He’s effusive, joyously Italian
and talks with his hands. Cosimo
Maolini stands out in preppy
Spring Lake, yet somehow fits in.
BY PAULA SPAN
UNCHTIME. YOU WALK INTO CAFé ARTISTE. Cosimo
Maolini—chef, server, host, floor show—presides at the
counter. There’s no real menu. His wife jokes that Maolini
should wear an apron that says, “I’m the menu.” You cast your
eye over whatever Cosimo (from Puglia by way of Tuscany) has
decided to make that day as he explains in his rapid-fire jumble
of English and Italian how delizioso everything is.
“See the quiche I make today,” he tells a patron. “Spinach
with mascarpone cheese. A little cheddar also. Very light. No
salty. When you try, you tell me.”
Or he’ll tout his salads. “This called panzanella Toscana.
We toast the bread, put fresh tomato, onion, celery, everything.
We mix the greens, olive oil and balsamic, that’s it. Beans, four
kinds. With a piece Tuscan chicken on top.”
Cosimo improvises. Today’s offerings differ from yester-
day’s, and whatever he’s serving at 11 o’clock—eggplant rollati-
ni, perhaps, or pasta with porcini mushrooms—will be replaced
by a whole new array of choices by 1 o’clock, because he works
in small batches and cooks all day.
“Is coming now pork chops,” he announces, beaming.
“People don’t know what they’re going to eat when they come
in the door,” explains his son Max, himself a chef. “They just know
he’s going to hook them up and they’re going to leave happy.”
Cosimo improvises a bit with prices, too. You decide what
you’d like and take a seat anywhere; he brings your food, lyrically
expounding on how much you’ll enjoy it. Afterwards, at the cash