What Foodies Need To Know About Laura In The Kitchen

Laura in the Kitchen star Laura Vitale — with her trademark South Jersey girl "hi guys!" greeting and a predilection for everything Nutella (crepes, croissants, milkshakes, soufflés, popsicles and, of course, pizza) — has as been carving out a niche in the YouTube cooking universe ever since the launch of her first, video hit the air back in 2010.

At the young age of 12, this self-declared "pizza man's daughter" came to the U.S. from her native Italy and, eventually, her down-to-earth, anti-diva personality earned her a loyal following and her own show on the Cooking Channel, with fans logging online to see her whip up unpretentious, easy-to-prepare Italian and American dishes from the studio kitchen in her suburban Jersey basement.

A nonna's girl at heart, Laura is cautious about the secrets she dishes out along with her Sunday sauce. However, Mashed tracked down some little known tidbits about Laura, both in and beyond the kitchen.

This was Laura Vitale's first career choice

Born and raised in Naples, Italy, it seemed like a no-brainer that Laura Vitale would grow up to be a chef. After all, she spent her childhood in a city where "ca si no pare brutto" ("the food must taste great") is a popular saying. According to The Paris Review, food historians have credited Naples with having invented many culinary traditions associated with Italian cuisine as a whole. The city-state was famously the birthplace of Margherita pizza and eggplant parmigiana.

As a girl, the Laura in the Kitchen star was surrounded by fresh, quality ingredients and expertly prepared dishes. Her father was descended from a long line of fishermen. In a YouTube video, Vitale recalls eating seafood everyday and oysters "all the time" with her fisherman grandfather. And by the age of three or four, she was helping her grandmother shape gnocchi on a "homemade wooden gnocchi board," the chef told Daily Dot. These experiences would seem to point toward a culinary career, but Vitale actually wanted to become a hairstylist.

On the Hilah Cooking podcast, Vitale recalled watching her mother get her hair done every four weeks ("because she's a blonde, but not naturally") and coming home, seemingly on top of the world. Laura was so taken by her mother's transformation that she decided she wanted to style hair. It wasn't until she arrived in U.S., though, that she discovered "what a pot of simmering sauce does to a soul."

Laura Vitale learned to cook over the phone with her Neapolitan nonna

In the mid '90s, Laura's dad, Sal Pietrangeli, emigrated from Italy to the U.S., ultimately settling in New Jersey, where he opened Italian pizzerias in Deptford and Camden. By 1998, an already fearless and ambitious 12-year-old Laura left her mother, brother, grandparents, and extended family in Naples and flew across the Atlantic to join her father.

Adapting to Jersey life was initially tough. Laura missed her family in Italy something fierce. Her antidote to homesickness? Learning how to make her nonna's favorite Neapolitan dishes, while receiving instruction from her grandmother, long-distance, over the phone. "It brought me back home in a way and made me feel better," she confessed on her YouTube channel recalling that the very first thing she made on her own was "Sunday sauce", a painstaking slow-cooked, thick-as-gravy ragú featuring tomatoes and meat, and served with pasta.

Another salve for her homesickness was her nonna's potato gnocchi, which Vitale dubbed her "favorite dish of all time." That said, Vitale admitted she won't touch the stuff unless she knows it's been cooked to perfection for at least six hours. "If you cook it for two hours, I'm not going to eat it," she once, somewhat sassily, warned celebrity chef, Eric Ripert.

Laura Vitale learned English (and a Southern accent) by watching the news

When Vitale first came to the U.S., she spoke no English. On the Hilah Cooking podcast, Laura admitted to being in shock upon her arrival. However, she also knew that America was "where I wanted to be for my future."

While living in Philadelphia with her father and his English-speaking wife, she was homeschooled, which enabled her to learn English. Determined to overcome her shyness and perfect the new language, Vitale took her stepmother's suggestion to binge-watch the news. Her stepmom made the case that newscasters were taught to enunciate properly, which would help Vitale in her goal to speak accentless English.

