Rocco DiSpirito

Rocco DiSpirito examines the different approaches taken by the chefs to celebrate Liza Minnelli's birthday.

on Aug 18, 2011

Marvin Hamlisch - one of the most famous composers in the world. As a composer, Marvin has won virtually every major award that exists: three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony, and three Golden Globe awards. He is the composer of more than 40 motion picture scores.

All of these wonderful people joined me to celebrate and honor Liza, one of the few entertainers on the planet who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. She is an EGOT getter. Only 12 others on the planet can say the same.


As with any dinner party today, there were lots of dietary restrictions: two guests were strict vegetarians; Sandra couldn’t eat pork or shellfish. Lucia thinks all vegetarians should be force-fed with bacon, and let us all know it. But she rose to the occasion but substituting a fried eggplant entrée in lieu of meat. Frank was more comfortable with the whole vegetarian thing since he cooks healthy food all the time.

Lucia’s party went first. I walked in the kitchen to check on progress, only to find Lucia dumping cake into the garbage. What the ________! The birthday cake she made from scratch stuck to the pan and she couldn’t get it out. How does that happen? I couldn’t believe it. Anyone can bake a cake, c’mon. I thought I’d have to jump in and do the meal, and have her sing a few arias to entertain my guests.

Thank heavens, that didn’t happen. Lucia went through with an ambitious six-course meal. She creatively named each dish after something symbolic to Liza, and that made Liza feel special. The first course, oddly enough, was chocolate covered strawberries with a glass of champagne. The last time I checked, you serve that for dessert. No big deal. Lucia appeared to be operating on the philosophy: Life is short; eat dessert first. 

Her next course was You’re So Vainaigrette – a  salad with a pine nut dressing. That was followed up by Fried Artichoke Hearts with a Cabaret Flair. Sandra hated that it was made with canned artichokes. I’d never tasted anything like it, and the sauce was a hit. Marvin said, “You could put the sauce on rubber and it would taste good.”

Lucia serving Gnocchi with a G next. I had to lecture her on making the dough correctly, but she pulled it off. Plus, she created two different tomato sauces -- one was meatless; the other cooked with pork. Although she’s not a big on vegetarian cooking, I had to give her "Gnocchi with a G" an A for effort.