If you’re looking for Italian food that’s the real deal, talk to Vince Carrabba, co-owner and culinary director of Millie’s Old World Meatballs & Pizza in Morristown.
JERSEY BITES: What is your earliest food memory?
VINCE CARRABBA: I fondly remember family dinners at my grandmother’s house—having Sunday pasta and meatballs.
When did you realize you wanted to make cooking a career? Was there an “a-ha” moment?
Never really thought about making food a career, just have always had a passion for food and introducing people to food establishments. I love my family recipes—which I think are the best! And I love making people happy through good food.
What’s your best memory of your early professional cooking days?
Sitting with my brother, Brandon, and Executive Chef, we often laugh about how many ingredients we went through in order to perfect our recipes. Looking back on what we spent on food, we probably could have fed our customers free for a year!
What is your cooking style?
We are very hands on. The cuisine is Italian and we incorporate local, organic ingredients wherever possible. We make our mozzarella on premise and our sauce is unique.
What is the greateest opportunity that has come from cooking?
Taking traditional Italian styles to the next level by opening our own restaurant.
Describe the most memorable meal you’ve had.
Eating coal-fired pizza in Coney Island with my family. I just couldn’t get enough.
It’s your last day on earth, what would your final meal be?
All my body can ingest from the Millie’s menus, starting with fresh mozzarella and finishing with Nutella pie.
What is the best advice you have to share with young folks interested in becoming chefs?
Use the best ingredients. Simplify your recipes. And always pay attention to detail.
If you could choose to be any food item, what would it be?
Grated cheese because I would be able to touch everything and give it a final flourish.
What one food do you always have in your cupboard at home?
Crushed red pepper, so I can add a little spice to everything.
What is your beverage of choice?
Seltzer with lemon.
What is your favorite comfort food?
What New Jersey restaurant do you enjoy dining at, besides your own?
The Strip House because they make a good steak.
If you could have dinner with any three people, living, deceased or fictional, who would they be and why?
My first choice is Grandma Millie because it is from my grandmother that I first got my passion for food. She passed on family recipes to my mother and then to my brother and me. I would love for her to see how her recipes have lived on. Then I’d add my grandfathers, whom I never got a chance to meet because they were taken too soon. I would love to sit with all of them and hear all of their stories. Although not a person, I would also want to add my first imported Rottweiler, Carlos—I have a picture of him prominently displayed in the restaurant. He was my best friend and dining companion. He was a picky eater, but would never turn down a meatball! I would have loved for him to be able to talk. Oh, the conversations we would have had.
Are you working on any upcoming projects our readers would be interested in learning about?
We are developing our own bottled marinara sauce and worldwide shipping of our “Pots of Meatballs.” Also, we’re looking at other locations and concepts for expansion, including a fast-serve concept and a meatball shop.
Millie’s Old World Meatballs & Pizza
60 South Street
Veronique Deblois, Food & Wine Chickie: Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County. As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry of which she’s a 15-year veteran. Follow Veronique on Twitter or like her Facebook page.