Drexel on the Road: Italian restaurant where family is as important as food

Drexel on the Road

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — “I was born in Naples, Italy. My dad was in the U.S. Navy and he met my mother and fell in love,” says David Langevin, owner and chef at La Trattoria restaurant in Pensacola. Langevin opened La Trattoria this year armed with memories of his Italian family kitchen.

“I was 11 years old and I remember coming into the kitchen one day and my mother was making the dough by hand and I was like, oh, that looks like fun. She put my hand in the dough and so from then on… I still have my hand in the dough!” Langevin said with a laugh. In addition to memories, he is also armed with his grandmother’s authentic Italian recipes.

“I’ll be sitting there stirring the sauce and I’ll remember my grandmother stirring the sauce. Sometimes she would stir it for hours,” Langevin said, adding that his mom and grandmother later opened a restaurant in Naples.

David moved to the United States in his 20’s. His dream was to open a restaurant that had the same type of family-feel that his own home had. It was a home, he says, where family, friends and even strangers would often gather around the dining table.

“They were strangers at first, but then they weren’t strangers. They became part of the family and this all happened with food,” says Langevin.

That heritage is being passed along to his own children who work with him at the restaurant, on the kitchen and in the dining room.

“I bring them to work with me. I show them everything I know, everything I’ve learned.”

That includes baking bread daily from scratch. It’s a 6 hour process.

“This is how my grandmother did it, this is how my mom did it, this is how I do it,” said Langevin as he kneaded a batch of dough.

Langevin’s sister, wife, and extended family are also part of the La Trattoria staff and he says that sense of family spills out into the dining room.

“We treat everybody like family,” says Langevin, who says he often steps out of the kitchen to visit with diners. “I come out here and sit at a table talking with them (diners) about their experiences,” says Langevin.

The restaurant’s signature dish is the Parm Bowl. Hot pasta and toppings are spooned into a hollowed-out 100-pound wheel of imported Italian Parmesan-Reggiano cheese in an entertaining tableside preparation. Sometimes other servers and staff will gather to watch the fun.

“We all have this love of cooking and it manifests when we are cooking and we’re all together having a great time. There’s some shouting sometimes, because we’re Italian… but it’s fun!”

“I do this to keep the memory of my family alive,” says Langevin, as he watches his family joke around as they work in the kitchen and in the dining room. Life happens in the kitchen.” La Trattoria is located at 2256 E. Olive Road in Pensacola. Their website is www.trattoriapensacola.com. Chef David Langevin is sharing his grandmother’s recipe for meatballs with WKRG News 5 viewers:

Nonna Maria’s Meatballs

(shared by La Trattoria Restaurant)

1 lb. lean ground beef

½ c. breadcrumbs

1 whole eff

1 oz. parmesan cheese

1 tsp. fresh minced garlic

Fresh parsley

Salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Roll meat mixture into 2 oz. balls and place in cooking pan. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

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