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Special event raises funds for special boy

Francis Schott and Mark Pascal, proprietors of Catherine Lombardi restaurant and Stage Left in New Brunswick, organized a benefit for Hunter Michael Morris of Roseland, age 3, who suffers from a rare digestive disorder.

By Pat Tanner, Special Writer

Invitations to fundraising dinners cross my desk nearly every day. But the one on behalf of 3-year-old Hunter Michael Morris of Roseland, who suffers from eosinophilic enteropathy � a rare digestive system disorder that means, in essence, he cannot digest food � hit me where I live, so to speak.

The dinner-with-auction was held on Feb. 19 at Catherine Lombardi restaurant in New Brunswick, sponsored by restaurateurs Francis Schott and Mark Pascal, whose other property is the acclaimed Stage Left. Catherine Lombardi, named in honor of Pascal's grandmother, is located upstairs from Stage Left. When Pascal wrote in his appeal on behalf of the little boy, "We who derive so much pleasure from eating have decided to help a kid who can't," I signed up immediately.

Help they did. Executive chef Anthony Bucco and many of the kitchen staff and wait staff donated their time and labor, and auction items came pouring in. The restaurant, which accommodates 120 diners, was filled to capacity by guests who paid $100 each to attend, with proceeds benefiting the Hunter Michael Morris Fund. They then opened their wallets further to bid on a long and impressive list of auction items, from diamond earrings to cult wines. By the end of the evening, about $36,000 had been raised for the Morris family. [Update: As of mid-March 2007, the total is over $37,000 and growing. We're still accepting donations at]

Nancy and Joe Morris were teenagers, and dating, when they used to baby-sit for Mark Pascal's four children. Even now � married, the parents of two, and 31- and 29-years-old, respectively � they look barely out of their teens.

Tyler, their 6-year-old, has developed asthma and some common food allergies, but Hunter has been ill since he was born. At seven months he was diagnosed with eosinophilic enteropathy, a disorder in which a type of white blood cell is found in above-normal amounts in the digestive tract. Hunter's particular form afflicts one in 10,000 people.

There is no cure, and treatment is costly. Hunter's main nutrition comes from a special formula that contains no whole food proteins and which costs $1,500 a month. The Morris family estimates that Hunter's medical care has cost well over $100,000 to date. Although the family has health insurance � Joe Morris works at a printing company � their out-of-pocket expenses are staggering, Mark Pascal reports. To ease their financial burden, two years ago family friends George and Sue Piltzecker established the Hunter Michael Morris Fund, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization, which was the evening's beneficiary.

Nancy Morris thanked the assembled guests as they enjoyed a dinner that began with shellfish consomm� with shrimp dumplings, then featured the Italian-American fare that is the signature of Catherine Lombardi's namesake restaurant, from classics such as veal Marsala and manicotti with marinara to contemporary dishes with Italian flavors, such as risotto with duck confit and barramundi with blood oranges and pistachio.

Below are Chef Bucco's recipes for the exquisite fish dish he offered that evening and for the knock-em-dead chocolate bread pudding that concluded it in style. Mr. Bucco topped the pudding with zabaglione, but it is delicious on its own served warm, room temperature, or even cold. Barramundi is an Australian fish with firm, white, fine-grained flesh. In recent days it has become a darling of restaurant chefs and is beginning to be offered regularly at fish stores and at fresh fish counters of upscale markets.

For information on the Hunter Michael Morris Fund, or to make a donation, visit or phone George or Sue Piltzecker, fund managers, at (973) 364-7532.

Original article location:


Anthony Bucco, Executive Chef, Stage Left & Catherine Lombardi

For the pesto:

  1. Make the pesto: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pistachios on a baking sheet and toast for 7 minutes. Let cool. In a food processor combine arugula, extra virgin olive oil and cooled pistachios. Puree until pesto texture is achieved. In a small saucepan, heat chicken stock to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the pesto and 1 tablespoon butter. Whisk together, or puree using a handheld blender.
  2. Make the blood orange reduction: In a small saucepan over high heat, reduce the blood orange juice by half. Keep warm while you cook the fish.
  3. Prepare the fish: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place fish fillets in a baking pan and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and cook skin side up for 6 minutes. Garnish with blood orange segments and blood orange reduction.

Serves 4.


Anthony Bucco, Executive Chef, Stage Left & Catherine Lombardi

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, cream and espresso; add cocoa powder, cinnamon and sugar, and whisk until combined well. In a separate mixing bowl combine the brioche, ladyfingers, hazelnuts and chocolate chunks. Combine wet and dry ingredients, spread evenly in a nonstick or buttered 8-inch by 8-inch baking pan and bake for 25 minutes

Serves 8.

The Restaurant Guys

Who Are The Restaurant Guys? Every week, Francis Schott and Mark Pascal host the Restaurant Guys, a show that's as informative as it is fun. Francis and Mark own Stage Left Restaurant in the heart of New Brunswick's theatre district, and, along with their expertise in a wide range of fine dining and wine matters, they bring to the table humor and intelligent conversation, perfect for the midday listener. The show includes discussions and interviews with famous chefs, restaurateurs, wine and food writers, critics; and the Guys even give stuff away occasionally.