Let me say right off the bat that I love this woman, her food and this place. Angelina is a force of nature and Angelina’s Kitchen in Pittsboro is the go to spot for delicious food prepared with the freshest, local, seasonal Chatham County ingredients. Whether it is meats from Lilly Den or Cohen Farm or tomatoes from Screech or greens and peppers from Doug Jones of Piedmont Biofarm (or lemons from Bennett Farming), Angelina transforms it all into succulent Greek inspired dishes that I find irresistible.
I first met Angelina Kay 2 years ago when a mutual friend gifted her several lemons we had grown in our greenhouse. When Shelly and I stopped by for lunch and she realized the lemons had come from us she erupted in praise of their delicate fresh taste and her delight in learning that someone in Chatham County is actually growing citrus. Lemons are a key ingredient in her cooking and discovering a local source was a dream come true. Since that day we have been regular customers, produce suppliers and devoted friends of Angelina. For the past year daughter Katie Bennett has been a part time baker there and is becoming famous for her fabulous cheesecake.
Angelina’s Kitchen was started 3 years ago by Angelina and her trusty sidekick John Battiste. They met in New Mexico 15 years earlier and bonded over a shared loved of foods involving green chilies. When they returned to the east coast to care for aging parents, they settled near Pittsboro and joined the Piedmont Biofarm CSA when they discovered that Doug Jones grew Anaheim peppers. Angelina started using the leftover CSA produce that other members didn’t know what to do with such as amaranth, zucchini blossoms and beet greens. Soon the farm was calling her when they had extra and she was trading back the food that she created out of it all. That is when the idea for a restaurant first arose.
Angelina has always been a cook. She learned from her mom while growing up in Fairfax Virginia. And she learned the art of frugal cooking from her aunts when she spent every summer in Greece where her grandfather owned lemon and olive trees. “We would walk outside and harvest what we then cooked for that day. We only got a chicken once a week and it had to feed 8 people. So the first night we would have chicken meat, the second night was left over meat wrapped in phyllo and the third night was boiled bones for Avgolemono (Greek chicken soup).”
Since opening her restaurant Angelina has supported the local farming economy by sourcing most of her ingredients locally. She promotes ‘her’ farmers by linking all 33 of them on her web page and by crediting individual farms in her menu. During the winter months when the Pittsboro Farmers’ Market is closed, several farmers continue to sell to the public from the parking lot outside Angelina’s Kitchen. She is an active supporter of the local non-profit The Abundance Foundation and is a participating volunteer chef in the annual Pittsboro Pepper Festival. She also was a volunteer chef at the first TerraVita Festival last year which raised money for other local non-profits dedicated to advancing local food infrastructure in the Piedmont.
Angelina is also a big supporter of the Natural Chef Culinary Program at CCCC in Pittsboro. She is a regular customer in the students’ cafe and a role model for those of us who are learning how to prepare local, seasonal organic food. I am a student in the program and I recently had the pleasure of being a volunteer on her team that fixed dinner for 250 to 300 hungry folks in downtown Durham at Urban Ministries, a job she undertakes every other month. Even that huge meal was prepared with local pork and fresh vegetables.
Angelina describes her food philosophy this way, “You are what you eat. Eating locally grown fruits and veggies and locally raised meats and dairy nourishes your body and boosts your natural defenses. In addition, eating locally and seasonally is more gentle on the earth, especially if we focus on and support small sustainable farms. I really respect the ‘soul’ of food and we are very lucky to have access to amazing farmers with amazing food. There is nothing I love more than knowing these farmers and being in a position to thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
Angelina’s Kitchen is located at 23 Rectory Street in Pittsboro. It is open for lunch Monday through Saturday and dinner Monday through Friday. They also cater. Phone is 919.545.5505. Visit the website at www.angelinaskitchenonline.com.