Joe Barbara's interest in food and cooking goes back to his youth.
"In high school, I took a speech class, and our first speech was a demonstration speech. I wanted something unique, and I chose to make the recipe my grandmother gave me for stuffed artichokes," Barbara said.
The actor, who's currently starring in the national tour of "A Bronx Tale," said the stuffed artichoke recipe has always been a favorite with his family.
"It's always been my go-to recipe," Barbara said.
Barbara plays mob boss Sonny in "A Bronx Tale," which continues through March 24 at The James M. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago.
The stuffed artichokes recipe, he said, is a popular side dish for his family's Christmas celebrations. Barbara said his wife is a good cook and makes most of the meals now for his family. The couple have three children.
Barbara said when he goes out to eat he looks for seafood dishes. While he's in Chicago on tour, he said he'll be looking for some of the dishes Chicago is noted for.
"Chicago is (known) for its deep dish pizza and for hot dogs," he said, with a laugh.
Barbara said he'll usually eat after a show performance, but never much before.
"I don't like to eat big meals during the day if I have to do a show that night," Barbara said.
The actor said he enjoys lighter dishes such as grilled chicken. For breakfast he has a "ritual" that consists of eating Wheaties cereal every morning but he adds D'Anjou pears and often some blueberries or strawberries to the cereal. He sprinkles a little protein powder over the cereal as well.
As a performer, Barbara said he watches what he eats. Portion size is also something he's conscious of.
If you like artichokes, try the following recipe from Barbara.
Bread crumbs, as much as you'd like
Italian seasoning, to taste
Romano cheese, as much as you'd like
Black pepper, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste, if desired
DIRECTIONS: To make the stuffing mixture, take the bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, grated Romano cheese, pepper and garlic powder and mix well.
Cut off the stems of the artichokes at the base. Turn them upside down and rub the artichokes back and forth so the leaves open up.
With a teaspoon, take some of the stuffing mixture and place it between every leaf. Don't be afraid to place the mixture all the way down to the center of the artichoke.
Then take the artichokes and place them in a saucepan very carefully. Fill the saucepan with water -filling about halfway Put olive oil on the tip of each artichoke. Sprinkle with a little salt. Cover pot and cook for 45 minutes at a low boil.