On the weekends, crowds line up for an indoor or outdoor table at Compari's on the Park Restaurant & Bar. Just across the street from Kellogg Park, where families and more than one dog walker congregate in downtown Plymouth, the restaurant is a draw for those looking for authentic Italian fare.
Compari's features mouth-watering appetizers like crimini mushrooms stuffed with shrimp, crab and three cheeses – and traditional entrees of lasagna, pastas, veal marsala and even lobster ravioli. Save room for decadent desserts (tiramisu and cannoli come to mind).
Tony Yaquinto, trained at Schoolcraft's Culinary Arts program, creates the dishes that drive people to Compari's. He points out that what sets the restaurant apart is that most dishes are prepared on the spot, right down to the sauces.
For more on Chef Yaquinto's cooking philosophy, keep reading. And for a taste of Compari's prepared right in your kitchen, he passed along this recipe for fagioli calabrese.
What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
I would like to say onion, chicken stock and kosher salt. Onion is the base for great soups and sauces and stocks. I use just standard white onions – a lot of them. Kosher salt is what I use to season all my food. And chicken stock, or even vegetable stock, is good for making sauces or even cooking ingredients in when you want to add flavor.
Your favorite meal to make or serve?
Pork tenderloin. Usually when I have family or friends over, that's what I make. It's inexpensive and easy to prepare. I like to marinate it; then grill it. With the marinade, I usually put in a little bit of everything – oil, salt, pepper, garlic – and I have a spice at home and in the restaurant I use for seasoning called Maggi, and I put that in too. I might also rub on brown sugar and mustard to give it a nice crust.
We all have a favorite indulgence; for a chef like you it must be something spectacular?
Once a week I like to have a nice, big breakfast. A couple eggs over easy, bacon or sausage, toast.
What's one of your worst cooking mistakes?
I do a cooking club here at the restaurant once a month. We meet with some guys that live around town. Once we made a cheesecake, and one of the guys used salt instead of sugar – it came out a little bit salty. We always joke about it.
There are so many great Michigan-made food products. What is your pick?
My favorite two ingredients that I always look for right around this time of year are peaches and fresh Michigan corn. I love it when the fresh corn stands start popping up on the side of the roads.
What do you suggest for first-timers to Compari's on the Park? What menu item should they make sure to try?
I would recommend the fagioli calabrese. This dish is very unique; it's something we came up with a few years ago and just started playing with since. It has butter beans, banana peppers, chicken stock, Italian sausage, white wine, cheese, and noodles. People may not be familiar with it, but 90 percent of those who try it fall in love with it!