Following her stepmom's advice, Laura ended up binge-watching a lot of Nancy Grace, a primetime news and current affairs show on CNN (now HLN). The host of the show, Nancy Grace, was born and raised in Macon, Georgia, and sports an undeniable Southern accent. Interestingly, Laura applied herself so well to her TV-watching that she not only ended up speaking fluent English, but doing so with a noted Southern twang that lasted for some years.

This is how the creators of Laura in the Kitchen met

Upon finishing high school, Laura Vitale joined the family business, working with her dad at his Italian bistro in Camden, New Jersey. The restaurant occupied the ground floor of a residential apartment building and upstairs lived a strapping young engineer by the name of Joe Vitale. Joe became a regular customer as well as good friends with Laura's father.

"Dad was very, very strict," recalled Laura in an interview with Hiilah Cooking. "Nobody was good enough for his little girl." However, he happened to adore Joe and even suggested Laura date a guy like him. "I'd say 'I will never date a guy you like,'" Laura explained.

Unbeknownst to both dad and daughter, Joe had been plotting to ask Laura out for some time — making inroads with her pops was all a part of the plan. Although Laura and Joe started out as casual friends, she began to like him, but didn't know how to confess her feelings. Doing what she did best, she whipped up his favorite pizza (veggie) in the shape of a heart and hand-delivered it to him. When he opened the door, Laura said, "Here!" — and immediately bolted. The next thing she knew, Joe strolled over to the restaurant, munching a slice of her pizza, and asked her out on their first date. These days, the two are married and Joe is the co-creator of Laura in the Kitchen.

Laura in the Kitchen's co-creator has a "passion for plants"

Before becoming the brains behind Laura in the Kitchen, not to mention Laura Vitale's husband, Joe Vitale and his brother Brian ran a business growing and selling cacti and other desert plants, according to ArizonaEast. Succulents are apparently in the Vitale genes. When Joe was growing up in New Jersey, his father, Dan Vitale, operated Desert Dan's, a pioneering nursery and wholesaler that sold succulents to local retailers and nurseries — long before they were a trend.

In 2005, armed with "a passion for plants, a penchant for business and a positive prediction about the future of succulents," the brothers opened their own business, ArizonaEast. According to the business' Facebook page, it eventually became "the largest grower and wholesaler of high quality cacti and succulents on the East Coast."

Joe's hunch about succulents being the plants of the future was spot on and allowed the company to weather the 2008 recession. The Great Recession wasn't as kind to the restaurant business. Laura Vitale's father, Sal Pietrangeli, was forced to shutter his pizzerias. Suddenly jobless, Laura found herself trading in eggplants for echeverias when her husband invited her to come work at the family business.

Laura Vitale never could've imagined the success that resulted from Laura in the Kitchen

Working for ArizonaEast alongside her husband paid the bills, but Laura Vitale soon realized that succulents didn't exactly scratch her culinary itch. According to StyleCaster, Vitale's husband decided to renovate the couple's basement and create a "studio" kitchen where his wife could channel her passion for cooking into a career as a video chef. Although she admitted she was originally "very, very against" the idea, she eventually came around. "I wanted to share recipes with anyone who was willing to watch," Vitale explained to Tube Filter. However, the chef didn't become an overnight success.

According to the Daily Dot, the kitchen sat unused for close to a year until "one night, after too many glasses of wine, she took the plunge." Vitale told Tube Filter, ""I never thought it could have turned into what it has. It went from me creating and sharing recipes to this amazing community of people with similar interests and passions."

Laura in the Kitchen rakes in thousands from YouTube

Laura Vitale's ragú to riches rise to YouTube fame is the stuff of digital legend. In January 2010, Vitale posted her debut Laura in the Kitchen video. Filmed by her husband with a $49 video camera, Episode 1 is only 9 minutes and 38 seconds of a slightly awkward and poorly lit (but nonetheless charming) Laura making a simple tomato and basil bruschetta. Why bruschetta? As the Vitale confessed to The Philadelphia Inquirerit was the first dish that came up on Google when searching "How to make b... ." The search engine's autocomplete function suggested "bruschetta."

