionate about local food the conversation can go on for hours. And it did.
Dan is new to Bucks County but not to Pennsylvania. He grew up in Delaware County so his most recent move here is like coming home. “I didn’t grow up in a ‘foodie’ environment,” he explains, but he always wanted to learn how to cook. When he was twenty-five, working a good job with PECO, he decided to take a cooking class and that, as they say, was that. He dropped everything else he was doing and went to culinary school at the Restaurant School of Walnut Hill College.
Then began a whirlwind five years of restaurant experience from Philadelphia to Boston to Cleveland to Los Angeles to New York City. “It was an opportunity to travel, live in different places and learn with the best,” he says. Along the way he cooked everything from classical French cuisine to cutting edge gastronomy. At Pumpkin, a BYOB in Philadelphia, he learned “how to develop flavors and source great product.” In Boston, at the neighborhood restaurant The Butcher Shop he learned “the art of charcuterie and handmade pastas.” At Spice of Life Catering – whose chef sources 95% of his food from within 100 miles of Cleveland – he learned about sustainability and the importance of supporting local food artisans. In Cleveland too, at the Greenhouse Tavern, he learned about whole animal butchery and “nose to tail” rustic cooking. Onto Los Angeles to the restaurants Animal and Son of a Gun where “I learned the holy trinity of ‘fat, acid and salt,’” says Gallo. Most recently at the Market Table in the West Village of New York City, he created New American cuisine featuring ingredients from local farms. This last stop was a favorite. “It was a neighborhood spot,” he says, “and a perfect example of an honest, great restaurant.”
One of the things that Gallo learned during his adventures was that his real love is down home, rustic, comforting food, like the Italian-American food he grew up with. That, and sourcing locally, are driving his new catering business. He’s thrilled with the availability of fresh, high quality, locally grown or raised food in Bucks County. Even coming from the West Coast and New York City, he’s impressed with Bucks’ local markets and producers. “Eighty percent of cooking is shopping,” he explains, “the other twenty percent is trying not to mess it up.” It’s understanding what you have and how to use it to the best, he says. “I’m making everything by hand, from scratch, and sourcing as much as possible from local, artisanal producers – people who care about what they are doing.”
“I want to serve food that my family would like,” he says, and by that he means rustic, comforting and family style – only a little better. Whether it be Italian-style, French or Southern, his menus give both flavor, variety and value. His sample fall menus give you a taste of what he means. The six-course “Southern-ish” Family Style menu includes Fall Greens with Apples, Goat Cheese, Spiced Pecans and Roasted Shallot dressing; Pulled Pork Platter with Potato Rolls, Sweet & Spicy Slaw and pickles; and Cast Iron Cornbread with Maple Butter. The Italian-American Family Feast also includes six courses: Antipasti, Salad, Homemade Pasta, Homemade Focaccia and “Sunday Supper” – Tomato Braised Meatballs, Spicy Italian Sausage and Pork Spare Ribs, and Tiramisu for dessert. The hors d’oeuvres menu has lots of fun stuff. How about Thick Cut Yukon Potato Chips with Caramelized Onion Dip, Buttermilk Fried Chicken Thighs with Tabasco-Mayo, Whipped Ricotta Crostini with Sharp Provolone and Honey, or Mussels on Brioche with Saffron Aioli?
Being a small, catering business is just what Gallo wants right now. He and his wife have settled into a home in Pipersville and they want to have children. “If I had a restaurant I’d want to be there all the time. Balance is important,” he says. Catering also allows for a lot of flexibility in food choices. Although he has sample menus his aim is to work with customers – and their budget – to build a menu that will give them value for their money, and have their guests leaving full.
You can contact Dan Gallo at (610) 742-4441 or at email@example.com.