The aromas of various Italian-inspired dishes filtered through the kitchen and small dining room on a recent Thursday at Ivy Tech Community College in East Chicago.

The college was presenting the second of its suppers in Ivy Tech's Dinner series. The series, presented by students in the school's customer service class, continues through Dec. 13.

During the Italian-themed Thursday dinner, guests were welcomed and seated by students who later presented them with a special menu and thoroughly explained the evening's offerings.

"This means luxury dinners," said Brandon Becerra as he handed menus with the title "Cene Di Lusso" to individuals at our table. "Let me know if you have any questions," Becerra politely said.

Becerra was one of five students who were in charge of presenting the Italian-themed dinner that day. Along with Becerra were Aneesa Mayberry, Stacie Parnell, Sharletta Wright and Josue Zambrano acting as hosts of the event.

Culinary instructor Beverly Seleb, who presides over the class, along with instructor Elida Abeyta, assisted the students by offering tips and helping them with various tasks.

"They enjoy doing these dinners," Seleb said. The series, which is now in its 11th year, featured lunch last year rather than dinner.

For the series, which essentially offers a makeshift restaurant on the school's premises, students must not only plan the dinners but team up to choose and create menus.

This semester's class has 20 students and all of them are divided in teams of 5 to present the individual dinners. Many of the dinners in past years have taken on specific themes from Celebrity Chefs and Ethnic Dishes to other themes. For this year's series, students chose the theme of "Ivy Tech Favorites."

Dishes on the menus for the events star recipes that were favorites from a past dinner series or from various Ivy Tech cooking classes.

Seleb said the students are always interested in doing a good job in serving the community.

"The focus of the dinners is for the students to serve the guests and wait on the guests," Seleb said, during a past interview. In the customer service class, students are taught to realize the importance of excellence in the hospitality and culinary fields and learn how to treat customers. They also learn how to work the front and back of the house in restaurants.

On the Cene Di Lusso menu were main entrees Pork Calabrese, Linguine Scaloppine and Cabbage Patch Surprise. All the recipes featured interesting combinations of ingredients, flavors and many required the students use assorted cooking techniques and styles.

The Pork Calabrese was a grilled pork tenderloin served with a baked sweet potato puree, with warm chipotle salsa and a side of roasted asparagus while the Linguine Scaloppine was seared scallops served on linguine, with roasted red peppers and broccoli rabe tossed in a white wine butter sauce.

Becerra explained  the Cabbage Patch Surprise was specifically put on the menu as a vegetarian option. The cabbage dish was fresh green cabbage stuffed with basmati rice, mushrooms, onion, celery, bell pepper and minced garlic on simmered sauerkraut.

The meal began with a basket of bread followed by Shotgun Wedding Soup, which was a seasoned beef broth with finely sliced leeks, tomatoes, Italian-Style Meatballs and Spinach. A Rocket Garden Salad followed the soup course. The salad included baby arugula with fresh in-house raspberry balsamic vinaigrette, topped with crispy Prosciutto, fresh Parmesan and toasted walnuts.

All food was prepared by Ivy Tech students."The bread was made in our bread making classes and the desserts were made in our baking classes," Seleb explained.

Assorted desserts included an Italian Cream Cake, Cheesecake and others.

The next dinner on Dec. 6 will feature Cauliflower puree; panzanella; choice of grilled trout or baked rosemary chicken with chasseur sauces, mixed oven roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

The last Ivy Tech dinner on Dec. 13 will feature Butternut squash soup with apples; kale and mixed greens with poppy seed vinaigrette, goat cheese, cranberries and candied nuts; choice of braised beef short ribs, mashed potatoes and parsnips and green beans almondine; or calamari and shrimp a la nage with wild rice blend; or winter vegetable gratin and wild rice blend.

FYI: Ivy Tech Dinner Series will be held on Thursdays through Dec. 13 at Ivy Tech Community College, 410 E. Columbus Drive, East Chicago. Price for the four-course meal is $15 per person, cash only. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Seatings are available from 5:45  to 7:30 p.m. For reservations, call 219-392-3600, ext. 3280. Menus are subject to change.


Entertainment Editor/Features Reporter

Eloise is A&E Editor and a food, entertainment and features writer for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.