As Laura adjusted to life in front of the camera and her husband invested in better quality equipment, Laura in the Kitchen videos improved and the audience mushroomed. When reviewing the analytics of the show, the couple realized that the bulk of viewers were teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 17, which Joe Vitale told the Inquirer was the YouTube demographic of the time.

Initially, the couple's strategy focused on growing their viewership with daily videos. Seeking to build up a library of content, the pair filmed an episode every day while working full-time jobs over a nine-month period — but it surely paid off. By July 2020, Laura in the Kitchen subscribers have skyrocketed to 3.69 million, placing Laura Vitale's estimated yearly earnings in the rough ballpark of nearly $12,000 to about $193,000 (via Social Blade).

When the Food Network came calling, Laura Vitale thought it was a joke

YouTube fame aside, Laura Vitale always dreamed about having her own cooking show on network TV. But as she told The Press of Atlantic City, her husband practically (if somewhat harshly) pointed out, "You're not just going to walk up to the Food Network and say 'Here I am.'" In the end, Laura got the last laugh. She didn't even have to leave the basement kitchen of her Minotola home because the Food Network came to her.

In 2012, Entertainment Weekly published Vitale's name on its "The Must List." Vitale recalled, saying, "At the very bottom, it said, 'Hey Food Network: I think we found your next star.'" And, apparently, the Food Network took notice. According to The Press, Vitale first thought that the message was just spam or maybe a joke. But the request for a meeting was the real deal — as was the offer to helm a show of her own, Simply Laura, on the Cooking Channel (owned by Food Network). Airing for two seasons, between 2014 to 2016, the program included family-centric episodes and homages such as "Lessons from Nonna" and "Papa's Pizza."

This is when Laura Vitale's freezer became her "best friend"

In an interview with SheKnows, Laura Vitale admitted, "The freezer is my best friend." Such a frank avowal is hardly surprising considering Vitale has been juggling cooking and filming duties with mothering following the birth of her daughter, Mia, in early 2017. Since becoming a mom, Vitale started depending on both her fridge and freezer like never before in her quest to slash prep and cooking times while still churning out the kind of awesome meals that an unhurried, childless couple might enjoy  — albeit in less than 30 minutes and, ideally, in a single pan.

Laura's fridge is chock full of both foods she can cook quickly and ingredients that add flavor to those foods. In terms of the latter, the more pickled and marinated the better; olives, capers, and marinated veggies are ubiquitous. Downright essential is her homemade marinara sauce, which she riffs upon as the spirit moves her, adding a little anchovy paste here and caramelized onions there. 

The freezer is where Laura stocks her favorite fish, such as cod and salmon, along with specialty meats from her local butcher. There are also easy-to-thaw backup plans, like precooked meatballs and pierogies. Considering the Vitale pizza pedigree, perhaps the most shocking presence is the boxes of industrially-made frozen pizza. According to her, Dr. Oetker Virtuoso pepperoni pesto pies are a family fave that she keeps stashed away for a rainy day.

Laura Vitale demystified pizza on Laura in the Kitchen

Laura Vitale's star had already risen pretty high in the culinary world by 2013 when she collided with famed French chef Eric Ripert. Vitale welcomed Ripert to Laura in the Kitchen and even filmed an episode from his kitchen. In the episode, Vitale followed in the footsteps of previous culinary luminaries such as Marcus Samuelsson, Mario Batali, and Ripert's then-pal, Anthony Bourdain.

To her credit, Vitale was undaunted to find herself amid this big boys' club. She proceeded to teach the legendary executive chef of the renowned Le Bernardin how to make pizza, effortlessly whipping up a rustic yet rarefied potato and onion pizza. Moreover, she also had Ripert prepping for her, commanding him to oil the bowls and dough balls as well as sprinkle salt and pepper.

