On the Line: Carmina Casso of Ciao! Deli & Pizzeria, Part One
Photo by Johannes Dewald

On the Line: Carmina Casso of Ciao! Deli & Pizzeria, Part One

Ask and you shall receive, at least for one Forker's request to have us go On the Line with Ciao! Deli & Pizzeria in Costa Mesa. A husband-and-wife operation, Carmina and Ray Casso roll out family recipes as effortlessly as their pizza dough. Near the intersection of Baker and Bear, we see who puts the "pep" in pepperoni.

What are six words that describe your food?
Comforting, flavorful, fresh, homemade, exciting, delicious.

What are eight words that describe you?
Modest, honest, creative, smart, generous, caring, loyal, open-minded.

Most undervalued ingredient:

Red pepper flakes add a kick of flavor to any meal!

Rules of conduct in your kitchen:
"If you're not proud of it, don't serve it!"

One food you detest.
Bitter melon and liver: I have had both, and I will never taste them again.

One food you can't live without:
Bread or pasta are blank canvases! You can create anything, from the simple to something more flavorful and complex.

Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Mexican food. We love the simplicity of a great street taco: meat, onions, cilantro, salsa and a warm corn tortilla -- yum!

What fast food do you admit to eating?
An In-N-Out Double-Double with grilled onions and cheese. Simple, delicious and satisfying! [Editor's Note: Carmina is the third subject in a row to list a Double-Double; someone buy a lotto ticket!]

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Don't forget to season in the beginning.

After-work hangout:
We love Anjin in Costa Mesa -- quality food and it's open late!

Favorite celebrity chef:
I loved watching Rachael Ray and Giada DeLaurentis. They cook food I can relate to.

Celebrity chef who should shut up:
Guy Fieri appears to be more of a TV personality than a chef. And when I've seen him cook, I'm not too impressed.

Favorite music to cook by:
I love the "Italian Dinner Tunes" playlist my husband created for the restaurant. It has artists from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Tony Bennett.

Best food city in America:
They know food in Chicago, from pizza to Italian beef sandwiches to ribs and steaks. I've never had a bad meal there.

What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
More mom-and-pops with heart and recipes from generations past.

What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Chain foods.

Favorite cookbooks:
I don't really use cookbooks.

When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
Catching up on Z's and looking for a new favorite spot to have a great meal.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
I had sea urchin at a sushi restaurant in the Bay Area. I tried it because I believe in trying any food at least once. I didn't like the flavor; for some reason, it tasted like I had a busted lip and there was blood in my mouth. Sorry, but it is the only way I can explain it: It tasted like blood.

You're making breakfast. What are you having:
Fried egg, corned beef or longanisa -- a Filipino sausage -- and garlic fried rice.

Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
Probably the weirdest request was from one of our customers who's from the East Coast,  from Pennsylvania, and was craving a pizza he used to get there -- a baked-ziti pizza. So I mixed up some baked ziti and baked it on top of our pizza. A two-in-one. It actually looked really good!

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