Gloucester businessman carries on family’s Italian cooking heritage

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Feb 13, 2013 - 02:12 PM

Photo: When at his place of business, Sport Shack, Paul Conese can suggest the proper sport items that are right for you. When he’s home in his kitchen, Paul’s knowledge of Italian food translates into savory pleasure for you when dining with him. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

When at his place of business, Sport Shack, Paul Conese can suggest the proper sport items that are right for you. When he’s home in his kitchen, Paul’s knowledge of Italian food translates into savory pleasure for you when dining with him. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Photo: Manicotti ready to savor.

Manicotti ready to savor.

Paul Conese is a second generation American of Italian heritage who owns and operates Sport Shack at Hayes a business which was established by his father who couldn’t find a basketball for sale in Gloucester when he needed one.

He is also known by members of his family and by his business associates as an outstanding cook, especially of traditional Italian foods.

Paul grew up in New York, first in the city and then on a farm. He became an architect but it was during a visit with his parents in Gloucester that he decided to stay, and "the rest is history."

Paul grew up with good Italian cooking all around him and has continued that family tradition since moving here in 1989. "I remember so well on Sunday mornings—we always had Sunday dinner with my grandmother—the aroma coming from her kitchen. The gravy was on. I don’t think I ever heard it called sauce until moving down here. So it’s still gravy at my house. When serving, the pasta is put in a large bowl and some of the gravy is put in the middle, on top of the pasta, making sure the pasta is showing all around the gravy, maybe a little cheese sprinkled on the gravy, or a few sprigs of parsley—it’s a beautiful dish. Then at the table, if more gravy is needed, it’s there for you. We never mixed the gravy with the pasta before serving it."

When Paul makes his Italian dishes, "The gravy is always made first and a day ahead, not sauce, but gravy. That’s what my family has always called it and we have never used the word sauce."

Paul gives his mother credit for his cooking abilities. "I guess I just watched her. She was a good cook. While living on the farm, my dad thought making a few zucchini breads to sell, since we had so many of the main ingredient, would be a good idea. Well, it caught on so well that my sister and I spent every afternoon after school grating zucchini. My mother went from making six loaves to 50 loaves at a time and only with one oven in the kitchen."