by Bill Keeler

Its was so sad to hear that cooking icon Michael Geno, who was reported to be fighting for his life after suddenly falling ill last week, passed away earlier this week. Chef Geno was part of the generation that created dishes like Greens (Morelle) Utica, our Utica Tomato Pie and of course, Chicken Riggies.

Knowing he was in the kitchen cooking your food at Aqua Vino, assured you that the food was going to be amazingly authentic.  It always was.

Just about a year ago, I taped with Michael on his cooking show, along with Utica Comets play-by-play announcer Joe Roberts, as we created the ultimate Utica dish, Chicken Riggies.  I remember throwing him the soft pitch when as we were starting the dish I said, "Wait a minute, where's the heavy cream?" He proudly stepped in to remind me what I already had heard many times before, there is no heavy cream in Utica Chicken Riggies.  The creaminess in the original recipe is created by the plentiful amount of Pecorino Romano cheese added at - just the right time.

Michael started cooking with the legends of Utica Italian food at the age of 15, as noted on the Aqua Vino website.

Mike, the Godfather of Utica cuisine, is the chef that every local knows, the chef who cooks the most delicious consistent food and the chef who is well known for his famous meatballs and the best greens in Utica.

Mike has been turning on local taste buds since he was fifteen years old with the old world cooking methods he took from his Grandmother and Richie Scamardo. Since setting out on his own in 1998, the locals have been following his delicious cuisine, before settling into Aqua Vino in 2007.

His meatballs were legendary. His version of Utica Greens Morelle would have even made my good friend, the late Joe Morelle proud; and his Tomahawk Steak at Aqua Vino was always perfectly prepared and never failed to create a scene when delivered to the table.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Geno family and everyone at Aqua Vino. Michael Geno's death is also a loss for our entire community. We just said goodbye to a great cook and an even greater man.

Watch Michael Geno show me the real way to make Utica Chicken Riggies, and recite the memories of "being there" when the dish was created.  Click on the photo below.

Watch Michael Geno make Chicken Riggies (courtesy of Utica Comets)