For his part, Ripert seemed as impressed with Vitale's millions of daily YouTube viewers as he was with the deliciousness of the deceptively light "starch on starch" pizza. He also commended his fellow chef, saying, "You demystify pizza really well."

Don't expect to hear about any of these topics on Laura in the Kitchen

Never a fame monger, Laura Vitale vowed to stay discreetly earthbound as Laura in the Kitchen took off into the stratosphere. As she confessed in an episode for Recipes for Your Best Life, Vitale avoided any digital faux pas that might incite the online wrath of trolls and haters. Or, at least she did for the first several years of her YouTube reign. "I was so concerned about being picked apart and [being compared] to somebody else," she said. "And then a lightbulb ... went off in my head."

The going off of said lightbulb coincided with an interview Rachael Ray gave that resonated with Vitale. The notoriously dissed celebrity chef revealed that there were hate sites dedicated to her, but she made peace with those opinions. "I'd loved and admired her for years," Vitale gushed of Ray. She was inspired to react similarly to any criticism that comes about.

Although Vitale may have developed a thicker skin and a more devil-may-care attitude, she carefully steers clear of being a provocateur. As she told the podcast host, "There are things that I keep private ... and a line in the road that I don't cross." Specifically, there's a holy quartet of inflammatory topics — finances, childrearing, religion, and politics — that Vitale makes a point of "never" addressing online or in interviews. 

There's one recipe Laura Vitale hasn't mastered

Laura Vitale makes no secret of the fact that she's never had formal culinary training. Years of grandmotherly guidance and paternal pointers coupled with on-hand improvising have allowed Vitale to master almost every dish she sets her mind to. That said, one specialty — the classic Italian sfogliatella – has stubbornly remained out of her reach.

In an interview with PhillyVoice, Laura copped to her sfogilatella ineptitude. Admittedly, sfogliatella is pretty tricky. According to legend, the flaky pastry was invented by a cloistered nun at the Santa Rosa Convent of Conca dei Marini, on Italy's Amalfi Coast. Happening upon a leftover mixture of semolina flour and ricotta cheese, the inspired sister concocted a sweet filling that she spread between lard-covered dough, molded into the shape of a monk's hood. The resulting pastry remained a cloistered secret for a century before being smuggled beyond convent walls and falling into the able hands of a Neapolitan pastry chef. It subsequently became all the rage in Naples. Its apt name – sfogliatella means "leaves" or "layers" — conjures the multiple layers of dough filled with creamy ricotta, spiked with citrus peel and cinnamon.

Vitale admitted to the publication, "I got the filling down pat, but the actual pastry part is so difficult." She continued, saying, " It calls for a lot of lard, which I don't typically use very often, and it's something I just cannot get right — I just can't do it."

Laura Vitale has been asked enough about her eyebrows

In a Food & Wine feature about her "essential kitchen tools," Vitale touted her beloved Global chef knife, before offhandedly adding, "It's chopped my finger off — that's how sharp it is — but that was my own fault." As far as we know, though, Vitale is still the owner of 10 fully working fingers.

However, a more permanent and perilous mishap with sharp objects occurred further back in Vitale's past. Vitale was a mere one and a half years old when, asleep on her grandparents' bed, she rolled over. She would have tumbled right onto the floor if not for a nightstand that got in the way of her free fall. While it ultimately prevented further injury, the pointed edge of the nightstand cut her face.

Although it just missed gouging her eye, Vitale was left with a large scar where no hair will grow. As a result, to this day, her eyebrows aren't even (she has to pencil in part of her left brow). "If I had a dollar for anybody who mentioned that my eyebrows are not even, I'd be a millionaire and I could retire in the Bahamas somewhere," Vitale confessed in a vlog. She continued, saying, "A slightly different eyebrow is better than no eye at all."